Review: Hanchor Marble 67L Pack

Summary
The Marble is a high volume (67L) and lightweight (38oz) pack from Hanchor, a newer brand out of Taiwan. Strong points of the Marble are an effective frame, excellent craftsmanship, waterproof XPac fabrics and a perfectly designed roll top. On the downside, the side pockets conflict with the lower compression strap and may benefit from beefier material and the shoulder strap buckles slip in the cold. As the Marble is disproportionately large for a pack this light, it’s best suited for bulky loads (e.g. winter) and hikers transitioning to a lightweight kit. Many lightweight hikers with a refined kit will find the Marble too large for the warmer half of the year.

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Pros:
– High volume for the weight
– Quality craftsmanship/sewing
– Dual stays + crossbeam frame improves upon most lightweight packs
– Roll top extension collar design is perfect
– Pack bottom is durable and stands upright

Cons:
– Lower compression straps conflict with side pockets
– 100D cordura side pockets will likely be the first to go
– Shoulder strap buckles slip in the cold
– No included zipper pulls
– Side compression straps that open would be more usable.

Intro
In 2015 Hanchor released two lightweight packs, the Marble and Chert. Of the two, the Marble is a larger (67L vs 56L) and more traditional design using lighter fabrics (VX07 vs WX20) while the Chert is more of a climbing/mountaineering design.

My Marble tips the scales at 1093g (38.5oz) fully equipped with everything but the optional external bungee cord. In total I used this pack for about 25 days and a few hundred kms of walking with loads ranging from 20-50 lbs.

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Frame
The Marble frame consists of two parallel vertical stays (like an HMG pack) but goes a step beyond by adding a single vertical stay near the wearers shoulders. This horizontal stay is a welcome addition, as it holds the back of the pack rigid in 2 dimensions so the pack doesn’t morph into a sausage shape when overstuffed.

The frame works well. I haven’t done any sort of experimental tests of it, nor do I find “maximum load rating” numbers that useful, but I can safely say the frame can carry any sort of reasonable load you may put in the pack. I used the pack with up to about 50 lbs and it transferred the load to my hips satisfactorily. Loads above this may or may not overwhelm the frame or padding, but they’re almost certainly asking too much of the lightweight fabric which most of the pack is built from.

Currently the long term durability of the frame is unknown. The vertical stays in my first Marble had fairly sharp corners and they wore through the upper reinforcing VX21 fabric after ~15 days of use including 6 days of 40-50 lbs. I notified Hanchor and they revised the Marble by rounding the corners of the stays and beefing up the reinforcements and sent me a new one. At present there is no indication of further trouble and I expect it’ll stay that way.

Tons of space. Here is my sleeping quilt, pad and more
Tons of space. Here is my sleeping quilt, pad and more

Materials
The Marble is largely constructed of white XPac VX07, which is a bonded sandwich consisting of 70D nylon, an X pattern of likely useless reinforcing strands, a great plastic layer (.25 mil PET) and then an inner scrim of 50D polyester. The Marble uses beefier XPac fabric on the bottom (VX21) and 100D cordura nylon for the side pockets. Perhaps the weakest link in terms of durability are the side pockets. Mine are still unscathed, but I expect they’ll be the first to go. I’d feel better with 210D nylon.

By backpacking standards, the Marble uses fairly light fabrics. VX07 typically holds up pretty well for moderate loads and on-trail use, but its lifespan will likely be shortened by off-trail use and loads regularly surpassing 40 lbs. For a well featured pack like this, the actual pack material doesn’t comprise that much of the total weight, so using a bit heavier materials (X21 or VX21, which have 210D face nylon) might be a better compromise, but it depends on the intended use. If you’re easy on your gear then VX07 can work very well.

The Marble seems like a bit of a mismatch because anyone who has taken a critical, lightweight eye to their gear and thus would be a good candidate for a VX07 pack, also probably doesn’t need all the space the Marble offers. It would be nice to see Hanchor release a both a smaller Marble, and a Marble with heavier fabrics for big loads. With that said, it’s a good match for lightweight winter loads that can be bulky but not that heavy.

Sidepockets
The side pockets on the Marble aren’t great. The top is only moderately elastic so it won’t swallow big bottles and it’s not that easy to use. As mentioned, the 100D fabric is light. A bigger issue is the lower compression strap which runs over top of the side pocket. You have to loosen the side strap before you can put anything in the side pocket, but then remember to retighten it once you’re not using the side pocket or you’ll have loose side straps that can snag on trees. Using the side pockets also means that the lower compression strap is unusable. In fairness to Hanchor, a lot of packs struggle with this and good solutions aren’t easy. With that said, Hanchor should consider either raising the compression strap above the side pocket, deleting it or coming up with something else clever.

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Main Features
One of the most striking features of the Marble is it’s large, zippered rear pocket. Hanchor wisely designed this pocket so that it doesn’t lose volume even when the main bag is stuffed. I think this makes it look a bit funny in pictures and at first I thought it was oversized, but I’ve come to mostly like it. The Marble mostly works for me as a winter pack, and in this context the rear pocket is great for holding my avy shovel blade, maps, snacks and other misc. gear. I’ve also found it quite useful in the rainy PWN when carrying plant ID books that I want to quickly access but also keep dry.

Nice zipper garage
Nice zipper garage. Homemade zipper pull.

With that said, the rear pocket is probably a bit big for summer use and will tempt you to stuff more in here than you should. More discussion worthy though is the choice between a zippered, waterproof pocket (good for keeping stuff dry) and an open mesh pocket (good for drying stuff). I tend to like using hipbelt pockets as a waterproof place to sorta keep stuff dry and then have a mesh rear pocket for drying stuff, but each pocket type has it’s merits depending on your style and locale.

Roll top clipped to itself
Roll top clipped to itself

The hipbelt pockets of the Marble are five star. Great three dimensional construction means lots of space. XPac + uretek zippers means water stays out. Other than lacking zipper pulls (which I added) they’re perfect. One caution though is that their large size means that you can’t cinch the hipbelt that small, so if you’re in between sizes opt for the smaller one. I’m a 32″ waist and I was running a medium hipbelt as tight as it goes on my first Marble, whereas now I have a small hipbelt that offers adjustability in either direction.

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The rolltop of the Marble is also five star. It uses a great stiffener which makes it easy and quick to roll up the pack. The roll top is also nice and tall – a frequent issue on other packs – so you can put a few folds in and still have lots of space for overloading the pack if need be. Some roll top packs seem big but once you give the the top two folds a lot of space disappears. ULA is particularly guilty of not having tall enough roll tops. Another nice thing with the roll top is that you have the choice between anchoring it to straps on either side of the pack, or by connecting the roll top in the circle. This is made possible because the buckles on either side a mix of male and female. On HMG packs both buckles are female so you have no choice but to connect them to the side straps (EDIT: HMG has since changed this). The Marble roll top is the best I’ve used.

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Other Features
The Marble comes with bungee cord that can be used to create a zig zag bungee net on the back of the pack. This is a good feature as it could be used to dry clothes in the absence of a mesh rear pocket. I haven’t actually used it but I have no reason to think it wouldn’t work well.

The Marble also has dual daisy chains down the back, which again I haven’t had the occasion to use, but they are nicely constructed and appreciated. They’re a nice spot for clipping gear even if you don’t need these to construct the bungee net. I probably use these soon to clip my DeLorme InReach to.

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The bottom of the Marble is unique, as it uses heavier fabric rimmed with a nylon webbing edge that enables the pack to stand on it’s own. This design concentrates a lot of the bottom wear on the webbing edges, which seems good as the webbing looks like it can take it. This design may add a bit of weight over a simpler bottom but it functions well and seems durable. People who like packs that can stand on their own will be delighted (that’s you Roger Caffin).

Conclusions
The Marble is a welcome entrant into the sparsely populated niche of light, waterproof framed packs. Within this niche, the Marble is unique with its combination of high volume, excellent construction and lighter fabrics. It’s well suited for someone isn’t too hard on their gear and is seeking a high volume pack with a good feature set and carrying capacity. The main downside of this pack are the side pockets, which are mediocre.

It would also be nice to see Hanchor come out with a smaller Marble that better suits the needs of typical lightweight backpackers. I found myself struggling in the warmer months to pack enough stuff to really test out this pack. A summer version that is 45L and has a mesh rear pocket and maybe heavier pack cloth (X33) could be a real winner.

The closest competitor to the Marble is probably HMG’s Windrider/Southwest 4400. In comparison, the Marble stands out as a great value ($255 USD vs $355). The Marble offers a more robust feature set, at least as good construction and a better frame but less durable fabrics.

Disclaimer: This pack was provided by Hanchor under no obligation to review it.

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15 thoughts on “Review: Hanchor Marble 67L Pack

  1. “On HMG packs both buckles are female so you have no choice but to connect them to the side straps.”

    No sir – not on my HMG Porter, Windrider, or Dyneema Summit packs…

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    1. Good to hear HMG fixed this. I’ve updated the review.

      My wife has one of the first Windriders and it is like this. I commented to HMG at the time that they should change this. I’m glad they did.

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    1. Pretty good. Loads that heavy are never fun but it carried pretty well. Only thing was the strap slippage was more pronounced at heavy loads so I to re-tighten the shoulder straps pretty often.

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      1. “Shoulder strap buckles slip in the cold”

        Do you know if Hanchor has addressed this issue? It’s the only holding me back from buying their MARL backpack.

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      2. I recently bought a Marl. It’s awesome. For most lightweight hikers, it’s the right volume and durability, whereas the Marble is on the large but less durable side.

        I’ve commented a bit on BPL about the Marl, but it’s great. The side pockets are much better, I like the stretchy rear pocket better, the mid-sized volume is great for most trips and the VX21 is a tougher fabric. It’s a super good all-around pack. I hope to post a early review of it in another month.

        To actually answer your question, I think they’re the same but I also think I was too hard on these buckles in this review. I wrote this review after quite a bit of winter backcountry ski use when I often had 30 lbs of skis/boots strapped the pack for total weights up to 65 lbs. In that context, the buckles would slowly slip so I’d tighten them a couple inches every hour or two (just a quick yank while on the move).

        Having now experienced this slipping a little in the summer with 55 lbs (including 2 packrafts), I don’t think it’s caused by the cold weather like I use to, rather it’s just big loads. Previously I had only carried big loads in the winter, so I thought the cold contributed (and it might).

        Anyways, it definitely takes a big load – at least 45+ lbs – to get this happen, so it’s not common and if it does occur, then it’s still only a minor inconvenience to tug the straps once in a while. The pack is not really intended for 45+ lbs anyways. Since the Marl is a smaller pack, you’d have a hard time cramming that much weight in there. So I wouldn’t let it stop you. I think the Marl is fantastic for people who hike a lot with 20-40 lbs.

        I took my Marl out for a 3 day ski mountaineering trip a few weeks ago. Total load was only 20-30 lbs. Certainly no slipping. It’s an awesome pack, super well made, cheaper and better in most ways than a HMG. Volume actually seems a little bigger than the claimed 42L. I’d subjectively put it at 45-50L.

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  2. Thanks for the reply, Dan. I placed my order last week and should have it soon. Can’t wait to load up and give it a go.

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    1. Hey Alex, did you get the Marl yet? What do you think?

      I’ve been using mine a lot lately. I’ve changed my thinking on the shoulder strap slippage yet again. It does seem to happen a bit at lower weights – it’s just proportionately slower. Fortunately I also found an easy fix. Just take the free end of the strap and route it forward though the buckle below the lower of the two cross bars. This should make sense if you’re looking at the buckle. I’ve been ski touring with my Marl and Marble like this a lot the last two weeks and it seems that the slippage is gone. May as well do this with the load lifter straps too.

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      1. Hi Dan,

        Yes, I did receive the MARL. Initial impressions are very good. The quality is superb and it fits me like a glove.

        I’ve taken it on a couple of day trips and one short (about 20 miles RT) overnight on the coast (Point Reyes NS, California) w/ about 22 lbs. and it felt great. It disappeared on my back and I didn’t have to think about it.

        As for slipping buckles, I didn’t notice anything. The hip belt definitely stayed put. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for it though. Any idea as to why? It looks like they’re using quality webbing and buckles, ladder locks, etc.

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    2. Glad you like it. Yeah the quality is great.

      For me, only the shoulder straps were slipping, not the hipbelt. It might just be that the webbing is a bit slick. Could also be that I tend to a be a bouncy walker. Either way, re-routing the tail through one more time seems to be a good fix as it stops the slip and still allows easy adjustment.

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      1. Have you notified Hanchor about the slipping? I’d love to hear that they’re looking into it and possibly changing those ladder locks and/or webbing.

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  3. Yeah I mentioned it to them around the time I posted this review. They said they were looking into it. The Marl looks to use the same hardware/webbing, but seems to slip less at similar weights, so I’m not sure if anything has changed.

    I don’t know why it slips because, as you said, the hardware and webbing both look high quality. I wonder if the webbing is just a little extra slippery. Sanding the buckle a little to roughen the finish might help, but the fix I previously described is easy and seems to eliminate the problem. I plan to post a longer Marl review in the next week or so. I’ve got close to 20 days of use on it now. I’m really liking it. I think it’s a great all-around pack. The size is better for most stuff, and the VX21 is great material, plus the external pockets are all better designed and more useful than the Marble IMO.

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