Thanks for kind worlds everyone.
I haven't finalized with Dan McHale as to what the final product will be. He takes the month of October off for vacation, and since I am not in a hurry I told Dan to take care of his urgent orders first.
If you look at the zPacks website, Joe states that his Cuben packs will last one full thru hike. So if I go with Cuben, the entire pack will not be made from the material. It will probably have a full Spectra or Dyneema Grid bottom, and part of the bag made from Dyneema Grid in the high stress points. Dan has some different Cuben than what we typically see and it is more robust with a special lamination. Most Cuben has high tear strength, but not abrasion. Keep in mind that McHale has been playing around with Cuben for years, but has only made and sold a couple Cuben packs (a few months ago for someone going to the Himalayas). I did not request Cuben, Dan told me that he has refined the construction to meet his standards. Dan is a fabric wizard. A while back there was a thread on Full Dyneema and Dan is the only person who can dye the stuff. Hip belt and shoulder straps will not be Cuben. So I may just end up with Dyneema Grid or something else instead of Cuben. We still need to discuss it in detail.
We are looking at a pack based on his Merkebeiner line. It will be smaller with around 32" circumference. His smallest Merkebeiner packs are 34" in circumference, and we are probably looking at around 2,000 cu in or 32 liters, which makes it a little more difficult to build the bottom with full Spectra. It will have a roll top, but short with no extension -- just enough material to close the top. The back panel will be covered with his mesh, and there will be an internal pad pocket. Looking at two external water pockets, a single shoulder pocket, and maybe a small summit lid. It will have aluminum stays and his double buckle hip belt. There will be no kangaroo or other outside pockets. No compression straps, but probably ladder tape.
Dan sent me a demo Merke and I did several trips with it, so the basic design is what I want. Although the final product has not been determined, I have already discussed things a couple times on the phone with Dan, and we have exchanged a couple dozen emails. So you can see that buying a McHale is a completely different experience that dealing with anyone else, not to mention you always get to try out a pack before purchasing.
What I am looking for is a small volume pack that can comfortably carry up to 8 liters of water, or 20+ pounds. With a McHale pack all the weight is on the hips, shoulder straps just keep the pack in place and balanced.
To me this is the correct method of building a pack; determine exactly what is needed, then the weight is what it is; "from follows function." I have no idea on weight, maybe 2 lbs or a little more, maybe under 2 lbs. It doesn't matter, function does. Seems to me that a lot of pack companies start with a weight goal, and then try to force the design and materials to meet the weight. That is backwards.
Craig Wisner posted a trip report of a hike we did last week. Take a look at the terrain, this is what I usually hike in. Boulders, scree, volcanic rock, descents down steep canyons with no trails and lots of cactus and Cat Claw. So I need something robust.
The Zero held up on a couple slip and slides when Craig and I were descending down the canyon he described. No damage.
McHale Merke Site
Edited to fix link.