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What Dan McHale has to say about UL backpacks
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K C
(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
What a novel on 01/12/2014 10:20:08 MST Print View

I couldn't read all of it, too long, needs to be in bullet points. So in a nutshell, he is saying that UL packs claim they could carry 25-30 pounds and they cannot comfortably.... I find this true too, duh. Who ever argued that a frameless pack should be used to carry 30 pounds?

Next time I plan to hike in a Coors Light 32 pack with me, or summit a 14'r in the winter with a NF VE-25 I will consider a McHale pack.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: What a novel on 01/12/2014 10:37:20 MST Print View

"Who ever argued that a frameless pack should be used to carry 30 pounds?"

Few would "argue" that point. Perhaps for the majority it would be foolish approach. But there are a few who do it, and do it comfortably.

And hopefully we can respect their choices and their capabilities.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: What Jerry says on 01/12/2014 12:12:19 MST Print View

"I think BPL is not about getting the recommended solution, but a bunch of ideas, some of which I find useful. Sometimes I'll dismiss an idea but later, it becomes useful either because I think about it differently, or my conditions change."

+1

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Less Weight, Be comfortable......go backpacking on 01/12/2014 12:39:17 MST Print View

Each person is going to be different in terms of what they feel is comfortable for THEM.

We all come here to get tips, guidance, advice on ways to lower our pack weight with the idea that we will actually go on a trip and simply enjoy the outdoors.

Rule one....be comfortable or to at least be willing to accept a level of discomfort so long as it does not hinder your ability to backpacking.

So if someone needs/wants to take a lightweight, framed pack so they can get out on the trail, so be it.

Hike your own hike as they say.

But more importantly, I hope that we are all taking the gear porn talk here and then actually putting it to good use and hitting the trail.

I'd rather see a traditional backpacking with a heavy load on the trail and enjoying the outdoors than just spending countless hours researching lightweight gear and not hitting the trail.

Which reminds me...I better plan a trip.

The ratio of my time looking at gear vs. time on the trail is starting to look REALLY bad! LOL.

Tony

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"What Dan McHale has to say about UL backpacks" on 01/12/2014 13:56:42 MST Print View

I grew up with the mantra: weight on the frame, frame on your hips. Part of the idea is that your leg muscles are far more powerful than your shoulder/back muscles, and so better able to carry weight. I'm sure that others will dispute this notion in one way or another. Be that as it may, I'm still uncomfortable carrying weight on my shoulders/back/spine. I need the full weight transfer to my hips. I've been unable to find a frameless pack that does this efficiently.

I'm curious how many people have ever actually used a framed pack? They're barely in production; old style framed packs are often poorly designed. I believe that there would be a market for light weight affordable fully framed packs, which are doable. I mean about a 2 lb. pack.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: "What Dan McHale has to say about UL backpacks" on 01/12/2014 14:19:58 MST Print View

"I'm curious how many people have ever actually used a framed pack?"

By which I assume you mean an external, ridge, tubular style frame? (Versus the independently sleeved internal stays, or frame sheets)

Edited by greg23 on 01/12/2014 14:21:32 MST.

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Packs are very personal on 01/12/2014 15:05:28 MST Print View

I originally posted this link because I have an immense amount of respect for Mr. McHale, both for his outdoor accomplishments and the packs he has designed over the years. And I think it's always interesting to get another perspective on gear.

However, I do find myself disagreeing with his conclusion that UL packs are by necessity uncomfortable. I agree that once you reach a certain weight, 25-30 pounds and over, frameless packs will be uncomfortable for many people, but not all of them. I've talked to too many experienced hikers who have thru-hiked with frameless packs and really enjoyed their trip. I've logged over a thousand miles with frameless packs and definitely think they have a place for certain trips, though I admit, I would not use one for a thru-hike.

For me, my pack is the most intensely personal piece of gear I carry. Even if everybody else in the world loves a pack, that doesn't mean I will. I've tried to eliminate excess gear and own only what I take with me for most trips, but backpacks is where I make an exception. I own several backpacks for several different types of trips. No backpack is the best option for every trip, so understanding what gear you will need, the duration of your trip, and how much food/water you will carry is vital to selecting the right pack for the trip.

If I was doing a winter trip with sub-zero temps, I would definitely carry a more heavy-duty pack capable of comfortably carrying all necessary gear. Ditto if I was doing a hardcore mountaineering trip involving climbs. But most of my trips are in 3-season conditions with a BPW of ~8 pounds, so IMO, I have no need for a bulletproof McHale pack. For extended trips around 7-10 days, I now use a ULA Ohm 2.0 and have had fantastic results with it. I removed most of the optional equipment and mine weighs ~27 ounces. For me, this is a perfect blend of weight savings, and having a comfortable pack that supports whatever load I decide to carry.

That's what experimentation and experience is all about ... self-discovery and knowing what works for you.

Edited by Damager on 01/12/2014 16:16:27 MST.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: "What Dan McHale has to say about UL backpacks" on 01/12/2014 15:09:46 MST Print View

Back in the day (60s, 70s), we pretty much all used external frame packs. I actually started with a frameless boy scout "rucksack", which killed my shoulders when carrying much more than a lunch. My first time carrying a Kelty external was a delight!

Today, with age making its inroads on my body, carrying as light as possible makes all the sense in the world, but I'm firmly with with Derek, Dan McHale and the others who wouldn't even consider a frameless pack for anything but a lunch and notebook. Good structure (ie, a good frame) makes all the difference in the world to me, making any level of load much more comfortable. I would much rather carry 30 lbs all day in my McHale pack, or even in my old ULA Catalyst, than 10 lbs in any of the frameless packs I've used. Like Dan says, the difference between a 11 and 3 pound pack is minimal when you look at the total weight of you and your loaded pack. And weight on the pelvic girdle carries so much better than weight on the shoulders.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Novice backpackers and "comfort" on 01/12/2014 16:01:52 MST Print View

I would never introduce a novice to backpacking by giving them a frameless pack to use for their 1st experience.

By the same token I'd also agree with "hike your own hike" when it comes to gear.

BTW, Osprey agrees with Mc Hale's idea of framed pack comfort v.s. the small weight decrease of a frameless pack.
________________________________________________________________________________

CONSIDERATIONS OTHER THAN EMPTY PACK WEIGHT FOR FRAME PACKS:
1. WEIGHT TRANSFER-> A frame pack permits weight transfer to the pelvic girdle and legs

2. WEIGHT RE-TRANSFER-> Frame packs permit weight to be transfered INCREMENTALLY between shoulders and hips

3. WEIGHT BALANCE-> Frame packs usually feature LIFT STRAPS which permit the pack top to be tight against the shoulders or lean away from the back when loosened. The former position when going uphill or in rough terrain, the latter "loose" position for going on long downhills.

4. MUSCLE INVOLVEMENT-> Frame packs permit different muscle groups (back, shoulders, legs) to work more or less depending on adjustment of suspension straps.
________________________________________________________________________________

In short, well designed frames and harnesses do a lot for both comfort and safety (as in properly balancing a load).

AS I SEE IT: There are too many reasons to have a frame pack and only one not to.
Having a frameless (and often beltless) pack is like using hiking poles without the straps.

MORAL OF THE STORY: A backpacker can be "Ounce wise and pound foolish." Or "Gram wise and kilo foolish." - choose yer units.
"There are more types of trail comfort than merely the lightest pack." (I love to quote myself.)

Edited by Danepacker on 01/12/2014 16:13:27 MST.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: What Dan McHale has to say about UL backpacks on 01/12/2014 16:11:55 MST Print View

Dan had some good points, but glossed over some other considerations.

- On a multi-day hike, pack weight goes down every day. The pack might start at 30 lbs, but will decrease in weight each day.
- You don't always need two full bladders/bottles of water.
- Why do I want to carry 3-5 extra pounds EVERY day on long hike?
- Many 1-2 night trips I take in summer never, ever go above 15-20 lbs. So...who cares about a pack for >25 lbs.??? Does Dan want to disregard all of those occasions?
- Many thru-hikers do well with lightweight packs.
- Why is he so angry?


I am pretty sure that UL backpacking (BPL) is about trying new things that have worked for others, and finding your own limits.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Packs on 01/12/2014 16:22:07 MST Print View

I often see hikers justify their heavy packs (3-5 lbs) by arguing against frameless packs, and then jumping to the conclusion that the only good solution is their heavy pack, as if there was nothing in between. Today there are so many great 1.5 - 3 lbs framed packs that there's almost no reason to go over 3 lbs even for decent loads.

It's also worth considering the two ways packs can cause discomfort:
1) A pack can cause discomfort though fit. This is failing to transfer weight, pressure points, chafing etc.
2) A pack can cause discomfort because they are heavy, and even if they fit wonderfully, you're legs still need to carry those pounds up and down every hill and suspend it every mile. This is much of the discomfort you feel at the end of a long day or the next morning.

In my view, you want a pack that sufficiently avoids #1 while minimizing #2. Many people get fixated on #1 and disregard #2.

Edited by dandydan on 01/12/2014 21:11:50 MST.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: What Dan McHale has to say about UL backpacks on 01/12/2014 16:27:44 MST Print View

I'll never know what he has to say. I wasted about 30sec of my time clicking around his clunky circa 1994 website and gave up. First impressions and all that...

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Packs on 01/12/2014 16:31:06 MST Print View

I use a frameless pack for loads under 20 pounds mostly because I can't fill it with gear to exceed that level as it is a 35L pack. It works great and allows the pack to 'move' with me. No issues with sore shoulders at all.

Having said that, with loads that exceed the 25lb mark, a frame is nice to transfer additional weight to the hips. Above 30 lbs, and I grab my Mchale. But I should note that the best thing about my Mchale is the P&G load lifter system and how it works with the stiff twin stays and nice wide hip belt. It really is quite special. I think anyone thinking of buying a Mchale should not discount this option. It works well with any load.

K C
(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
Quote on 01/12/2014 17:04:08 MST Print View

Here's a funny quote;

"The UL pack industry operates at a pretty low standard of performance, education and practical knowledge."


I think the opposite, I think the UL pack industry operates on performance and knowledge. Every UL gear company makes packs with frames!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: What Dan McHale has to say about UL backpacks on 01/12/2014 17:21:41 MST Print View

" - Why is he so angry? "

He probably feels that the frameless backpack manufacturers are eating his lunch.

Personally, I have not used a framed backpack in 30 years or so, and I haven't seen any need. However, only twice have I attempted to carry 60 pounds or more. Frameless always seemed to work OK.

--B.G.--

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Frameless on 01/12/2014 17:31:50 MST Print View

First, the page by Dan needs a serious editing. I couldn't even finish it, way too random. But I do want to address one item in this thread. There seems to be an assumption that frameless packs carryballmthe weight of the shoulders. Some may but most of the weight of my pack is on the hips. Why?
1) I have four bottle pockets on the 1" web belt. That allows up to 6-8 lbs to come out of the main pack.
2) I firmly believe it is better to get a slightly smaller pack and pack it very tight. I have learned to do this and the pack acts like a unibody, a frame is not needed.
3) I normally keep pack weight below 20 but had it as heavy as 30 lbs. at that weight it was not ideal. But everyday 3 lbs went away and it was only uncomfortable one day on a 2654 mile trip.

If others need or think they need a frame then great get a pack with a frame. I have no such need.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
packs on 01/12/2014 17:37:37 MST Print View

How much it matters, depends on the weight you carry.

But one thing is sure, you dont need a $600 custom 3lb framed pack, to carry 20 lbs.
The proof is out there everyday.

I do agree with Dan, Im sure it will carry it more comfortably than a sack with a CCF pad.

But that alone doesnt make it necessary.

A Bentley may get you to work in more comfort than a 1993 toyota corolla, or a motorcycle.
But that doesnt make it necessary, or even desireable either.

As long as a given pack, works within someones own comfort limits, thats all that matters.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Packs on 01/12/2014 17:45:25 MST Print View

As usual I agree with Dan... Durston:


"I often see hikers justify their heavy packs (3-5 lbs) by arguing against frameless packs, and then jumping to the conclusion that the only good solution is their heavy pack, as if there was nothing in between. Today there are so many great 1.5 - 3 lbs framed packs that there's almost no reason to go over 3 lbs even for decent loads."

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Weight Savings and Comfort on 01/12/2014 17:46:10 MST Print View

The weight difference between a well designed UL pack and a frameless pack of the same size really isn't that great. For example the HMG Windrunner is 28 oz. A frameless pack of similar size and materials might save 8 oz or so but that's it.

To put things in perspective 8 oz would be 2.5% of a 20 pound load and 5% of a 10 pound load.

Personally I like the improved load transfer and fit of a framed pack for anything over 18 pounds. I CAN carry 25 pounds in a frameless rucksack but its not as comfortable. And since I occasionally carry more like 35-40 (dry trips etc.) I've chosen to invest in packs with frames for longer trips. For weekends I still keep a MYOG SUL pack. I was going to redesign it and improve on it but living in West Texas I'm not sure when I'd be able to use it.

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Re: Quote on 01/12/2014 18:19:05 MST Print View

Here's a funny quote;

"The UL pack industry operates at a pretty low standard of performance, education and practical knowledge."

KC,

This quote also grabbed my attention, as I strongly disagree with Mr. McHale about this point. It's sad really that he's willing to completely write off many experienced outdoorspeople just because he disagrees with certain design principles.

Really, after rereading his rant/manifesto/letter, I think he's still caught up in the more is better/heavy hauler mindset that your pack must weigh x amount to be comfortable.

To me, the whole point of the UL movement is using your education and practical knowledge to shed excess weight/gear and perform at your highest level on the trail.