Feb 9, 2021 at 10:51 am #3698305
It’s been a rough past year, So im thinking I will treat myself to a new pack haha. Anyone have any experience with Mchale packs? Ive read as much as I can about them but am curious to hear anyones opinions. Ive been using the HMG Junction and it’s just not for me, So ill be selling that on here ASAP. Looking into his Little Big Packs Or the Sarc- Casm.Feb 9, 2021 at 10:59 am #3698306TurleyBPL Member
@turleyLocale: So CalFeb 9, 2021 at 11:08 am #3698308
@turley Ive read this one multiple times hahaha. Just wanting to hear some more personal stories if anyone has any. That was a great overview of the packsFeb 9, 2021 at 11:18 am #3698310Ken LarsonBPL Member
@kenlarsonLocale: Western Michigan
This pack you might like AND you are saving BIG DOLLARS!!Feb 9, 2021 at 11:29 am #3698312Feb 9, 2021 at 11:33 am #3698314Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
I have a McHale LBP36 and it is an impeccably made pack – it is certainly made to last a lifetime, however I don’t use it much because it’s pretty heavy – about 52oz, where my SWD Long Haul 50 pack of about the same volume is 28.6oz and carries 25-26 lbs just as well.
If you are looking at a larger, load hauler pack, I’d suggest at least checking out the Seek Outside packs like the Divide or Unaweep. My Unaweep carries 40lbs better than my McHale – (though admittedly the McHale has his simple suspension).
I’m not saying not to buy a McHale. Dan is a master at what he does and he gives you a completely custom pack, and gives you a durable, beautiful pack, but I think there are packs that carry just as well for most people and uses.Feb 9, 2021 at 11:40 am #3698319
@mocs123 Ive actually looked at seek outsides stuff, seems really great. I have a pretty buster up body (neck and shoulders). Most packs I have tried out just don’t seem to work and cause some level of discomfort. That is why I was leaning towards Mchale. Seems like he has a great knowledge and would be great to work with. Weight is not a massive concern for me, I am minimal with my gear but I am not sawing off my tooth brush and doing other things to decrease my overall weight.Feb 9, 2021 at 2:02 pm #3698353ejcfreeBPL Member
I have had a sarc since 2016 with >300 days out. It works really, really great for me. It is not a light pack made for quick, light trips. I carry loads from 20-55 lbs. I like it’s simplicity and how well it rides my hips. I was able to size and feature it to my liking. He will send you a fitted test pack to try without committing.Feb 9, 2021 at 2:06 pm #3698355KatttBPL Member
deep in my memory are traces of some daisy chain wars re these packs.Feb 9, 2021 at 2:13 pm #3698357
@ejcfree yeah i am definitely not an ultralight backpacker. I bring to much camera gear :P but that is what i am looking for is something that rides comfortably. I was a competitive athlete for all of my 20’s so my body is pretty beat up ( more in particular neck and shoulders), so finding something that rides well on the hips is important.
@kattt was it a PITA to attach things to your pack?Feb 9, 2021 at 2:53 pm #3698364IanBPL Member
Not speaking for Kattt but historically there have been some (ahem) enthusiastic discussions surrounding these packs. I try not to respond with “search the forums,” but in this case, it would add more context.
It seems like the general consensus over the years is that for what they are, the build quality and characteristics of the pack are second to none. For me, it wasn’t the right tool for the job (<20lb packs typically on non expedition trips) so I never really considered it.
Best of luck. I hope things improve for you.Feb 9, 2021 at 2:59 pm #3698366Feb 9, 2021 at 4:58 pm #3698392Dean F.BPL Member
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
I have two McHale packs, a big one and a small one. Here were my thoughts on the larger one.
I will enthusiastically endorse Ian’s quote that “for what they are, the build quality and characteristics of the pack are second to none.” But what are they? More specifically, what are they not?
Well, they are not ultralight by any of our definitions, though Dan does try to call some of them that.
They are not minimalist- you will get full suspension. It is an excellent full suspension- possibly the best in the world- but it is a full suspension. Dan has at least been willing to dabble with stays and such, and in many of his designs you can remove the hipbelt if you want to.
The big thing about the McHale packs is that- within certain limits- you can get exactly the pack that you want. But Dan McHale has certain, er… strong opinions about how a pack should be made, and you have to be willing to tolerate them. You know that snooty bicycle mechanic at your local hole-in-the-wall shop who will tell you that what you want is wrong, and you should do it his way? Well, Dan can be the pack version of that at times. I would describe this as: your pack will definitely show it’s mountaineering heritage in some way. Some customers have found him very difficult to work with. I did not.
It has been said that a McHale pack is an heirloom that you will leave to your children. If it is any indication, there is a brisk market in used McHale packs, to the point that Dan makes a few advisory comments about buying them on his (execrable) website.
My thoughts are thus: I can carry all sorts of delicate gossamer-light gear on any rugged bushwhack imaginable, so long as it is protected in a sturdy pack. I have sold all of my (non-military) non-McHale packs except for one ultralight option for when I specifically want to go a little fanatical. You will love and appreciate a McHale pack for what it is- the product of a master craftsman. And yet it’s features may not be right for you and how you hike, especially if you want light. If you go with any of what Dan calls his “ultralight” packs it will weigh about 4.5 pounds including side pockets, or perhaps a bit more if you choose a particularly heavy fabric. They are starkly excellent expedition packs, but probably less than ideal for what most of us do due to the weight.
But since you specify that you are not a UL fanatic, it’s definitely among the best packs in the world. It’s just a matter of whether or not Dan’s more non-negotiable pack traits are in accordance with your needs.Feb 9, 2021 at 5:31 pm #3698405
My thoughts are thus: I can carry all sorts of delicate gossamer-light gear on any rugged bushwhack imaginable, so long as it is protected in a sturdy pack.
Couldn’t have said it better, myself. My pack isn’t just a load-carrier; it’s a protective layer between my gear – you know, that stuff that keeps me alive – and avoidable loss/breakage. Thus, I don’t mind the extra weight of a full-suspension bag that’s capable anywhere; my back needs the help, and my gear deserves a shield between it and my stupidity.
I’ve fondled a few McHales; they’re exceptional, and I wouldn’t hesitate to carry one anywhere. They were on my short list at purchase-time, but at length I decided to go another route, albeit with a similar cottage manufacturer; this was due to a different choice in materials and a good mesh of personalities between myself and the builder (meaning that he put up with all of my irritating proclivities and should probably be canonized for having done so).Feb 9, 2021 at 8:40 pm #3698450
@bon-zo @acrosome This is great info, thank you so much! I just spoke with Dan on the phone for almost a half hour earlier today. We BS’ed for a while and had a good talk. I actually got along with him great, I think we have similar enough personalities that it will be fun to work with him. He is going to be sending me a demo which I am very excited aboutFeb 9, 2021 at 11:18 pm #3698472Al GBPL Member
Congratulations. Enjoy the journey working with Dan. He will build you a dream pack that will work for you. Will be curious if you end up with a BUMP or smaller LBP.Feb 10, 2021 at 6:01 pm #3698649Stephen MBPL Member
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
I have had a McHale for about 10 years and love it. It’s an absolute beast for winter camping, it’s well worth the extra weight.Feb 11, 2021 at 5:33 am #3698717David NollBPL Member
@dpnollLocale: Maroon Bells
I have two packs, a McHale and a much lighter one. I consistently go back to using the McHale (which is 2# heavier) because it is so darn comfortable. I remember while going through the fitting process, Dan telling me (in an exasperated tone) that I was doing it all wrong. Well, we got it figured out and eventually when the pack arrived everything was as it should be. The fit is incredible. My wife still thinks I spent way too much on it, but I just point to her Coach purses. You will never be sorry.Feb 11, 2021 at 7:21 am #3698724Feb 11, 2021 at 7:31 am #3698725
I remember while going through the fitting process, Dan telling me (in an exasperated tone) that I was doing it all wrong. Well, we got it figured out and eventually when the pack arrived everything was as it should be.
An anecdote, if I may:
I went through the exact same thing with the guy that built my pack; I was taking measurements and I kept saying “I think it’s going to be too short” and “that’s not where my hip belt usually sits” and “my pack feels too long when I wear it how you’re telling me to wear it, and it won’t stay in place” and the builder kept telling me that everything I was telling him sounded perfectly reasonable, and that it would be fine in the end. So I double- and triple-checked the measurements that he was telling me to take, had someone else measure me, had a third person measure me, had my doctor measure me, and finally said “f*** it, I’m tired of measuring” and rolled with the numbers that didn’t make much sense to me (key phrase, there). Waited six months for pack construction, lost some sleep over dropping major coin on something that might not fit, called myself an idiot a few times and chewed at my fingernails. Then I got my pack, got it adjusted, got the never-before-built-like-this belt up on my hip crest where it should sit and found that it amazingly stayed stayed in place, and it was like the 30 pound test weight just evaporated. Walked a mile or three and my shoulders started hurting, right between the shoulder blades. Adjusted the load lifters about fifteen times, found that magic spot where the upper part of the bag just barely sways side to side against my movement, and all of the sudden the shoulder pain was gone. Took a few test hikes, eventually upped the weight to 45 pounds: perfectly comfortable…and that is with a lower back injury that totally sidelined me from carrying more than five or ten pounds for a decade. After seven or eight months, I am still totally floored by how much weight can be carried in that pack without a single bit of fatigue or pain, and how – for the first time ever – a pack actually fits my hips and back without sliding, slipping or pinching or just downright hurting something. Literally every other pack I own is now on the chopping block, and I’m saving pennies for a small, light, compact dayhiking/summit bag from the same guy. Turns out that the people that do this for a living know a hell of a lot more about how to fit me than I know about how to fit me; that’s probably true for others as well.
TL;DR. Custom bags are worth the money, and pack builders are very smart…so don’t argue with them too much.
Thanks guys! Im really excited for it. I am wondering about the whole fitting and trying on process, I hope he doesn’t get mad if I am doing it wrong haha. Hes sending me out a LPB 40, should be awesome!
It’ll be awesome, no doubt. Post some pictures when you get it. Love seeing some good custom work…Feb 11, 2021 at 7:39 am #3698728
@bon-zo I love that story. I wanted to love my HMG Junction, as it is a great pack. But even if I only have supplies for a day hike, I always get neck/trap knots, and get lower back pain from the thin padding. I think it will be a good move for me to go this direction. Plus I love the way his packs lookFeb 11, 2021 at 9:17 am #3698751JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
Bonzo, what pack maker did you go with?Feb 11, 2021 at 9:36 am #3698758
I went with Alpine Luddites; I didn’t want to commit a total threadjacking, but I don’t mind posting the name since someone asked. John Campbell is the name of the builder, and as I said: he should be canonized for putting up with me. I really liked the fact that he took a ton of time to answer each of my entirely-too-long e-mails completely and thoroughly, and the material selection that he had was exactly what I was looking for; he even sent me fabric samples so that I could make better decisions about everything. I think that all of the builders in this tier are extremely good, so the decision really comes down to a personality match and little nuances like fabrics and trims and whether or not their build theory matches your particular idiosyncrasies.Feb 11, 2021 at 9:49 am #3698763JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
Thanks, I was just curious – never heard of Alpine Luddites before.
I’ve long thought about getting a McHale pack, but I rarely carry more than 30lbs, and what backpack I want has evolved over the years. It’s always interesting to see what people end up with McHale.Feb 11, 2021 at 10:22 am #3698773
Ive heard of them, I think they have really cool gear. I also agree with the sentiment of the personality match. Luckily Dan and myself seem to get along swimmingly lol
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