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Backpacks The Backpacks forum is for the discussion of backpacking packs (including front packs and pack accessories: hipbelt pockets, pack covers,...).


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  #1  
Old 05-22-2007, 09:32 PM
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Rickosovitch Rickosovitch is offline
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Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 310
External frame packs are better

When I first started solo backpacking about thirty-six years ago, external frame packs were the rule. Internal frame packs were starting to appear, but they were mostly for cross-country skiers and bushwackers. Their appeal was mainly that they hugged the body more closely and had a narrower profile. But how they came to be so dominant is really a mystery to me. The main job of a pack is to carry your load with the least amount of stress to your body. The secondary job is to give you good access to your dozens of pieces of equipment. In my mind, the internal frame packs fall far short in both areas. Hikers with internal frame packs seem to always walk a bit stooped forward. Aside from being an inefficient way to walk, this places undue stress on your poor little lumbar muscles. An exteral frame pack not only allows you to walk upright, but lets you shift the load to your hips when going downhill and to your shoulders when going uphill. It's a much healthier and less stressful way to carry your load.

Secondly, most internal frame packs are top-loaders. Now, if you're an experienced packer, you will know to put the items you're most likely to need on the top and those less likely on the bottom. And this does work pretty well when you're hiking in the Summer and the weather is pretty steady. But if it's Spring or late Fall, and the weather is changing frequently, you are bound to need to access more items. And they can't all be at the top. So you will end up digging around blindly for that rain jacket or down vest and will probably end up dumping several items on the ground before you finally come up with what you're after. On the other hand, external frame packs usually have multiple compartments that you access by simply unzipping. You know exactly where every piece of is and can grab it in an instant without rummaging through a lot of other stuff and nothing has to be dumped on the ground. But backpacking is as subject to fads and fashion as urban clothing and internal frame packs do look sexier. And they apparently sell better. There are only a few external frame packs made. And that's a shame. I currently have a Jansport Scout which weighs about three and a half pounds. I carry about 30 pounds for a four-day hike including all my food and two quarts of water and my Scout carries it handily. It's a very basic pack which Jansport has decided to stop making. That's too bad. I got mine and one for my wife for $60 each. I'm looking at the Luxury Lite external frame which weighs about two and a half pounds, is a radically new design using carbon fiber frame and a very unique waterproof bag system, but it's spendy. About $275. But why there are so few external frame pack options and why so many internal frame packs continue to be top-access only is a crying shame.
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  #2  
Old 05-23-2007, 05:32 AM
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David David is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Holland
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I don't see why an external pack would allow you to walk upright as opposed to an internal one? As I see it, the slight forward leen is to (unconsiously) adjust for the offset in center of gravity when wearing load on your back. Furthermore external frame packs were much heavier then todays internal frame ones. And with a little forethought in packing order searching for stuff is not much of an issue.
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  #3  
Old 05-23-2007, 06:36 AM
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Random_Walker Random_Walker is offline
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Backpack: Arc'Teryx Needle 65
Sleeping Gear: WM Ponderosa
Shelter: MH SkyLedge
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: The PNW
Posts: 182
"External frame packs are better" for trudging the wide beaten trails.
Thinking of trails like along the Hoh River in Olympic National Park or a lot of the
trails in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming or the Skyline Trail in the Sangre de Cristos of New Mexico.
Off trail wanderings, bushwhacking, scrambling, crossing long 40 degree perennial snow slopes,
working my way through a tight canyon and I like the internals.
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  #4  
Old 05-23-2007, 07:27 AM
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Tide-HSV Tide-HSV is offline
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Posts: 135
I changed...

from external to internal initially because spinal stenosis had caused me to shrink out of my old 1972 mode Kelty Serac. I next tried the present version of the Tioga; I forget its name. The quality was lousy. Instead of the backband of the hip belt being integral with the frame, with the belt being completed by two wings, it had the Camp Trails, etc., circular and hung from the frame with shackles. One rainy hike in Slickrock cured me of that pack. I'm now in an Osprey Atmos, which belt is made like the old Kelty Serac and stays with my body. It also does a decent job of weight transfer...
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  #5  
Old 05-23-2007, 08:22 AM
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Hanger Hanger is offline
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Backpack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus
Sleeping Gear: Homemade down quilt
Shelter: Tarp
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 391
I don't really like absolutes, so I wouldn't go as far as saying anything or things is or are better. That's why we have the saying "hike your own hike." As Random_Walker said, each type of back has it's advantages and disadvantages. Now I haven't been backpacking long enough to see the externals fall from grace, so I don't know why the market decided that internals should dominate outfitter's shelves.

I response to your comment that internal frame users "walk stooped forward", I have found this to be not all that common. I myself keep a good posture with my pack on, as do the people I usually hike with. I could be said that the slouching might be attributed to a wrong sizing, which I think is common. Also, it is possible to find internals with the same amount of organization as externals. My roommate has such a pack, with zippered pockets galore.

Now, the thing I like most about the external design is the way the pack is off your back. It would be nice to not have a sweat soaked back once in a while.
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  #6  
Old 05-23-2007, 09:24 AM
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Tide-HSV Tide-HSV is offline
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Posts: 135
My Osprey...

has a mesh panel, which is all that touches your back. The pack stays bow away from your back and it creates a space which is about 3" at its widest. In fact, that space is reachable via a zipper at the top of the interior of the pack. You can hang your hydro bladder in there or use the internal bladder pocket. The drawback of the design is that the bowed shape decreased the interior room somewhat, but it's ventilated virtually as well as an external...
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  #7  
Old 05-23-2007, 10:03 AM
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Hanger Hanger is offline
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Backpack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus
Sleeping Gear: Homemade down quilt
Shelter: Tarp
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 391
Two of my friends have Ospreys and I forgot how well ventilated they are for internal framed packs. I guess my trouble comes from my ULA packs which don't have to much in the way of ventilation. A small trade off, however.
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  #8  
Old 05-23-2007, 10:09 AM
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Tide-HSV Tide-HSV is offline
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 135
Hiking mostly in the SE...

the ventilation is of primary importance. However, right now, it's very warm and very dry here in north AL - high 80s and very low humidity for here. We're covered with haze from the south GA fires and some hay bales in a field outside the city went up in spontaneous combustion yesterday
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  #9  
Old 05-23-2007, 05:23 PM
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Wayback Wayback is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 243
Tide, Thanks for the info on the Osprey. I wasn't aware any internal frame pack had decent ventilation. I'm in the same part of the country and appreciate anything to help keep cool. Do all the Ospreys have the set-off mesh back panel for ventilation?
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  #10  
Old 05-23-2007, 05:36 PM
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Tide-HSV Tide-HSV is offline
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 135
I don't think...

that any other than the Atmos/Aura (M/F) line has it. I'm not that familiar with the whole range of their packs, since I'm pretty new with them. Before them, I had a North Face, for an internal, which did cling to your back.
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