Why not have an adjustable handle length instead of fixed handle sizes?

An adjustable handle was our first thought way back in 2011. What we found during testing of prototypes was that we couldn’t maintain the desired strength needed in the handle... nor did the adjustable handle offer any difference in the comfort of operation for a single user. We found that adjustable handle lengths weaken the system and have the potential for breaking while you are deep in the backcountry.

The solid handles on the Pack Wheel are very strong, lightweight and extensively tested for many years. Adjustable handle length ideas that we looked at making made the area where the frame angles up to the handle stem weaker (see first photo below). In the many years of our use and testing, we have found that the handle and in particular the area where the handle turns into the frame has the highest amount of stresses placed on it. We make sure this area is extra strong with our design and our fixed handle lengths.

It would be really nice to have one handle that "fits" all, especially for us to only have one handle to produce, but just like with bikes, one bike just doesn't fit everyone.

With an extendable handle the longer the handle is extended the weaker the handle becomes. This would give the smallest of operators the strongest handle and a handle most vulnerable to break with someone taller. We offer three frames sizes that come with various handle lengths to give everyone the most comfortable and strongest system available.

The vast majority of the handles we sell are just two inches different in length. This difference in length is hardly noticeable to someone using one size or the other and would not be a factor of any discomfort to use one or the other. We do recommend going with the larger of two sizes if you are in doubt on which size to purchase. A longer handle provides more leverage and comfort on steep descents and crossing obstacles.


Here's a view of the transition from the handle to the frame on the Pack Wheel. This is one inch square tubing with a quarter inch flat bar 6061 aluminum welded across this elbow. During @diyhntr prototype testing from 2008 to 2012 we learned that this elbow from the handle to the frame is the area that is placed under the highest amount of stress. Also, the higher the weight is placed, the greater the forces are amplified through this elbow. For those who haven't used a Pack Wheel let me illustrate this stress. When coming down a really steep mountain with a whole elk boned out on the Pack Wheel, imagine rolling over a two foot drop off. The heavy load will be centered forward of the wheel making the cart want to tip over forward unless you lower the handle, pulling back against this forward weight like using a pry bar. Now, repeatedly do this over rocks for a few miles with this heavy load. You will add to this stress in even greater force by holding back your own weight by leaning on the handle in the steep terrain. Leaning on the handle in the steep terrain comes naturally and is a total #kneesaver making pack outs very enjoyable. This elbow would bend and break unless it's reinforced like we have done on all of our production Pack Wheels from our 2012 launch of the Pack Wheel business. #100percentproven #lifetimewarranty #nocompromises #designedforstrength #yearsofexperience #tested #packwheel #proven #realdeal #laboroflove #helpingothersenjoylife #highestquality #hikinggear #hiking #gearjunkielife

A post shared by Pack Wheel (@packwheel) on

Here is an example of a small operator easily using a Pack Wheel larger than the size we recommend. This clip is The DIY Hunter's 5'6" 10 year old (yes, that's tall for a 10 year old, The DIY Hunter is 6'7") using his XL 27.5" Pack Wheel. While this XL Pack Wheel is not the most optimal size for someone that is 5'6" he is able to use the Pack Wheel just fine because the weight is placed very low on the sides. The optimal size for someone of this height would be a medium and he is operating an extra large in comfort on this mule deer pack out. There just is no justifiable advantage to having a weak adjustable handle over a very strong fixed handle length.

Generally speaking the taller you are the larger the wheel you are able to manage. Watch the video of the four different wheel sizes being used on the backcountry trip to Duck Lake. Imagine the shortest hiker trying to manage the much taller 29er wheel, it just would not be feasible unless all the weight was placed at axle level on the sides of the larger wheel.

© 2013 Pack Wheel Products, LLC - All Rights Reserved. Privacy and Terms of Use