These Custom Packs Might Be Mountaineering’s Best-Kept Secret

Meet Dan McHale, tailor to the world's greatest climbers

July 25, 2018 9:00 am

When buying a suit, there’s no comparison between off-the-rack and tailored.

Why then do even the most passionate outdoorsmen settle for whatever happens to be at their local REI or trust a potentially bot-written Amazon review when purchasing a pack, the most essential piece of equipment?

That is the question underlying the business of Dan McHale, of McHale & Company packs, a lifetime climber and craftsman who makes bespoke bags in the truest sense of the word: customized to fit a customer’s adventuring needs and personal measurements.

Chances are this name is new to you, even if you’ve notched more than a few 15,000-foot climbs on your trekking poles. That’s because McHale’s business consists exclusively of a GeoCities-esque website — with no e-commerce element or brick-and-mortar storefront — and it’s in similarly outdated outdoor-gear forums where diehard hikers wax poetic about the packs.

No e-commerce? So how do you get your hands on one? Slowly.

The process of buying means entering into a relationship with McHale: submitting body measurements and photos of yourself with your current pack, emailing and talking on the phone about your needs, testing demo packs, etc. The process can take months, and base prices, according to the website, range from the $695 Ultralight Bump 32 to the $1,325 Super Inex Critical Mass Alpine II Bayonet.

At that price point, these backpacks are not for the casual hiker. After years working in outdoor-gear retail, as detailed in the company history on his website, McHale came to the conclusion that most wholesale packs are geared towards novices — and serious outdoor lovers like him ended up modifying the packs they bought.

The biggest differences, besides unparalleled personalization, are the first-rate fabrics available like Spectra and Dyneema, aluminum frames and heavy-duty stabilization belts. But as five minutes on the cavernous website makes clear, that’s just scratching the surface.

If you’ve been looking for a pack that’ll last a lifetime or been looking for the right pack for what feels like a lifetime, head on over to McHale’s website. And when you get overwhelmed by the options, shoot him an email — he’ll be happy to send you an instructional DVD.

Photos via McHale & Company, h/t Gear Patrol

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