View Full Version : Which McHale for the CDT

No Belay
08-28-2010, 21:10
I've decided to get a McHale pack for my 2011 CDT hike and would like to get some suggestions on volume ci, material choice, and suspension considerations from those of you that have experience on the CDT. Also would like to know if ice axe loops and snow shoe flaps are worth the extra weight for the San Juan's and Montana? Any suggestions or info of what worked or didn't work as far a pack considerations will be appreciated. I had to sell the neighbors lawn tractor and barbecue to afford this pack so I'd like to get it right. I've been carrying a ULA Circuit and a modified Osprey Exposure 66 for most of my LD hiking but the ULA was a piece of crap and the Osprey will be to small. Thanks!!


08-29-2010, 08:46
Interesting --- I live near Seattle and hadn't heard of these guys before (McHale). Looking at their website (http://www.mchalepacks.com) at first I couldn't seem to drill down to find actual weights for any of their pack models, not a super good sign (?). Finally I looked at the Subpop model, and it did give some weights there. Seems to me that McHale is to ULA as ULA is to, say, Gossamer Gear, i.e., noticeably heavier, but proponents argue that the pack is some combination of more durable, more comfortable, and/or has more weight bearing capacity. Might be worth it, but ...

I'm interested in your comment about the ULA Circuit being "a piece of crap". I had some problems with my Circuit on the AT this year, but mailed it back for repair and they fixed it --- I'll know for sure how well it's fixed once I start doing some CDT prep hikes in the first half of next year, but at this point I plan to use the Circuit, and of three friends who did the CDT last year, two used ULA packs. It's possible that with the need for more gear/clothing that the Circuit will be a little tight for capacity on the CDT, but I'm hoping I can make it work. I was already a bit bummed out and conflicted when I decided to add some ounces to go from a GG pack to a ULA, so going to a yet even heavier pack wouldn't be something I'd like to do!

08-29-2010, 11:05
I have an Alpineer Bayonet pack that I used for several climbing trips years ago. At 8+ pounds it will probably not be the choice for your trip. It is best used for humping a rope, 4 season bag and tent, harness and your share of the climbing rack (50++ pounds). The theory of 3 extra pounds to comfortably carry an additional 30. Should you decide on this pack for your trip let me know - the Bayonet is for a pack for a 35 year old not a 50 year old.

It is built like an anvil. Don't be afraid of a few extra ounces on a McHale pack - it is there for durability purposes. When I bought mine there was a 6 month wait - might not be as bad in this economy.

No Belay
08-29-2010, 11:47
Interesting ---

I'm interested in your comment about the ULA Circuit being "a piece of crap". I had some problems with my Circuit on the AT this year, but mailed it back for repair and they fixed it --- I'll know for sure how well it's fixed once I start doing some CDT prep hikes in the first half of next year, but at this point I plan to use the Circuit,!

I winter hiked from Springer to New Found Gap with a ULA. Both seams above the belt pocket ripped out and the shoulder strap attachments were ripping out when I gave the pack back to MRO for parts. My pack weight was never over 30 lbs even though I was winter packed but the bag continuously collapsed throwing the weight onto my shoulders and sternum strap. My only saving grace is that I was carrying a Tarptent Scarp1 and was able to use the external poles as stays for about the last 40 miles. The pack was shipped with an open cell back pad which I didn't realize until I hit the trail unsupported. I use an internal bag liner instead of a sil cover so the back pad became a sponge, adding several lbs, every time it rained. Fortunately I was able to buy a sheet of ensolite @ Neils Gap and replace the back pad. Most folks that I've talked to that have used the ULA's enjoyed them for weekend hiking but most that used them for LD hiking said they required continuous maint and wouldn't recommend them as far comfort. I did a lot of blue blazing and bushwacking while using the ULA but much less than what I plan on doing on the CDT. From my experience with that pack, I can't imagine it being durable enough to make the trip although as demonstrated by your friends, it's possible.

08-29-2010, 14:15
Interesting. The thing that happened to my new Circuit (purchased by phone while on the AT this year) was that the flat stiffener rod going vertically in the middle of the pack ripped through the fabric at the top and was continuously shoving up --- so that it clearly wasn't doing what it was supposed to be doing. And I got some sort of ~wrinkling in the stiff material at the lower back that would dig into my lower back some; and I think the two issues are related.

On the phone the guy I talked to was really nice, he said they now do some additional stitching, if I recall correctly, to ensure that flat aluminum bar stays in place.

On the PCT in 2008 the most common pack among thru-hikers was, I believe, a ULA. Even though Brian Frankle sold the company, what I've been hearing is that the folks he sold to are good people that are committed to maintaining the quality; I hope my repaired pack turns out to bear this out. My older ULA (a P2) certainly held up well. I bought the ULA while on the AT this year because my hiking partner replaced his ULA Catalyst with a ULA Circuit in Damascus, telling me at the time that he had 5000 miles on his Catalyst. My Gossamer Gear packs seemed up to maybe one thru-hike each but that was about it.

At any rate, best of luck with whatever you end up getting, and maybe I'll see you on the CDT next year.

Stir Fry
08-29-2010, 14:24
The thing that took me over 500 miles to realize is comfort is what is importent to me I just got an Alpineer from Mchale it carrys 35 lbs. better then any pack i have ever carryed. At the ent of 8 hours of hiking im still feel good. I would recomend you call Dan. He will set up a fitting, he sents you a pack. Us it and see if it what you want. Yes you will pay a little moer then a mas produced pack but in the end you will know that it fit to you has the features that you want. Lot of people have comented that Mchale packes are bomb proof, over kill and heavy. To expencive. Some is true but do you want a pack that can't take it while you are on the CDT 100 miles from anywhere. Or do you want a pack that can take anythin that you or nature can through at it. In the end you get what you pay for.

08-29-2010, 18:54
The reason why you don't see the wts listed for all the Mchale packs is because they are typically custom designed packs with OH SO MANY different options that effect pack wt.

For someone with the money and knows exactly what they want in a custom designed pack they CAN BE some of the finest packs made, but not typically UL.

If I had the money and wanted a durable custom designed pack McHale is on the short list of those who I would seek out to build it for an expedition style hike.

No Belay
08-30-2010, 01:20
Thanks for all the great input. I'll call Dan in the morning and get an idea what's available. He has a good website but it's confusing since I've never hoisted a McHale before. The only thing that scares me is the 6 month wait. That wouldn't give me a whole lot of time to trail test it before I head to New Mexico. Thanks again!!

08-30-2010, 10:57
Hopefully the wait is less now - my pack was ordered at least 12 years ago. I recently called Rivendell to check on wait times and he was finishing up a mass order for Japan - and had a couple of month wait after that (even in this economy). I just remember DYING with anticipation for the arrival of my McHale it took so long. My hiking/climbing friends at work even went so far as to say that they had gone out of business - I was so wound up that I bit!!

If it doesn't come in time I can loan you my Alpineer until it arrives. I can bring you your new pack in Cuba! Good luck with your trip!

No Belay
09-01-2010, 19:57
Texag I talked with Dan yesterday and he thinks I may have a pack by Christmas. As everyone posted, Dan is a great guy and will spend all the time it takes to familiarize you with his packs and make suggestions for your proposed use. I'm anxious to get my loaner and try it out. That's a great offer to let me borrow your pack and I appreciate it but it sounds like I'll be in good shape. If I get it by Christmas, I'll jump on the AT for a few months and break it in and get myself in shape. The AT is a good place in Jan and Feb.

09-01-2010, 21:29
I just want to say that I have hiked 6,000+ miles with a McHale and LOVE it. No matter what specs you chose you will not regret going with Dan. My Pack feels like a glove on my back and it carries the weight super well. Good, good, good decision.