I just got my MR Metcalf a few weeks ago, and loaded it up today. Wow, I could not believe how comfortable it was compared to my Eberle Blue Widow. I liked the Blue Widow for day hunts but loaded up a little it was not very comfortable.
Eberlestock Blue Widow. I carried out 105 pounds of cow elk meat (my buddies) and my gear the first week of January this year and the Blue Widow performed like a champ! I was very impressed.
I somewhat disagree with your findings BB. I've had most of the top end hunting packs, and found several of them didn't work well for me. I've had some other non-hunting packs that worked very well.
The Kelty Cache Hauler is still the second most comfortable pack I've tested with 100 + lbs. A $900 custom McHale is probably third, and a 1996 era Bozeman made Arcflex framed Dana Stillwater is fourth, but close enough to the McHale for me that there is no way I'd pay $700 extra for one. You can pick up a good used Alpine, Terraplane, or Stillwater on craigslist or Ebay for $150-250. I had a Canadian made Bora 70 that I did not like at all, and the Badlands and Eberlestock packs I had I thought had good features but were not built to haul heavy loads. I had a LOT of packs from top end hunting makers and none of them hauled heavy weight like I wanted. They are built durable enough to last through many packouts, but I found the comfort lacking.
First, I don't consider Eberlestock or Badlands in the Premium Hunting Pack category, both in price and performance. At least not the models I have used so far, as I have referred to earlier in the thread. I am hopeful new models address the load-bearing comfort.
I guess I should have qualified my statement with the disclaimer that there are exceptions, and some specific models of backpacking packs do haul heavy loads, but they are the exception, and most mainstream backpacking packs are not designed to haul hunting pack-out loads, which makes sense, because there is no need for a backpacker to carry that kind of weight.
So I guess we pretty much agree. I have also had good luck with the Kelty Cache Hauler, and I am excited to see it offered with hunting features in the Slumberjack Tactical/Hunting line for 2014.
Even the premium pack companies have packs that don't do well with heavy loads, my MR with the longbow bag on it doesn't have any load lifting capabilities, thats the main reason they started making the lift kit for it. Now the Metcalf, 6500 and 7500 are another story, they are some great packs and can handle a ton of weight, my favorite picture is with Bryan Martin and the moose horns on a 6500 and it looks like there is 150+ lbs in it. I'd never consider a Bandland's a premium pack after there reputation of blowing the seams, horrible zippers and shoddy CS. Eberelstock on the other hand does make great packs, they just don't handle heavy loads as well.
Your small light day pack is all you need. Use your game cart to pack in your camp and all your gear.... Use it again to pack out your meat and camp...