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61st Birthday XUL Trip
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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
61st Birthday XUL Trip on 11/23/2011 21:25:37 MST Print View

Birthday Trip

Just keep in mind that this was written for my childern, not the general audience here.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
61st Birthday XUL Trip on 11/23/2011 21:38:17 MST Print View

Great format, well written and beautiful pictures. Nicely done TR, thanks.

61 years young! Nothing like a solo UL (or in this case XUL) trip to celebrate a birthday.

Edited by thomdarrah on 11/24/2011 08:40:36 MST.

Michael Haubert
(SoCalMike) - F

Locale: So Cal
Happy Birthday on 11/23/2011 21:42:48 MST Print View

Good on you, Nick. Loved the report. I'm always amazed when I hear about others getting out there with 5 lbs or less. Happy birthday!


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Adding post to: "61st Birthday XUL Trip on 11/24/2011 01:10:43 MST Print View

Just keep in mind that this was written for my childern, not the general audience here.

I think that it would make a great BPL artcile with a few changes. Really enjoyed it.

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
Re: Adding post to: "61st Birthday XUL Trip on 11/24/2011 02:24:38 MST Print View

Great TR! I really enjoyed the read. I agree, this would make a great BPL article as well. Thanks for sharing your report. And happy birthday!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Cool - Pack Question on 11/24/2011 08:15:39 MST Print View

Nick great report. I'm always glad when you put together a trip report. Your route diagrams and illustrations make it very readable.

I'll be interested to see how your Cuban Fiber McHale pack turns out. Sounds like an awesome idea. Is it going to have all the accessories or is it gong to be a more stripped down SUL type pack? how much do you think it will weight?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Cool - Pack Question on 11/24/2011 10:39:35 MST Print View

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.

Edited by ngatel on 11/24/2011 10:41:25 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Cool-Pack Question on 11/24/2011 11:15:20 MST Print View

Thanks for the info Nick. Some day I'd like to get a McHale but right now I don't have the funds and for the hiking I normally do its just not needed (although it would be nice).
I'm coming around to your perspective on frameless packs. I used frameless packs almost exclusively since I started going light and over time I've learned some tricks to make them more comfortable than they used to be but I still think with more that 15 pounds (my personal limit) you're normally better off with a frame. I kinda put off getting a pack with a frame because I knew I could hanlde up to about 30 pounds in a frameless pack if I needed to but I rarely went much about 15. I didn't really see the point of buying a pack like the Osprey that can't go much over 30 pounds and if I bought a 4 or 5 pound heavy hauler I probably us it once a year if that. I finally found the perfect pack when the Absaroka went on sale. I've put close to 40 pounds in it without any problems. Its just under 2 pounds so I can us it on shorter trips with a minimal weight penalty and its not huge like some packs so it works well with my small kit. The only downside is that its not super durable so it won't last forever. I using a small dyneema pack for SUL trips partly because I can, and partly because I figure it prolongs the life of the Absaroka pack. If it fails I plan on cutthing it up and doing a MYOG project out of it or having someone like Chris Zimmerman rebuild it with dyneema gridstop. I got into a couple threads for SUL framed packs and at some point I want to make one of those sicne I still like pack making. I want to make something about the size of the MLD Burn out of dyneema gridstop. I'd add a niccer hipbelt and some padding to the back with a frame (probably from a Gossamer Gear pack). Based on other packs I've made I'm thinking that the basic pack would weight about a pound to 1.25 pounds plus the frame for about 3 - 4 oz. So I should be able to come up with a pack in the 1.5 pound range. The goal would not be so much to count grams but to make a pack that would be durable and the right size for my gear.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re Re Cool-Pack Question on 11/24/2011 12:16:59 MST Print View


Keep in mind that the reason I can afford a McHale is that I have been working for over 40 years, and am finished raising my kids. When I was younger my options were limited too. But you are on the right track. What do you need your pack(s) to do, and how do you get there?

What is a shame, is that some of the packs that work for us, may not last a long time because lighter duty materials were used just for the sake of saving a few ounces. Such as how you are using your Absaroka (not being critical here). UL packs do have their place. I often hike with ridiculously light base weights, which was part of the point of the story. These trips allow me to experiment and dial things in. But usually I am more than willing to use a 3+ pound pack on many of my trips. It makes the hike that much more enjoyable. If we think about it, purchasing "throw away" gear is not good for our environment, and in the long run is probably more expensive. And I have owned my fair share of different packs too. It is an evolving industry and avocation.

But works for each person is most important. The great thing about all these discussions is the fact there is no "right" way to do. Diversity at its best.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Thanks! on 11/24/2011 22:47:04 MST Print View

Nick, a unique and exhaustive report. I really enjoyed reading about the planning and execution of this hike. Happy Birthday by the way. Thanks for sharing with us. I find a lot of insight and benefit from this and will return to analyze the gear list and other items your narratively discussed. Thanks again.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Convenient on 12/01/2011 19:54:32 MST Print View

Thanks for this report Nick. Living in OC with life growing busier each year this would be a great weekend trip for me. What would the water situation be out there right now? I may try to squeeze this in very soon.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Convenient on 12/01/2011 20:13:22 MST Print View

Plenty of water in Lower and Middle Willows. As the winter rains start plus some snow fall the creeks in the side canyons will begin to flow.

Rob Vandiver

Locale: So Cal
Great TR. on 12/02/2011 13:27:19 MST Print View

Everything I could ask for in a Trip Report, fantastic trek and report.

Edward Z
(Fuzz) - MLife

Locale: Sunny San Diego
Best report of the year on 12/05/2011 20:18:47 MST Print View


Thanks for the outstanding report. I've done most of those canyons on overnights and I love that area. You wrote hands down the most engaging report. It made my day.



Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Thanks everyone on 12/06/2011 17:23:29 MST Print View

My kids are grown and have moved to other locations. The occasional story lets them know I am still hiking, since they have known all their lives that is what I do. My son does some backpacking, so I get into some details for his benefit. Hopefully the two of us will do a trip together this December. I normally do a trip every December in Nevada, and he conveniently got a job is Mesquite, Nevada as a biologist protecting desert tortoises. He is an expert on them so hopefully he can show me where to find them more frequently on my journeys. Unfortunately they are now sleeping for the winter.