MLD | FABRIC MOJO
At Mountain Laurel Designs, we push the boundaries in making outdoor gear stronger, lighter, and simpler. Specializing in the lightest, full-strength, ultralight, all-season gear means our fabric cost is often 3X to 10X those used on competing products. Why? Because we know the slightly higher upfront cost translates to value and performance in the field. Keep reading to learn what we use, and why.
Over the last 20 years we have offered or tested packs from almost every type of fabric: DCF, VX, Robic, Dyneema X, DX210d, etc. MLD was the first company to build and sell DCF backpacks in 2004.
ULTRA 400 BLACK + ULTRA 200 GREY
CHALLENGE ECOPAK ULTRA 200 + 400
Ecopak Ultra is 10X stronger than steel by weight. The high recycled content and expected extra-long service life of Ecopak Ultra 200/400 makes an excellent case for being one of the most advanced Eco-friendly ultra-light backpack fabrics available.
- ULTRA 400: 4.65oz /sq yd
- ULTRA 200: 3.5oz /sq yd
- ULTRA is a woven blend of UHMWPE and 100% Recycled Polyester Fibers. The face fabric is woven 66% UHMWPE and 33% Recycled Polyester. It is backed by a .5mil RUV Recycled Film.
- Ultra Packs are Fully Seam Taped = More Water-Resistant
What is UHMWPE? Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethene. Dyneema and Spectra are name-branded versions of UHMWPE.
ULTRA 200 COMPARISONS
- Compared to 3oz DCF50, it’s 7X more abrasion resistant and 3X stronger.
- Compared to 5oz DCF150, it’s 6X more abrasion resistant 2.5X stronger.
- Compared to 6oz DP VX21, it’s 5X more abrasion resistant and 3.5X stronger.
- Compared to 4.5oz DX210d, it’s 4X more abrasion resistant and 3X stronger.
- Compared to 4.5oz Robic 210d, it’s 4X more abrasion resistant + 4X stronger.
- Ultra seam tapes much better than DCF or VX for better water resistance.
ULTRA 400 COMPARISONS
Ultra 400 is 20% stronger than Ultra 200 and 200% more abrasion-resistant. Ultra 400 does not need any special reinforcement for high-stress areas or for triple stitching and bar tacking seams and webbing.
ECOPAK ULTRA TESTING
- We tested seam tape longevity and the RUV backing by multiple hot water washing machine cycles, long hot dryer cycles, as well as leaving it in the direct hot summer sun for many weeks.
- We measured the fabric’s surface heat retention via infrared thermometer against all other standard pack fabrics. They all measure the same for the same color.
- We sent multiple pack samples to highly experienced pro hikers to get feedback.
- Our shop hound dog David “Shotgun” Bowie’s Ultra 400 chew toy is still alive.
BACKPACK DESIGN NOTES
Challenge makes an ULTRA 800 and an ULTRA 100, but it is not practical to use them in a lightweight backpack. The 200 and 400 are already so strong that there is no need for 800, while the ULTRA 100 is only slightly lighter (2.9oz vs. 3.5oz) than the Ultra 200. In a simple frameless backpack, ULTRA 100 would only save about 0.5oz in total but would need special reinforcements for bar tacking and extremely detailed construction.
We feel the strategic combination of an ULTRA 200 body with an ULTRA 400 back makes for the lightest full-strength frameless pack possible.
DX 210D RIPSTOP IN WASABI GREEN, GREY + BLACK
DX 210d RIPSTOP ™
DX210D (AKA Dyneema X, Dyneema 210d woven ripstop, etc.) is a great lower-cost pack fabric, proven and time-tested. If you plan only one thru-hike or are a vacation and weekend-only hiker, it looks great and is a great value.
At 4.5 oz per sq/yd, DX 210d Ripstop is a woven 210 denier Type 6-6 High Tenacity Nylon ( 91%). The white ripstop 200d threads (9%) are made from UHMWPE. An additional X pattern of Nylon over-weave improves abrasion and tear resistance. The inside of the fabric has a PU waterproof coating.
Note that we do not use the more common, cheaper, and weaker Type 6 woven nylons from China. Our DX 210d costs 3X more than those cheaper look-a-likes. We have used the DX210d for 20 years. We also use the DX210d fabric for its slight stretch and softness on the shoulder straps and hipbelts on the Ultra packs.
DCF (DYNEEMA® COMPOSITE FABRIC)
Starting in 2004, MLD is the oldest company to make and sell DCF backpacking gear. We developed many of the construction techniques and design standards.
Over the years, we have worked with every type of outdoor DCF fabric from .33oz sq/yd to 7oz+ versions. We have used DCF fabrics from .33 sq/yd to 1.5oz for shelters.
We now only use .8 DCF (Dyneema® Composite Fabric) (AKA: Cuben Fiber, DCF8, DCF .75, CT2e.08) in our shelters. It is strong, light, fully waterproof, and has a reasonably long service life. We also make a few small gear pieces in 1.5oz DCF (Dry Bags, Zip Sacks).
DCF .8 GREEN + DCF 1.5 WHITE
DCF SHELTER DESIGN NOTES
We specialize in All Season Shelters and no longer offer DCF shelters in the ever so slightly lighter and much more fragile .5 or .67 versions. Compared to .5 and .67 DCF, the .8 DCF is 2X stronger and offers a 3X longer service life.
We feel that now is the time in lightweight shelter evolution to shift emphasis away from the only (very) slightly lighter DCF versions to the longer service life and more Ecologically Sustainable .8 All Season DCF.
There has always been a debate on how to best construct DCF shelter seams. We use a special, permanent adhesive tape/glue with high levels of UV inhibitors on major seams. Our DCF tarp and shelter seams and ridgelines are bonded by a full 1″ overlapping seam (not sewn) for maximum strength and require no seam sealing. In over 15 years, we have never had a return due to a bonded main seal problem.
DCF shelters cost about 2X more than our 20d Pro SilNylon and weigh about 25-35% less. Built only by our highest skilled craftspersons, MLD has been building DCF shelters longer than any other company.
20D PRO SILNYLON OD GREEN + CITRUS ORANGE
20D PRO SILNYLON
MLD Pro SilNylon 20D x 20D High Tenacity Type 6-6 Ripstop Nylon with a double-coated and impregnated silicone on both sides for maximum strength and superior water resistance.
20dX20d = 1.35oz sq/yd: 8kg/17lbs+ Tear Strength & 3500mm+ Water Resistance
It’s light, super-strong, and highly waterproof. Our Pro 20d Silnylon is not quite as lightweight as the 7d-15d SilPoly or SilNylons. We could use those fabrics, but we are known for bomber All Season Pyramids, Tarps and, Shelters. There are no sub 1.2oz, 7-15d Nylon, or Poly-woven 2,000mm+ HH shelters that are 3+ or 4 season rated. Feel confident in our pro 20D SilNylon shelters. A couple more ounces for a ton of extra piece of mind!
MOUNTAIN 10D x 10D RIPSTOP NYLON
MOUNTAIN 10D x 10D 3X DWR Ripstop (.72 oz sq yd | 26 gm sq m.) We tested about a hundred sub .8 oz sq/yd lighter weaves like 5D, 7D, 8D, and many 10D’s. We found most have significant drawbacks. Mainly with tear strength or stitch hole elongation. Our 10d has a very high-density weave vs. other generic 10d fabrics and is 2X stronger. Our 10d quilts can withstand many regular washing machine cycles. Just throw it in the washer and dryer like any synthetic garment.
High-quality DWR Coated Ripstop is more expensive and does add some weight – about 15% of the total finished weight in a sub 1 oz sq yd fabric. We only use the very best for long-term value for our customers in the field.
MOUNTAIN 10D CITRUS ORANGE, OD GREEN + BLACK
CLIMASHIELD ® APEX
Climashield® APEX is the highest warmth-rated continuous fiber synthetic insulation available for quilts. We selected a custom density for our quilts based on hundreds of user tests for a warmth factor to weight ratio that hit the perfect mark for functionality and lightweight.
Climashield® maintains loft better than down and any other synthetic in damp, wet conditions and can rebound from packing longer than other synthetics.
In very cold conditions, it is standard practice to use a light ClimaShield overquilt on top of a down bag to help prevent condensation from internal sources condensing in the down inner bag.
Climashield quilts sheathed in our Mountain 10d outer fabric hold up well after repeated compressions and washings.
We use 15d x 15d eVENT™ 3 Layer Waterproof Breathable. The most breathable and functional, fully waterproof material available. The critical difference between this technology and traditional waterproof/breathable fabrics is the billions of microscopic pores built into the proprietary membrane that works instantly to vent water vapor (sweat) that builds up inside.
It’s called Direct Venting™ technology, and unlike other technologies, it doesn’t need to get wet to work. It’s a ‘dry system’ that allows eVent fabrics to be fully waterproof and fully breathable – keeping you as dry and comfortable as possible in the widest range of temperatures and conditions.
Nanoseeum™ is the .7 oz sq/yd flame-retardant bug netting we use in all our shelter InnerNets and Bug HeadNets. Nothing gets through this screen! Nanoseeum’s fine mesh has extremely small holes that block even the smallest insects, including mosquitoes, gnats, flies, etc., but still allows for excellent ventilation. The tight weave also retains some heat and blocks a surprising amount of wind.
MLD TESTING + DEVELOPMENT
We have been testing for over 20 years and have developed a range of standard and proprietary tests specifically applicable and correlated to how UL backpackers use their gear in the field. We have evaluated thousands of users reports from the field over the last 20 years, and we use this information to go our own way with setting standards.