McHale Super SARC
Okay, this isn't the cheapest of packs around; but having agonised hard over the decision and having done my homework, i ordered it.
The pack is a custom made model (US $50 extra). Based on McHale's Super Alpine Rock series (SARC), this pack is designed for technical climbing and mountaineering. McHale takes your measurements for back length and hip size to make the pack.
Main features: As this pack is intended for Himalayan climbing I specified light fabrics and minimal doo-dads. The pack stil has 2 aluminium stays which can be removed and the pack used with just the closed cell back (also removable to make a bivi pad). The pack, empty, weighs 4.4lbs and without the lid, and stays, weighs 3lbs 12 oz. The pack's main fabric is 200 denier nylon and Cordura 500 in the main stress areas.
The reinforcements areas have spectra stitching and 1/4 in straps. This is NOT like his beefy INEX or heavier models which can weigh 7-8lbs. The lid is kinda homemade and doesn't sit very well on the top of the pack but this is a minor point.
I tested this pack doing a series of treks and steep, jungle ascents; carrying about 20kg for between 2-6 hours.
I've got to admit that it is the most comfortable carrier/harness system I have used. Dan builds his sacks to place 90% of the weight on the hips. The wide hipbelt is also slim and not hugely built. Yet it works fine becasue the width spreads the load more evenly--pressure per sq in. is less.
The belt is half as thick as previous ones I've used on my past packs made by Mountainsmith and Macpac. Also, the double buckles of the hipbelt allow for fine tuning around the wasit and pelvis area. As a result, no sore shoulders at all.The narrow profile shoulder straps allow great freedom of movement and are there mainly to prevent the pack from falling backwards.
As I have a wide pelvic girdle, it may have been that other, more standard made packs have given some trouble in the past. But if you have similar idiosyncracies or if you want a fine-tuned pack for very specific needs, the McHale may be possibly worth paying the price.
Design: Custom-made, lightweight expedition
Number of Pockets: 1
Max. Load Carried: 20kg/45lbs
Height of Owner: 5.8"
Price Paid: US $419
McHale backpacks are a miracle. I've now carried from 25 to over 60 pounds on a couple dozen very steep, rough, long hikes and scrambles. Lots of altitude gain on each hike. With my McHale pack, going uphill there is no pain, total comfort. And downhill–no pain, total comfort.
I owned a couple of off-the-shelf packs previously, and they hurt no matter how many adjustments I made. Shoulder pain and back pain, upper and lower. The heavier the weight I carried the worse it became. The packs would feel like they were sagging and always bouncing no matter what I adjusted or how well I packed them.
But wearing my McHale backpack I can practically jog downhill. And uphill too. The pack honestly makes it feel as if the weight I'm carrying is maybe 1/3 less than the weight that's actually in the pack.
Dan McHale is a master pack maker. And a great person too. When he gives his word about your custom backpack being perfect for you, he certainly means it. Thank you McHale Backpacks.
My Super SARC gives me the comfort and capability to do everything from a quick scramble up a steep local mountain to a two-week expedition in Bolivia. The awesome bayonet system and detachable top hip pack give an amazing range of cubic inches in one pack. It can go from a small/medium to an expedition size in a couple of minutes. I will recommend McHale backpacks to any hiker, backpacker or climber I meet.
Design: Top loading internal with top hip pack
Size: Approx. 6000 cu. in. max.; Down to approx. 3000 cu. in. min.
Number of Pockets: Three external, one internal
Max. Load Carried: 62 pounds
Height of Owner: 6 feet, 1 inch
Price Paid: $655 U.S.
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Reviewers Paid: $419.00-$655.00