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.
– 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
– 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.