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load hauler backpack properties
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Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
load hauler backpack properties on 09/04/2013 16:34:42 MDT Print View

I continue to look for a conventional backpack that carries 40lbs "well". My Aether 70 is fine below 32lbs but degrades after that. Most of my gear is UL though I often end up carrying signifigant amounts of boy scout stuff. Like a loaded kids pack lashed on top of my pack or pounds of water.

I have a vendor who is willing to give me $1k toward a McHale, though I'm not excited about spending that much on a pack (even free to me), and I worry that it would have to carry light years better than anything else to be a worthwhile to me (a bit of a skeptic). I know picking colors and fabric and features is nice, but all I really care about is how well it transfers weight to the hips and keeps my center of gravity most manageable. I'm tall and thin, the more away the load gets from my back the greater the discomfort.

What i think i need is a pack with:

a full padded belt
a stiff suspension
tall, not very deep main bag (barely deep enough for a bear can horizontally at the top)
side pockets and compression straps for fishing poles
60-80 liters
weight isn't super critical, just not crazy heavy


are my criteria on the right track?

does your mchale carry that much better, cool factor aside?

any their other packs or pack characteristics to consider that you have first hand knowledge about?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Try These on 09/04/2013 16:49:55 MDT Print View

I think McHale packs are McHale packs because of how well they transfer load. The idea I get from other forum users is that the packs really are the cat's meow. They'll take loads up to 60+ pounds and make them manageable. That being said, I don't necessarily think that's the only way to get that effect.

The pack that I've tested with extreme loads and found the most well-suited is the Gregory Baltoro 65. It really was excellent at transferring the load to my hips exclusively, and the variable suspension made it very easy to carry. I loved it.

My Kelty frame pack is even more comfortable, until the top bar catches on a low branch and I fall over. But damn, does it redistribute.

Hope this helps.

Edited by mdilthey on 09/04/2013 16:50:40 MDT.

Richard R
(alaskaoneday) - MLife

Locale: Northern CA
Packs on 09/04/2013 16:58:26 MDT Print View

I have used a McHale pack for a couple of years now, and 'for me', it is the best load carrying pack I have used. Weight is carried on your hips and the bypass straps keep everything nice in close without effecting the shoulder strap adjustment. Last month on a 7 day trip in Yosemite, I was the only one out of our group of four without any 'pack pains'. I like them so much that I now have a Bump 33, S-Sarc and a CM II Inex (dubbed "The Motorhome"). Construction is excellent and they will last me the rest of my hiking days. The only real way to find out if it works for you is to demo one.

David Anderson
(kickemall) - F

Locale: Northcoast of Ca.
Hunting packs on 09/04/2013 18:58:35 MDT Print View

You might take a look at Kuiu Icon series (probably the most traditional "backpacking pack") of the bunch, Kifaru bikini frame and timberline bags (various sizes) or Stone Glacier (the lightest of them). All these are known in the hunting community for handling big loads and they all have different options that would meet your needs as well as coming in colors other than camo. Good luck.

P.S. - All the above have load shelves, where you can set something between the frame and bag, in them which would work well for some of the odd loads mentioned above.

Edited by kickemall on 09/04/2013 22:23:07 MDT.

Michael Wainfeld
(Adox) - M

Locale: EastCoast
Pack on 09/04/2013 19:52:58 MDT Print View

A McHale pack fits all 6 of your criteria

Nathan Coleman
Re: load hauler backpack properties on 09/04/2013 20:22:07 MDT Print View

I'm an owner/designer at Paradox Packs.

Paradox Packs

Really it isn't that hard to design a pack to carry 40 lbs in comfort. What is hard is to design a pack that is comfortable with a 100 lb load, and then make that same pack comfortable at 20-40.

To comfortably carry heavy loads you need a full wrap belt with a differential cut, mechanical advantage closure, specific multiple density foams, and increased surface area on the face. That belt needs articulate fully to match the wearers lumbar shape, and it has to have a wide load transfer to a very stiff frame. The frame needs to be tall enough to give a proper load lifter angle so you can keep the weight off your shoulders.

The way that we approached designing our pack was to start with the old external frame packs. We borrowed part of their frame design, but changed the shape and stripped it down to only the bare necessities for function.

Then we added an articulating joint in the frame that allows it to move with your shoulders at light loads, which simulates flex with an inflexible frame. This makes a pack that is truly comfortable at 20 lbs, but is still comfortable with whatever weight you want to carry.

Take a look at our Evolution frame with a 4800 rolltop in VX21 X-Pac. It's on sale right now for $449, and it includes a 4800 ci pack bag with an additional 1000 ci compression pack. All up the package is 3.5 lbs.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: load hauler backpack properties on 09/04/2013 23:34:45 MDT Print View

Before I bought my first McHale pack, I was thinking just like you -- there would need to be a lot of value in a pack in that price range. So I spent about 6 months reading reviews and forum posts. Most seemed to be on sites dedicated to mountaineering, climbing, and hunting. There were a few unhappy people, but I was blown away by the number of completely satisfied owners. Seems that most weren't just happy owners, but had become advocates of the product. Some people had bought McHales decades ago and were still using them.

So I decided to go forward. I knew I would get to try a demo before paying for a pack. I liked the demo concept. Once I got the demo I loaded it with 35 lbs and did a 18 mile day hike over varied terrain. Surprisingly, I didn't have a single sore spot the next morning -- you know those common pressure points on the hips and sometimes the shoulders; this is spite of the fact I really had done a poor job of adjusting the stays; which Dan had me correct after I sent him a bunch of pictures.

I ended up buying a 2nd smaller McHale, I was so happy with the first one. Yes, I think it does all the things you are looking for.

I now consider what I paid for both packs to be investment rather than price.

I suggest you spend time on other websites other than BPL; those sites where people carry heavy loads.

As for the cool factor, I don't know about that since I rarely see other people on the trail and don't have the opportunity to show my packs to anyone but my wife, and she hates the idea of wearing a backpack.

Ultimately it is your decision if you buy one, so be objective when you do your research. I hope this is helpful.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: load hauler backpack properties on 09/05/2013 06:04:45 MDT Print View

I just started demoing a McHale and though I don't have a lot of use with it yet, I can tell you that so far it carries better than anything else I have tried. You can immediately tell that this pack is different, all of the little details are so well thought out. I don't plan on carrying 40 pounds, but even at 25 or 30, the right pack is worth the money.

There aren't as many packs that carry 40 pounds well as there used to be.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: load hauler backpack properties on 09/05/2013 07:53:36 MDT Print View

I just went through the McHale Demo process and Dan was a pleasure to deal with it.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Re: Re: load hauler backpack properties on 09/05/2013 08:16:08 MDT Print View

I recently recieved my McHale pack, and I couldn't be more pleased. Excellent load carrying ability, whether it's ten pounds or forty. At a normal 20-25, it's almost not there. At higher weights (which honestly have only been around the block for testing), it still rides beautifully, excellent weight transfer, only your legs can tell the difference of the heavier weight.

Like Stephen above, I found Dan to be a great guy to work with, very cordial, with wise suggestions for tweaking the pack to the trips I take. The whole experience was great, and the pack is amazing.

(Joomy) - M
Crux on 09/05/2013 09:20:32 MDT Print View

No experience with McHale packs but being custom made I'm sure they are the bee knees.

A much cheaper option would be the Crux AK70 (70 litres nominal with 5L extra in the collar). I've not used it myself but I have the AK47-X and it's been superb. Haven't tested it much further than 30lbs but it's always been comfortable. It has a super stiff, super light internal tube frame and the AK70 is the same basic design but with an extra titanium stay and much beefier hip belt. Plus these packs are essentially waterproof and the fabric is absolutely bomber.

I'll need a hauler for a Nepal expedition next year and I'm 99% sure it'll be an AK70. It's not mega-light but very reasonable, 1600g for a medium harness. Only downside comfort-wise could be if you fall in-between sizes as they are fixed length harnesses.

Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
McHale on 09/05/2013 14:39:05 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input. More to research.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
golite quest almost there on 09/08/2013 14:09:07 MDT Print View

It's disappointing that such a 40+ pound (light in weight)load hauler for under 400 dollars in the US seems to be allusive. I'm on a similar quest for a light weight load hauler. I had high hope with the golite quest 80L

It is very light for its large size (3# 13oz.) and what I consider to be a pretty nifty frame design. The "horn" of the perimeter frame, which extends right onto the hipbelt is a very smart and effective way to transfer the weight directly onto the hips and over a wider area. I was able to carry 45-60 pound loads for 2 days with this pack in relative comfort.

However, after 2-3 days, my hips would experience some irritation where the belt was on the hips. I think this is because they made the belt so narrow. Since the belt is so short it grips and rest on your hips over a very narrow area. This makes it so that it cannot really wrap around and contour around your hip like most conventional belts that are taller and which often have a crease in the middle to help the belt conform to your hips.
I imagine that this was done in order to save weight. IMHO, this was a bad place to save 2-3oz in what is supposed to be a load hauler.

I can get my "base weight" down to 15 pounds, but on my week long trips in Colorado this summer, I was often still carrying 45-60 pounds because of the addition of climbing equipment, camera equipment, and fishing gear combined with food for a week.

I'm still on the hunt for this dream light load hauler because it also has to double as a summit sack and the reality is that my favorite hobbies that i often combine with backpacking often prevents me from going UL or even "light" on many trips (climbing gear alone is 20+ pounds). Also, I really don't want to spend an extra 400 + dollars on another pack. At this point, I may just have to go back to my rediculously feature heavy EMS Summit 5500 that weighs over 6 pounds. It does have am awesome belt and twin heavy stays and a stiff frame sheet.

Edited by chinookhead on 09/08/2013 14:12:33 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Another Option on 09/08/2013 14:43:48 MDT Print View

The Exped Lighting 45 or 60 might be what you need.

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
"load hauler backpack properties" on 09/08/2013 15:48:58 MDT Print View

+1 on Exped Lightning 45/60

Luke is correct this could fit your needs.

Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
packs on 09/08/2013 16:36:29 MDT Print View

played with three packs that live in the garage yesterday. each with 40 lbs. Ranked in terms of comfort.

1) my grown up sons Kelty Yukon 3500 external from when he was little (very adjustable)

2) Dana Arcflex Terraplane

3) 2013 Aether 70

not quite what I would have imagined.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
Exped lightning and External Frames on 09/08/2013 18:01:00 MDT Print View

Rick, 1st I want to apologize for hijacking your thread a little and thanks for the above experiment.

I'm not that surprised about the external frame working so well. External frames carry big weights well since they are so rigid. However, for climbers (like me), they are not ideal at all. Because, they don't hug and conform to your back, they can negatively effect your balance while you are in steep terrain. Also, in steep terrain, I find that externals can cause your back to ache from all of the "yanking" and pulling that happens when you change the angles at which you are hiking. Also, the Aether apparently has only one stay and just uses a frame sheet instead of anything solid on the perimeter like a stay or hoop. This likely makes it start to get uncomfortable much over 30 + pounds as it starts to collapse (no real experience with this pack).

I have been looking art the exped, but I am worried about two possible issues with the exped Lightning 60L:

1) It may be too little volume for my big loads (I think that I need at least 70 liters).

2) It sounds like members of this site Like John Finney who have tried the exped at larger loads have had issues with how the frame feels directly on their back since it has no padding between you and the frame on the upper part of the pack.

However, the above may not really be an issue and I wish that someone around me in Dallas carried it. Luke and Kevine, do you have any experience with the Exped?

Edited by chinookhead on 09/08/2013 18:07:20 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: golite quest almost there on 09/08/2013 18:13:36 MDT Print View

"I'm on a similar quest for a light weight load hauler."

That might be an oxymoron.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Exped Frame on 09/08/2013 18:18:10 MDT Print View

The frame should be kept off your back by the thick lumbar pad. I never felt it. If it does touch your back you can remove the frame and re-bend it.

Michael I'm in Midland but might go to the Dallas/Denton area some weekend. PM me and I'd be happy to let you look at the pack I have.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
Nick (let me clarify) on 09/08/2013 18:19:47 MDT Print View

I mean an internal frame pack under 5 pounds (under 4 would be ideal). I just wish that I could avoid carrying 6-7 pounds of backpack.....especially, when towards the end of the hike, it is not needed when you have lost 10-14 pounds of food or don't need 3L of water etc.

Edited by chinookhead on 09/08/2013 18:20:45 MDT.