Three pieces of gear determine most of your happiness on big mountains: boots, pack and sleeping system. Boot preferences are very individual, and sleeping bags are fairly straightforward, but packs… packs are what keep serious GearFloggers up at night. And what many serious GearFloggers are packing is a McHale.
Packs have to hold and organize gear, take abuse, never fail and carry comfortably. Seattle-based master craftsman Dan McHale can make sure you have it all. I'm too lazy to list all the reasons a custom pack is worth the money, but just add up what you've spent on packs in the last ten years. If it's more than $800 and you're still not happy, you need to page Doctor Dan.
Give yourself some time to make sense of McHale's somewhat chaotic web site. I wanted a Denali-class load hauler and I finally settled on a Super SARC P&G tricked out to my exact specs. The material is 210HT nylon with a small Dyneema (Spectra) grid pattern running through it. The bottom of the pack is all-Dyneema, as are the shoulder straps, which slide like buttah. The main pack (4lb) is cavernous and makes a great weekender by itself. The top lid (10oz) has it's own waist belt for lumbar pack use, and mine is divided into two compartments with a map sleeve. A rear utility pocket (8oz) works as a summit sack and also creates a shovel pocket. The two red belt pouches (2oz each) are quite large and pivot forward on a bungee cord for easier access. Finally the bottle pockets (2oz each) also have a wand sleeve and can be mounted at a forward cant for easier access. Total weight: 5lb 10oz.
I had every piece of webbing that moved (zipper pulls, velcro tool loops) made yellow, daisy chains red and pack fit adjustment webbing gray. Yes, I am just that assal-retentive. The final tab was over $800 but after switching packs so often for so many years, for me it was worth it. The pack carries like a dream; the double-buckle waist belt actually makes the load feel lighter. You can adjust the shoulder straps without screwing up the geometry. And I know why every feature is the way it is: because that's how I configured it. I'm McLovin' it.