What is an External Frame Backpack?
The suspension system on an external frame pack is a rigid aluminum frame. This is good for carrying very heavy loads because it’s rigid and ensures excellent load transfer to the hip belt if fitted properly. Externals frames also have lots of attachment points for lashing down bulky gear like bear canisters, large sleeping bags, or tents.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of external frame backpacks?
External frame packs are fairly heavy, even when empty. The protruding frame can catch on trees if you’re hiking through dense vegetation and they also have more side-to-side sway when loaded, which can throw you off balance if you have to do a lot of rock scrambling. On the plus side, you can carry a lot of gear with an external frame pack and they’re very good for long expeditions where you have to carry 50-100 pounds of pack weight. They’re also a lot cooler than many internal frame packs because there’s more air space between your back and the back of the pack.
Why don’t you see more external frame packs on the trail?
External backpacks used to be the norm, but most people carry internal frame backpacks now because they’re lighter and easier to maneuver. Backpacking gear also weighs a lot less than it used to and people don’t need as big a backpack to carry it. Many hikers still use external backpacks, but they tend to be people who got hooked on them when they were growing up. They’re also used a lot by boy scouts because they’re easy to reconfigure for kids who are in the midst of their growth spurt.
Which pack manufacturers still make external packs?
The leading makers of external frame packs are Kelty, Jansport, Alps Mountaineering, Outdoor Products, and Mountainsmith. Amazon.com has the best selection under one roof among all the online retailers, including adult and scout backs. The price of external packs tends to be significantly less expensive than internal frame packs, so they’re a good value.