"..As for the full Spectra in general: there are lots of misnomers floating around. I saw one website that said it has a low melting point without saying what THAT was! Well, it's not wax and it's around 300 degrees F. You can't keep it as close to the campfire as you can your nylon pack! I'm being facetious there - you can't keep any pack very close to the fire - not yer boots - nada! And then I hear about all kinds of shortcomings ALL of which are untrue except the price. Basically it can take anything 1000D cordura can take and at least 50% more and it's less than half the weight. I like to tell people it's our only fabric that passes my belt-sander test; Wrapping my thumb with one layer of Full Spectra and applying it to the belt-sander..........full Spectra is the only fabric that my precious thumb gets too hot to hold the fabric long enough to wear through completely - this is remarkable for a 4 oz. fabric! Even throwing the subjective shortcomings of this test away the Spectra, by far, takes more abuse in all categories (puncture, cutting, abrasion, tearing, UV degradation.....) than the other fabrics. It even resists rodents and will take far more abuse from critters like BEARS. I GUARANTEE it. I have seen Spectra packs that had the webbing chewed down to the level of the Spectra fabric leaving the fabric unharmed. I have not seen a hole in Spectra caused by a rodent yet. You will have to ask us about our exterior dye. Currently, we are dying all but the main large panels on request.."
I believe that the one I have is the 1999 model. I have carried about 40-45 lbs max with it.
The pack is extremely comfortable. I like the fact that the hip belt has creases every few inches so it hugs my small waist well. I used to have the Arc Teryx Bora 80. The Bora 80 had a hip belt with rigid padding so that it didn't contour well around my waist. I also thought that the padding was extremely thick and bulky. The Palisade on the other hand felt great. If need be, the top portion can be converted into a fanny pack when you want to leave the rest of the pack behind.
The 1L Nalgene pocket is a little hard to get to when wearing the pack, but it works better than other packs that have shallow pockets where you'd risk losing them. I've noticed that the new version of the Palisade has a tilted water bottle pocket so they must of addressed the "problem".
All in all, great pack.
I also have a Dana Design daypack. Nice pack also.
I second the Dana. I've got a Terrapalne X and it's great. It's on the heavy side, but it can hold a heavy load fine. If you're planning on doing lighter hiking, you might get by with a Gregory. I've been told that for lighter loads they are very comfortable--and after 10 sweaty miles, that's what really matters.
First, thanks to everyone for the input. I don't really favor an alice pack (for good reason), but it's all I've ever used. The alice packs always seemed durable though, and that's one thing I don't want to compromise on. After looking at some of the packs at the local outfitter, I'm having a hard time believing the lightweight ripstop currently used is durable, but they must be popular for a reason. Anyway, my pack needs to be retired, and there's no sense in getting another uncomfortable piece of junk.
I haven't had a chance to check out the McHales or the rucksacks yet, but I will. I'm not dead set on anything yet.
Pack usage for me will generally consist of 5 day hikes with a starting weight of about 45 lbs. No cold weather stuff. And I like the ability to remove the top portion of the pack for use as a day pack.
I went through this decision a few months ago. I ended up with an Arcteryx Bora 80 - found it on sale at REI for $100 off. It fit me better than others I tried.
I went 28 miles with it (and 45 lbs of gear) in Colorado several weeks ago, up and down about 4k ft elevation. The Bora felt great. A major improvement over my old Jansport Alaska.
I have a friend with a Bora 95 (the next size up) and he really likes his, too. I went with the 80 because my trips are no more than 4-5 nights and I usually go light (e.g. a 2.5# Mountain Hardwear Waypoint 1 tent).
Be sure to try them out, with a load, in a store - somewhere that knows how to fit them properly! These packs fit much differently than an alice.
The only pack more comfortable than the Mchale I have tried was the (Jack) Stephenson, which had a custom external frame, and the same frame tubing forming arms which pivoted to wrap around the waist too. The belt 'floated' and rode easily up and down between you and the frame, perfection! Wish he still made 'em, I outgrew mine years ago..also the Stephenson pack design was the best for accessibility in terms of zipper shape (T-shape zippers) and compartment placement; you could get anywhere in the pack quickly. This is also the first pack that had the idea of accessing the (large) side pockets without removing the pack.. Unfortunately for me, most packs these days don't have such great accessibility, they all seem to be made for mountain climbers who need to put everything in one big sleek compartment, and not access it for a long while.. I like to dig stuff out along the trail all the time; binocs, water, food, hat, knife, camera, water filter, books, etc. etc. The backwards side pockets help, you don't even have to stop walking to get stuff..
Check out Northern Mountain Supply. I got a Gregory WindRiver from them about three months ago for $199 shipped. Thats about $130 off retail. They also had a nice selection of Dana Designs and steep discount as well
Northern mountian supply (Killerdeals.com) is where I got mine, but I already knew what fit. I agree with mhejl about trying them on for fit. You buy what fits best with a 30 lb. load of bricks in it and the rest of the stuff is just icing on the cake.