User Review: McHale Super Inex Alpineer
Size: 7000-8500 c.i.
Number of Pockets: 1
Max. Load Carried: 90 bs
Height of Owner: 6'3''
Price Paid: App. $600
I recently purchased a McHale Super Inex Alpineer backpack constructed from 420/840 Junior Ballistic nylon to haul 50 to 100 pound loads. Based on my experience, the McHale pack is superior to other, upper-end packs for carrying loads in this weight range.
The Super Inex has a maximum volume of 8,500 cubic inches. Average volumes are computed at around 7,000 cubic inches if the upper extension sleeve is not employed. The pack has a patented bayonet feature which allows you to shorten the pack into a 3,500 cubic inch pack by removing a set of aluminum stays in the frame and repositioning the shoulder straps and top lid. This entire operation takes about two minutes. The pack’s top lid can also be removed and used as a fanny pack for day trips or climbing.
The pack’s space is very usable. Virtually all of the space is inside the pack and is not unnecessarily de-compartmentalized via sewn-on pockets to the outside of the pack, such as one would find with the Dana Astraplane/Terraplane. I found that this makes for much more packing flexibility and also holds the pack’s center of gravity closer to the back, rather than pulling the pack backwards and away from you. The pack’s relatively narrow profile and tall shape (like an elongated triangle) further assist in keeping the center of gravity close to your back.
The pack has a shelf feature that separates the bottom third of the pack from the top 2/3. I found this feature immensely useable, as it allows you to put the “soft goods” (sleeping bag, tent w/o poles, down clothing, etc.) next to the back and resting on the lumbar as a cushion, allowing you to remove or alter the stock McHale lumbar pad. The shelf allows the heavy gear to be stacked on top, without putting unnecessary pressure directly upon the contents in the bottom 1/3 of the pack.
The Super Inex uses the McHale “Alpineer” series hip belt. The belt is attached to the pack frame with massive bolts more akin to battleship construction than backpacks. This helps limit any vertically movement of the pack up or down the back once you cinch the belt on a fully loaded pack. The belt is tensioned by McHale’s use of dual Swedish cam locks. This system locks the belt’s position once it is set, thereby preventing slippage/loosening of the belt as you walk......a problem I found common to virtually every other belt clasp system. The dual closure also allows you to customize the pressure on both the lower AND top half of the belt, enabling different degrees of tension on the various parts of the hip. While the McHale belt looks flimsy in comparison with other packs, it performs far better, as the dense foam used by McHale allows the belt to hug the hip closely, and does not compromise its shape or “hugability” under pressure like the thicker, less dense belts used by commercial pack manufacturers.
McHale’s Bypass Shoulder Strap Harness System is a simple but ingenious piece of pack engineering. Although difficult to visualize, it basically allows you to move the entire pack vertically with a simple tug on the straps, without the myriad of fine tuning on the tensioning strap, belt and shoulder harness that one normally has to do on every other pack system. Transfer of weight from shoulders to hips, or visa versa, is achieved by simply pulling or releasing one set of straps. I found shoulder straps to be very comfortable, even though they were not the contoured type.
The one negative aspect of the pack is its weigh. In weighing the pack, I found that it was between 1 to 1 1/2 pounds greater than other high-end packs in its class. I think this is due in part to the materials that McHale uses in the pack, which makes it stronger and more suited to carrying large loads. For instance, I recently hauled 80 lb. for 5 days to get in condition for upcoming winter trips. I found the pack to have a lively, springy character even though the packed weight was fairly substantial. The pack also has numerous details which allow one to fully customized the feel of the pack, which in aggregate, can increase the pack’s weight. An example is the lumbar pad, which can either be incorporated into the pack at double thickness, half thickness, or removed entirely depending upon how the load sits on your back. Therefore, many decisions involving the pack’s weight vs. comfort can be determined by the individual user in the field, and not the manufacturer on the production line.
Personally, I would rather add a pound to a pack with a proper frame, than carry a pack that requires constant, interminable adjusting. There is nothing more annoying than to find a pack marching to the beat of its own drum, continuously creeping down the hip and bearing more weight onto the shoulder. The McHale Super Inex, in contrast, is a true cargo hauler.....it stays exactly in the position you set for it....and performs with aplomb.