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Looking for a good expedition pack
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S Long

Locale: Wasatch
Looking for a good expedition pack on 11/27/2011 19:30:52 MST Print View

I am in the market for a good, comfortable pack for week plus trips with climbing gear (rope, trad rack, alpine rack, avalanche gear, etc.). I have looked at Mystery Ranch, McHale, and Cilogear. I would like to be able to handle loads up to about 70 pounds as comfortably as possible. The weight of the pack is kinda secondary to comfort. That being said, if I can cut four pounds off the pack itself, that instantly translates into a lighter load and more comfort. I was looking around and saw someone posted the new Kuiu pack on this forum as a possibility for heavier loads. I was thinking that it looked pretty intriguing. With the carbon fiber Icon frame and maybe a custom pack bag made by Chris Zimmer or another talented person I could conceivably have an awesome pack at a pretty light weight. Does anyone have any thoughts on a pack that would be ideal for my uses?

wander lust
aarn packs on 11/27/2011 19:46:49 MST Print View

I don't have any experience with the mentioned producers, but I love my Aarn Pack.

The frame and details are brilliant. you might want to take a look at his Stronglite Packs.

maybe the load limo could work for you. the packs also work pretty good without the front pockets.

on the other hand, a lot of people here swear by mchale: excellent custom work, you choose what you want, might be expensive though.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 11/27/2011 20:11:33 MST Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 16:56:47 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Looking for a good expedition pack on 11/27/2011 20:14:29 MST Print View

Any MR with the NICE frame is going to easily carry those loads. Although the frame is a bit heavy, you can add a number of different pack bags to it to great the volume you need.

Edited by FamilyGuy on 06/17/2013 10:07:46 MDT.

Steven Thompson
(stevet) - M

Locale: Northeast
McHale on 11/27/2011 20:40:02 MST Print View

I like McHale and though pricey, suggest you give Dan a call. If you are in the Seattle area you can pay him a visit for fitting and getting a "test" pack. If not you can do it by mail.

As part of his process you'll drop a deposit (all or maybe only part of it non refundable if you don't buy) and he'll send you a "test" pack to try out so you can see if what he has to offer will meet your needs.

Me, I have 2 of Dan's packs. Both packs have his "bayonet" system which adds 6-8" of frame above the shoulders to steady/handle big loads.

A 20 year old Inex, weighs 8 pounds and holds enough gear for just about anything. I used it as a family sherpa, carrying gear for me, wife, and 2 kids on weekend long hikes (used just about all its volume), 2 week solo hikes (used about 1/2 its volume) and myriad hikes with the Boy Scouts where I was the responsible trek leader (used about 2/3 its volume). The heaviest load I carried was 80lbs. The load was heavy but the pack carried it well. No chafing, no sore hips or shoulders, no pain at all. Just a grunt.

And a 5 year old Sarc-chasm. Gotta love the name. This pack is maybe 50% of the volume of the Inex. I've never used the bayonets on this pack. Weighs 3lbs no bayonets/lid, maybe 4 with. Heaviest load carried on a 10 day Grand Canyon trek is 55lbs. The pack easily handled the load.

The strength of a McHale pack is three-fold. First is the frame. Dan uses a real frame that is strong enough to carry big loads, and is stiff enough to balance the load between the hips and shoulders. Second is the hipbelt. Dan's hipbelts are about 5" tall and use 2 buckles. The hipbelt masterfully distributes the pack weight without pinching, chafing. Very comfortable. Third, is the custom fit. There are a few other custom pack builders who I am sure offer the great fit, but don't have the great the frame and hipbelt.

If you want UL, Dan will craft a pack bag of cuben, but I think for 4 pounds you can get a great pack, well suited to your needs. When you go to the mchalepacks website, look for the Sarc packs as I think these as intended will meet the needs you outline.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Dana Designs and other ideas on 11/27/2011 21:37:07 MST Print View

A friend of mine used a Dana Designs pack to carry about 90 pounds if I recall when he was taking doing special treks at Philemont (apparently they took out some steaks wrapped in dry ice or something crazy like that).
Heres another thought. Your pack will probably weight 4-5 pounds minimum. Some of the cheaper name brands are going to be a couple pounds heaver. Before you spend a lot of extra money on a slightly lighter pack I'd wonder if you could save the same amount of weight for the money by lightening up other gear.

S Long

Locale: Wasatch
Re: Dana Designs and other ideas on 11/27/2011 21:50:58 MST Print View

I've already got a 2000 Dana Designs Terraplane but was hoping to update a little. I do a lot of longer duration alpine climbing trips (Wind Rivers, Tetons, etc.) and am planning on doing Denali next May/June. Ny climbing and packing gear are pretty dialed in. It seems the vast majority of the weight for the longer trips ends up coming from food and fuel (especially if melting snow for water). There are a few tricks, but nothing outstanding for reducing weight on food and fuel. I need a pack that can handle the extra weight of the consumables as comfortably as possible. Ideally the pack would also collapse into a reasonable summit bag or have a modular "pocket" that converts to a climbing pack. That is a feature I find attractive on the McHale and Cilogear packs.

Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: McHale on 11/27/2011 23:31:08 MST Print View

"If you want UL, Dan will craft a pack bag of cuben, but I think for 4 pounds you can get a great pack, well suited to your needs. When you go to the mchalepacks website, look for the Sarc packs as I think these as intended will meet the needs you outline."

I think you mean Dyneema. Dan uses woven Dyneema, at least he did when I got mine. It's a lot lighter than I expected it to be, and it carries a lot better than I thought it would, also -- and that was after using one of Dan's demo models for almost six months :)

In addition Dan has great customer service, and he will work with you to help you choose the right features for your needs, too. I went to him with my previous backpack, loaded up with my large format camera gear, and told him this is what I carry, and I need to also carry survival stuff. Then I asked him for his advice, and ended up with a full Dyneema SuperSARC. :)

Ismail Faruqi
(ismailfaruqi) - F
Mchale on 11/28/2011 00:44:52 MST Print View

UL + Sturdy fabrics + Load hauler + Custom fit and needs = Mchale packs.

Frankly I dont see any other options at the present CMIIW

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Mchale on 11/28/2011 08:31:16 MST Print View

These are getting some decent reviews:

These are rated to 100lb loads but are considerably lighter than Mchale and MR.

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Looking for a good expedition pack on 11/28/2011 13:00:03 MST Print View

I have always liked the look of:

-Wild Thing's Andinista:


CiloGear's 75L WorkSack:

another option is BD's Mission


Mountain Hardware's South Col:â„¢-70/OU4058,default,pd.html

All of these are 75L+ and around 4lbs or under.

Richard Fischel
mchale v. cilogear on 11/29/2011 14:48:21 MST Print View

both are great packs with a strong following. if you are looking at standard pack materials and not woven/non-woven dyneema the cilogear 75l is going to cost $375- and the mchale is going to cost somewhere between $750 and $850+. that's a pretty big difference in price. you can rationalize and amortize the price over time, but is it really twice the pack. the cilogear will weigh in at 4.8 pounds and the mchale somewhere in the mid to high 5 pound range. both will strip down to a lighter weight. the mchale will provide for the ability to customize your pack while the cilogear is a simple well thought out spartan design.

i have on occasion found myself with 45+ pounds in my 40l worksack. was i running up the mountain; no, but i wasn't suffering either. the 75l has a much beefier suspension and is designed for the work-horse days with 70+ pound loads. it's too bad that both packs are for the most part difficult to find locally to try on.

here's a video of what one guy takes to denali in his cilogear worksack. i'm always amazed at how much gets pulled out of one of thses packs when you watch the cilogear what's in your pack videos.

Edited by RICKO on 11/29/2011 14:50:50 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Looking for a good expedition pack on 11/29/2011 14:55:51 MST Print View

Have you considered the kirafu ultralights? Expensive, but they seem to have really pulled off a lightweight pack with amazing load carrying ability.
They have an under 3lbs, 85 liter pack capable of carrying 100+ lbs.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
mec on 11/29/2011 14:57:31 MST Print View

if yr in canada sometime ... try the mec alpinelite 85


David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
wow $$$ on 11/29/2011 15:39:00 MST Print View

Seeing the price ranges of the above packs make me glad I made my own. You can get exactly what you want/need if you try a little MYOG. The people on this site are most helpful - give it a shot.


P.S. check out this link to save weight on fuel for snow melting. I take half the fuel I use to using this setup.

Edited by dmgoody on 11/29/2011 15:52:39 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: wow $$$ on 11/29/2011 15:42:24 MST Print View

Wow. You made a Mchale?

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
not quite on 11/29/2011 15:56:07 MST Print View

Not quite, but better suited to my needs. My friends call it the "goody bag" :)

Not all of us can thrown down $700 on a pack.



Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: not quite on 11/29/2011 16:28:42 MST Print View

Agreed - $700 is spensie.

Do you have any pics of your MYOG pack and the type of frame used? I think this would be helpful to the OP and being self serving, I would love to see some pics.

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
external on 11/29/2011 16:48:24 MST Print View

It's an external frame, not suited to the OP's alpine hiking needs, but there are many who are designing packs that may fit his purpose in the MYOG forum. My pack can handle 100 lbs, but the design is low-military style to match my hiking needs.




S Long

Locale: Wasatch
Mchale on 11/29/2011 17:03:50 MST Print View

I am such a gear nerd that I would LOVE to try all of them, but I think I am going to save my pennies and go with a Mchale.