The SARC has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best weekend packs for 2020.
Reviewers Paid: $413.00-$495.00
I had previously used packs from Mountainsmith and Dana Designs and assumed that the discomfort on shoulders and hips from carrying them was normal. Convinced that there must be a better way I searched until I found McHales Packs. What a difference. What a relief.
The weight carried in my SARC feels 10-15 pounds lighter than in my previous packs. The adjustments are so simple that no complicated manual accompanies the pack. The shoulder straps are simple to adjust while walking and the hip-belt just does not slip at all. I have no clue why it carries so much better than my other packs. It just does.
Perhaps the secret lies in the hip-belt and double buckle and webbing arangement. The construction is superb. In fact, it is so well made I may never have to purchase another pack. It cost a lot but it fits and its worth it. In comparing the 3500-4000 ci capacity of the SARC with the stated capacity of my other packs, either Dan McHale is understating his pack or the other manufacturers are overstating theirs. I suspect the latter. Regardless, the capacity is sufficient to start out carrying 45 pounds on a 9-day trek along the CDT with plenty of room to spare.
Design: Top-loading with front-loading zipper
Number of Pockets: 2
Max. Load Carried: 45Lbs
Height of Owner: 6'0"
Price Paid: $439
After being so delighted with my McHale load monster, I decided to order a smaller pack that I would use more frequently. I tried a demo Critical Mass SARC, with the cross stay on the bottom of the pack, and I found it too stiff for climbing. What I wanted was a winter climbing pack, big enough to take all the gear needed for a remote climb, but small and flexible enough to allow me to move freely through tight squeezes.
Rather than having the twin cam buckles of the larger pack, the SARC uses twin quick release buckles. The bag is a single compartment, with a half moon zipper in the center for easy access to the bottom of the pack. The back panel has twin daisy chains. This pack is still plenty big enough to use for a light backpack. One thing about the listed capacity, is that McHales 4000 ci pack would compare to another manufacturer's 5000 ci. An engineer friend of mine found his measurements were accurate, it's just that every other manufacturer grossly exagerates the size. After a winter climbing with the SARC, I just can't bring myself to wear one of my other packs, such as the Osprey Kestrel I have, which is a perfectly good pack, it just doesn't fit like a glove like the SARC. I would rather cinch the SARC down, which it does very nicely, and be able to forget that I have a pack on. I have the largest load on our climbs, but I feel no reason to take the pack off, unless I need something inside. After I layer up, I'll put it back on, so my back stays warm.
I only wish McHale made a smaller pack, say around 2500 ci, for a summer day pack. The Zero SARC is still around 3200 ci, and with McHales conservative measurements, thats the equivalent of 4000 ci from someone else. I've gotten spoiled, I can't stand to wear anything but a McHale. If you wear a pack every weekend, do yourself a favor, and get fitted for a McHale.
Design: Internal Frame
Size: 4000 ci
Number of Pockets: 1
Max. Load Carried: 50 lbs
Height of Owner: 6" 1"
Price Paid: $413
Dan McHale certainly has an excellent reputation for constructing the "best" packs on the market. This SARC series is a large day pack that can also be used for two-three-four extended days/nights. I purchased this primarily for day use, climbing fourteeners, other technical climbs, x-c skiing and long day hikes in all four seasons. The reason that I went to a slightly larger, tapered pack is that in my old Sacs Millet French climbing rucksack, which has been everywhere with me, I usually had to cram in or overhang clothing. It worked for many years but there were times that I just plain old ran out of room for rope, gear, extra clothing, water, food...something had to be left behind. Now, I can simply take what I need, whether it be just a day's food, three liters of water, clothing, all the essentials and be able to carry this primarily as a very comfortable hip loader with a very comfortable, custom made frame and pack.
The construction is definitely first class, bombproof 1000 cordura construction, heavy duty aluminum stays, all constructed to my exact torso height and body width and girth. Dan McHale worked with me and the process was simple, direct and easy. Sure, it takes about 8-10 weeks to receive my pack and it does cost a little more than store bought mass produced designs, but if you plan accordingly, what is time anyway, in a philosophical sense of the word? Dan was there for follow up when I needed a slightly larger custom made hip belt and I received this shortly thereafter.
My recommendation is for anyone who really needs a well made pack, one that will last for many years, and is designed for the climber, mountaineer, backpacker and outdoorsman in mind, take your time, contact Dan McHale and allow him to build for you the finest backpack you will ever be fortunate to use!
Design: Internal Frame
Size: 3200-3800 Cu In. Approx.
Number of Pockets: One Top, Main Rucksack, Two Side Optional, One Shovell Pocket
Max. Load Carried: 40-60 Lbs.
Height of Owner: 5-9
Price Paid: $495 Complete