It’s no secret that I’m a fan of EVERGOODS. The Bozeman-based team of Jack Barley and Kevin Dee place an emphasis on obsessive attention to detail and bomb-proof packs. The company had their first release on kickstarter with the CPL and MPL, which arrived in 2018 and have since added 3 more bags to that lineup. I had the opportunity to review the original Mountain Panel Loader a little over two years ago and while the original has remained in my collection, there were a few small details that didn’t quite work. Honestly, when I saw the announcement of an MPL V2, I was initially ready to pass, thinking that the folks at EVERGOODS were jumping the shark and just trying to sell a few more bags, but after combing through the updated media guide, I decided to put my trust in Jack and Kevin and give the V2 a shot.
I’m glad I did.
|Primary Materials||420D Nylon, YKK Zippers|
Quality and Comfort
Usually when I review a pack, I’ve spent a few months putting it through it’s paces. I can estimate quality based on attention to detail, or how it holds up to as much abuse as I can throw at it, but the ultimate test is really what happens after the review is published. After 24+ months of pretty constant use, my MPL V1 is in excellent shape. It’s been thrown around the mountains, loved and abused by two dogs, and probably soaked in more disgusting hospital germs than it should, but I can pretty confidently say that the EVERGOODS packs in general stand the test of time and I have no reason to believe that the V2 will be any different. Earlier versions of these packs had reportedly become “dog hair magnets”. I must say that while I find that V2 picks up dust a bit easier than other packs, the 420d High Tenacity Nylon 6,6 with a polyurethane knifecoat wipes off easily, has good water resistance, and has no problem being dragged through cholla cactus without showing wear. Honestly, if you’re worried about keeping your bag clean, keep it inside.
The YKK #10RC and #8RC zippers have a DWR finish to add to the water resistance of the pack and they feel fantastic and strong. My previous MPL was able to withstand 20-30 minutes at a time in the downpour of the Louisiana storm season without letting water inside. Fortunately I live in a drier climate now, but the V2 was able to withstand 15 minutes in the shower with only a bit of water intrusion.
Speaking of the Sweaty South, the back panel of the V2 still lacks any major type of ventilation so those who are prone to diaphoresis still won’t find much reprieve. If you’re using this bag on hot days, be prepared for back sweat. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but if you’re looking for a bag that breathes, keep looking.
One of my favorite parts of the old MPL was how comfortable it was on my daily bike commute to the hospital. Even when carrying a full change of clothes, laptop, snacks for a 12-hour shift, water, and way too much coffee, I still felt like the load was evenly distributed, and the thick shoulder straps kept my arms and back comfy. They’ve also updated the sternum strap – I found that the old one would often fall out of place, but this update uses a different attachment mechanism that has eliminated the issue.
When I talk about how the team at EVERGOODS is obsessed about details, this is what I’m talking about. The top piece of the harness pattern is cut slightly longer than the bottom piece to give the straps a natural curve and minimize wrinkling and stress points. This translates into a form-fitting shoulder strap that feels great whether you’re wearing a suit on your way to work or Gor-Tex out on the trail. These little details are all throughout the bag design and, individually are less-than-noticeable by the average consumer, but overall give the bag that je ne sais quoi that amounts to a pack that just works.
Up until this point I haven’t really commented on any of the changes between the MPL V1 and V2 and honestly I think that’s a good thing. The old version of this pack is great, and I think EVERGOODS made the smart decision to not fix what isn’t broke. That being said, the organization of the new pack is really where the big new improvements come in.
First, let me just say this: bottle pockets.
One of my biggest critiques of the original MPL was a lack of external bottle pockets. EVERGOODS had initially said that they believed it would interfere with the clamshell opening and compression, and that the pack was big enough to store your bottles internally, but they listened to feedback (probably my incessant commenting on their social media about my love of well-crafted external pockets) and managed to design probably the best bottle pockets I’ve ever used. The stretch fabric is high quality and the pocket is big enough for my giant 1.8L insulated Hydroflask. Where the ingenuity really comes in is that neither the compression straps nor the pockets get in the way of the zipper, so you can have have the sides of your pack completely jammed with bottles, jackets, your gri-gri, etc. and still be able to access the main body of the bag. This is by far my favorite part of the MPL V2 and honestly this alone probably would have pushed me to at least give it a try.
The main body of the bag is still mostly devoid of organization, save for a laptop compartment that has been elevated off the bottom to protect your device with a new little strap to make opening easier. There are two front-side interior pockets, the top being perfect for quickly stashing a wallet or sunnies and the bottom good for a small pouch. They’ve added a pocket within a pocket (cue Inception music) to the zippered mesh inside that I found worked very well as a holster for my portable battery pack, and allowed me to tunnel a charging cable for easy access during meetings or when on the bus. The internal mesh pocket is still a bit difficult to access, especially when your pack is full.
The external pockets still have their awesome dedicated volume, which means you can stuff them full without compromising the internal space of your bag, and the updated keyring is slightly higher quality from the old plastic one which is a plus.
Finally, I’m a bit torn about the decision to remove the hip belt pockets. The new belt is just a single wide strip of webbing without bells or whistles (or pockets). Many users reported difficulty fitting things in the old pockets, and I definitely agree, but on the days that I was riding my bike to work, or hiking, I really appreciated having the option to stash a phone or a few snacks without having to remove the bag. Although I love the decision to make the belt removable, I wish there was some kind of compromise that still gave me my pockets!
- Dual bottle pockets with integrated compression is a game-changer
- Classic EVERGOODS quality and comfort
- New sternum strap is a big improvement
- Removable hip belt is excellent for flexibility
- Dedicated volume of external pockets
- I was a fan of the hipbelt pockets on V1 and would love to see a removeable compromise
- Back panel still runs warm and sweaty
- Internal mesh pocket is sometimes difficult to access
- Pack is still on the pricey side, but you get what you pay for
Overall, I’m a huge fan of the updated Mountain Panel Loader and I think it’s well worth a look. If you liked the Version 1 or were on the fence, I think the new updates will make you a true believer. However, this is a bit of binary pack and if it didn’t work for you the first time, I’m not sure it’s going to change your mind. In short, the MPL V2 is doubling down on what made the V1 great with small details that really make it shine. Make no mistake, it’s not a cheap bag, but if the longevity and quality of the V1 is any indication, it’s a bag that will hold up to whatever you can throw at it and is well worth the upgrade or purchase if you have $269 to spare.
Personally I think the V2 refresh was exactly what I needed to renew my love of the Mountain Panel Loader. After a brief hiatus, it’s now returned to it’s rightful place as my most used commuter pack with the occasional foray into the wilderness, or for heavy grocery runs. As always, I look forward to see what EVERGOODS will throw at us next.
Disclaimer: The Mountain Panel Loader was provided by EVERGOODS for use in this review. The contents of the review were not shared prior to publication. Our reviews are impartial and never changed to keep a brand happy.