McHale Goodness

This has been a long time coming. I started out on a quest for a new pack late last year after going through a few that I wasn’t completely happy with. Eventually, after trying on a number of packs and doing extensive research on the internet I decided to contact Dan McHale in the USA to get a custom pack made.

I initially decided on a Little Big Pack 36 as the base for the pack. I wanted the volume to start at around 40L and extend up from there with various options to maybe 50L – 55L. I hoped for it to be useful for overnighters without having too much extra bulk but also be capable of carrying enough food and gear for possible climbing adventures and extended walks in the future. I made the decision from Dan’s advice to increase the diameter to a 37 inch and I’m glad that I did because the pack that I’ve ended up with is spot on in this regard. I see myself using it for all but the most basic of fast overnighters.

Material wise I went all out. I figured that this sort of opportunity dosn’t come along too often and I want something that will last a long time to come. Therefore almost the entire pack and accessories are constructed with 100% woven dyneema. The only exceptions being some select sections of the harness, the daisy chains and the water bladder pocket. The latter being constructed of cuben fiber.

The whole process from first contact took roughly 6 months. I had the demo pack for a couple of these months in the middle. This is a long time and I’d say this could be attributed to the materials and customisation that I wanted, the slow speed of email communications and that Dan is just very busy.

As far as the options go I wanted the pack to be very configurable. This has probably come at the cost of slightly increased weight but I think it was worth it. All options and loops can be removed from the pack to bring it down to its most basic form with a roll top closure bag with an awesome harness. The options that can be added are:

  • Front pocket with a draw string and flap closure. This is a sizeable compartment with its own compression straps and attaches to the front daisy chains using an adjustable shock cord system. This means that you can use the space behind it to store large items aswell.
  • 2-Layer Summit flap. This is a simple lid with a small zippered compartment in the top.
  • 2 x Standard hip belt pockets. Good sized hip belt pockets with zippered closure. Very handy.
  • “Triple Threat” pocket. This is the bladder pouch that can either be hung inside the pack, attached to the underside of the summit flap or attached to the side of the pack.
  • Removable ice axe/walking stick upper and lower loops.
  • Fully removable side compression straps
  • Plug & Go Bayonet frame extension system. This includes the bypass “load lifter” straps. This system allows the frame to be extended, significantly increasing the capacity and load carrying capability of the pack.

The weight of the pack has come out slightly higher than I was expecting. In its most basic form it is roughly 1.45kg. With all options added it gets up to around 2.05kg.

Edit: I’ve played around with it a bit more and am even more impressed with its configurability. It can be stripped down even more than my first attempts and still be usable. With the frame, back pad and hip belts removed the weight comes down to around 850g. In this configuration it is similar in features and not too much heavier than my Golite Peak but still larger in capacity, tougher and more comfortable.

Can’t wait to get out and give it a go. Here are some pictures.

Stripped down side view
Stripped down using roll top closure
Stripped down harness side
P & G Bayonets inserted, bypass straps attached (in red)
All accessories attached
All accessories attached

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