Beginner

10:23 p.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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Ok, so I'm a sophmore in high school and I love the outdoors. I have fished (catch and release) for years, and I have camped a few times. I love hiking. So over spring break I drove to Spokane, Washington. Thats a beautiful place. But anyways at a store called Sports Authority I saw a North Face Terra 30 on sale for $55. I have always wanted to backpack/ camp, but I thought it looked kind of small. Given my money constraints being a high schooler and all, I bought it. This upcoming weekend I would like to go backpacking / camping. The thing is I don't know what I need to pack. It's only going to be a one night trip. I obviously know I need to bring a tent, and I live in Indiana so bears are not a problem. Any advice on what to pack would be great. Thanks in advance.

10:46 p.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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Welcome cmsuter,

Start by reading this:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/guide/ten-essentials.html

and this:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/guide/leave-no-trace.html

and this:

http://www.trailspace.com/faq/#just-starting

Yep, just like at school.

It's good you have a healthy interest like camping / backpacking, these are worthwhile pursuits that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment.

If you do not have a stove, you can easily get by on ready to eat snacks for a one nighter. Watch the weather, but be prepared for rain/cold even if the forecast states otherwise. Do not wear denim jeans and a cotton hoodie thinking you are okay for a cold evening, when cotton gets wet / damp it looses most of it's insulating properties. It doesn't have to rain for this to occur, just your perspiration on the hike in can be enough, remember cotton dries very slowly. You need to wear synthetics such as polypropylene, or fleece, also natural fibers such as wool or silk are what you want. I would much rather have a couple pair of synthetic jogging pants than a pair of Levi's.

You stated: "It's only going to be a one night trip"

Ah yes, but what if....You should always be prepared for the possibility that it could turn into more. This is part of proper planning. That is how we stay safe. Even the best laid plans sometimes go astray.

I would recommend you also get in touch with a local hiking group and go on a few hikes with guys / gals that have a few years under their belts. You will find this most helpful, in terms of learning about both gear and technique. A quick search should turn up some results.

Lots of good books on the subject as well, I would get one!

It's good to see you on Trailspace, this is a great site to learn on, lots of knowledgeable people here whom I'm sure will be glad to offer you some advise.

12:01 a.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Food.

Water.

Clothing.

Shelter.

Fire.

The above are the basics, with fire (or, more typically, a stove of some sort) for cooking, primarily, but for warmth if necessary--which means one should develop the skills necessary to start a fire reliably with what's at hand. But back to the basics.

Shelter. A tent, tarp, bivy sack, or other shelter to keep the precipitation off and maybe the bugs and other critters outside while you sleep. A tent is the usual route, and there are innumerable makes and models, etc., but a tarp in mild weather can suffice, and some folks can tolerate sleeping in a bivy sack. FWIW, I use a tent almost always.

Food. One can easily get by with ready-to-eat foods and such on an overnight trip. Have a little extra just in case.

Water. A big one. Wherever you go in the outdoors, you must always have water and/or a way of obtaining and properly treating it close to hand. I generally carry two liters of water in Nalgene bottles as a minimum, no matter where I'm going. It's also good to have either a dependable water filtration device and/or water purification tablets for treating water when you need to add to your supply. Boiling is of course another option, but most opt for filtration and/or chemical treatment. Methods for treating water (and links to other useful information about water in the backcountry) can be found here.

Clothing. How much, what kind, etc. are dictated by what kinds of activities you plan on, whether you're willing to wash clothes in the middle of nowhere, weather, and so forth. Always plan on needing more than the weatherman predicts.

And, finally, a sleeping bag, blanket, bedroll, etc. Again, type and features dictated by environment.

There are of course other things to consider--such as the Ten Essentials for camping/backpacking. Other similar lists and articles are widely available elsewhere, too.

Perhaps the most important bit of advice I'd offer would be to try to find and make friends with an experienced outdoorsman (or -woman) or two or more. Not only will you find them full of great tips, advice, etc., but they'll know the local area, too. This last will be immensely helpful for everything from where to find gear to where to go hiking and camping. Plus, it'll probably make everything more fun.

Best of luck.

12:50 a.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Hello cmsuter. I agree, Spokane Wa is a beautiful place. I would have to say the ten essentials is where you should start, as they are essential, proper shelter for the environment, a sleeping bag, as much knowledge and advice you can gather from these seasoned vets as well as others, and a whole can of fun. I would say another important thing to remember is to let someone know where you are going, your planned route to reach that destination, as well as any possible detours or trails you may take. Always be as safe as possible when trekking alone. Enjoy every step of the way and open that can o fun.

1:33 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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2:45 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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As Bill always reminds us, don't forget the hand sanitizer...

3:42 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks guys, that was very helpful. Thanks for the list of links to the budget items especially. Do you think I will have any trouble fitting all this into a

30l bag for a one to two day trip?

3:55 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Yes.

5:51 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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30 L=1850 cu. inches.

My Diamond Brand external frame back is a hair over 3300 inches. I can fit all the items I need for a couple days out on the trail in my pack, including my tent.

Too bad you didn't get a larger pack...maybe something with at least 3700 inches. That would be a perfect size for a night or two out on the trail.

Sorry to tell you this...:(

9:21 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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All of the advice above is quite sound and I'd take it all to heart. I would just add to always have raingear and keep your sleeping bag dry. It gets awfully cold when your wet and your bag is soaked.

9:37 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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hi ranger219,

ain't that the truth!

11:30 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Alright guys thanks alot. Its kind of dissappointing to hear that 30 L will not be enough. I figured that out when i got home and started to put some stuff into it just to try it out. I will try to find another larger one for a bargain price. I will probably just give that to my dad or we can share it. My trip will have to be postponed anyways. At soccer practice today I sprained my ankle pretty bad. But hey, it gives me more time to look for a bag. Thanks guys.

9:45 a.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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Fear Not. I can help you find a decent pack for a most reasonable price that will suit your backpacking needs. Save the other pack for day hikes.

http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/782943

http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/782944

http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/782945

http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/782946

http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/782949

These are some nice packs that will fit your budget. I use ALPS Mountaineering brand packs myself. I think you will be more than satisfied. Some of these packs include an intergrated rain cover. A nice feature. Be sure you read the specs before selecting one.

Hope this helps you. And take care of that ankle!

11:28 a.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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cmsuter -

When starting out, most people tend to over-pack, taking all sorts of gear that is too bulky or not needed. That's natural, and it's ok, because you will learn by experience what works for you and what doesn't. Even when you have been in the hills and woods for as long as I have, you will still be experimenting, adding things, deciding to leave things behind, and so on. You will find that it is possible to have everything you really need in a 30L pack, though it comes at a price - warm but compact sleeping bags are not cheap, for example. On the other hand, I do not recommend the ultralight/ultracompact route until you have a lot of experience finding out what does work for you and your personal style. A very famous mountaineer, Norman Clyde, used to carry 50-60 pounds of books (and these were real, printed on paper, sewn binding, hard back books, not electronic ones stored in a Kindle) on week-long climbing trips in the Sierra Nevada, along with 30-40 pounds of climbing gear - that was essential for him. At the other end of the spectrum, Ray Jardine, the original Prophet of Ultralight ("The RayWay"), often has a pack around 10 pounds for 200 mile through-hikes.

But don't get too hung up on the gear. Getting out there and doing it is about Nature, not gadgets. There are inexpensive ways of equipping yourself. This can involve compromises, like short life-span of the gear (such as using a garbage bag as a pack cover, which only lasts a couple trips). After you learn what works for you, you will be able to select top-quality gear that will last for decades, so that the long-term cost is pretty cheap.

Again, mainly don't worry about the gear too much. Try stuff out, make a list of what you took with notes on whether you actually used it, whether you really needed something you didn't take, and things you see others using that might be useful for you. And do not take anyone's word as the gospel truth, especially when posted on the internet (my advice excepted, of course, since I am the world's greatest expert on everything {;=>D} ). As Polonius said, "To thine ownself be true." You are the final and only judge of what actually works for you, no one else.

1:16 p.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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Some gear stores like REI have rental departments where you can rent packs, sleeping bags and tents. Some probably rent stoves, as well. Look for one of those in your area and see what they have.

Buying online is fine if you know what you are looking at. Craigslist and eBay are good places to find cheap gear. You can often find used gear in good condition on both sites. There is also a lot of cheaply made gear on eBay, especially packs and tents which I would advise to avoid. There is too much used good stuff online to settle for new but poorly designed or made.

If you are going to buy used, do your homework first-ask about the item to see if other people recommend it, check the retail price, on eBay, don't be too anxious to outbid someone else and wind up paying too much. Camping gear isn't like a collectible, there will be plenty of it to choose from.

I have bought a tent, stoves, parka, skis, boots and a few other things online. Some websites like this one also have a classified forum.

If you aren't already, get proficient at searching online using Google or Yahoo. There are hundreds of websites for gear sellers, clubs, backpacking sites like Trailspace, local sites for particular areas, sites for specific aspects of hiking, like winter camping websites and so on. Finding them takes time and some experience with search terms. The national park websites have lots of good information. Your state park system may have a similar site or sites.

We have had an ongoing discussion about cheap gear and different members have different ideas about what brands to buy. My experience is you get what you pay for, but that sometimes there are bargains out there with lesser known brands or also with cheaper brands.

My preference to save money is to figure out what I want and find it used. I saved $300 on a pair of ski boots by searching for several months for them online. When I got them, they looked almost brand new. This takes patience, but it can save you a lot of money.

Take Trouthunter's advice and find a hiking club. The Sierra Club in your area may have beginner hikes. Do some reading, as already suggested.

Start with something like Camping for Dummies, then move on to The Complete Walker, which is the "bible" of backpacking. Look for them at the library or a used bookstore, if money is tight. Otherwise, Amazon has them at a good price.

Sometimes stores like REI have free introductory classes. They are trying to sell gear, but you can learn about what they have and try on various packs and whatnot.

5:03 p.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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We have had an ongoing discussion about cheap gear and different members have different ideas about what brands to buy. My experience is you get what you pay for, but that sometimes there are bargains out there with lesser known brands or also with cheaper brands.

I would point out avoid the "cheap gear" as that denotes poor quality. I avoid that sort of stuff alway.

As I pointed out good gear does not need to be expensive. I have been searching out and testing out diiferent kinds of gear (tents, sleeping bags, packs and mats for example) from many different brands for many years now. I post my reviews right here on Trailspace.com for the benefit of all.

Whatever you decide on I wish you the best. Perhaps I will see you on the trail one of these days. :)

7:18 p.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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Cheap gear could mean poor quality, but not always. If it doesn't, it most probably means higher weight/more bulky stuff. With that in mind you need a bigger backpack. But as you are young and strong (when your ancle heals) this is no problem for you. We all started out with simple heavy equipment when we started hiking.

For me the most essentials are the shoes and the backpack. Start by getting good and fitting shoes. Use your hard earned money to get the best for the type of hiking you have in mind. Let some friend or some unbiased person help you. Try them on, they should be good to wear on from the first day. But still you need to use them for some days to avoid blisters. Nothing makes/breakes a trip as much as fitting/unfitting shoes.

The pack must be big enough to accomodate the stuff you bring with you, but other than that it does not have to be a top expensive one. If you get hooked on hiking you need more than one anyway. One big for long hikes, one medium for weekend trips, and one small for daytrips. Good thing is that it is easy to borrow or rent packs, just learn to adjust and pack it properly.

The main thing is to get out and find out by dooing what this hiking is about. Start small, and you'll be fine. Would be nice if I also could see you on the trail, but that is highly unprobable. On my latest tour one week ago I did not see a single person in four days.

10:21 p.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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I agree with Bill and Tom, there's more to camping than gear.

When i started backpacking i was flat broke, so i looked for ways to save the most money on gear. The learning curve is pretty steep, but if you have tons of time and no money, making your own gear can be rewarding and fun. Ok i admit, you have to be a bit weird to spend hours on a sewing machine, but my first project was a tarp that cost me around 100$. I've used it everyday for 5 months on the PCT plus 5 years after that and it's still my favorite shelter, looks almost new! Look on the internet for ideas.

IMHO, if the price of gear prevents you from going out on trips there's a problem. You can go camping with a free homemade alcool stove, a borrowed sleeping bag, an old pack from a thrift store and a 5$ plastic blue tarp. There's also a few lists floating around the internet on how to gear-up for 200$ or less.

Again, my opinion, but if i had 500$ to spend on gear i would spend 350$ on a sleeping bag and make due with what's left. Almost all my gear is homemade, bought used or cheap. The only exception is the sleeping bag: you get what you pay for in this department.

10:44 p.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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all right, i found my summer check list, so here it comes! Keep in mind i STRONGLY suggest you try the stuff close to home before setting out for long trips, this is what i like to bring and it suits me, your list will differ.

-silnylon tarp 10*8 60$, try with a plastic tarp for 5$ before buying

-blue foam pad 15$

-sleeping bag WM ultralight 400$

-pack 60$ (anything around 50L will do)

-headlamp (Black Diamond makes good ones for around 15$)

-Homemade alcool stove (free)

-2L alu pot from Wal-mart, around 10$

-plastic spoon 0,50$

-plastic bowl with lid, the semi-disposable kind 1$

-trash compactor bag to keep sleeping bag dry

-1L soda bottle free

plus a few small things (ten essentials, bug dope, sunscreen, duct tape...).

So my biggest expense is by far the sleeping bag. If you can borrow one you can gear-up to camp a week-end for around 100$. You can see i don't have a tent as i prefer a tarp, but you need some skills to set it up.

Hope that helped and happy trails!

6:34 a.m. on April 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Welcome to trailspace cmsuter!

Although I have car camped many times, I'm also fairly new to backpacking. So far I have found one item that makes a huge difference when hiking.

Wet wipes.

I know it sounds funny, but being able clean up after business can prevent a whole world of chaffing and rashes that can make walking miserable. (and painful)

I would suggest non-scented. And saving money is great, but I don't recommend buying this item used or on ebay.

10:22 a.m. on April 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I am far, far less experienced then the people who have answered so far -- as such I feel like I am much closer to your end of the spectrum (broke and new(ish) to backpacking/hiking. For what it's worth -- never pay full price for any gear. It darn near pointless for your situation. As cool as it is to have the newest, baddest, lightest, flashiest new gear, last year's gear is still great.

 

There are so many sites that have clearance, or specials going on. [url=http://www.backcountryoutlet.com]www.backcountryoutlet.com is a great place to look. They also operate a number of 'One-deal-at-a-time' sites that have even better deals. [url=http://www.steepandcheap.com/]www.steepandcheap.com/
(At this moment they have a Marmot Alpinist Jacket which has an MSRP of $474.95 and they are selling it for $180.48) Good gear, highly discounted price because it's 1. Out of season and 2. An older model. There is also Tramdock.com (more for skiing, but they have good clothing for winter camping) and Chainlove.com (biking, but good spring/summer clothing (wicking) and also have good rain gear.) But places like campmor.com and moosejaw.com have discounts. REI.com also has clearance. With so many internet choices it makes no sense to pay full retail.

 

What I do when looking for new gear is read a ton of reviews from various sites (trailspace.com has a ton -- which is why I'm here) and try to find as many perspectives as I can. Sometimes this is harder then it'd seem but in most cases a google search brings up revies (i.e., for the above mentioned coat, I'd type "Marmot Alpinist Jacket review" in google and I'd get a lot of places selling the coat with reviews from customers).

 

That works quite well for a lot of things. But some stuff you just need to try out. Packs, boots, sleeping bags, pants (as I've found every brand seems to have their own interpretation of measurement) should really be tried out before you sink money in them (ESPECIALLY if they're expensive). That's where retail stores come in. I admit I feel like I'm cheating the company a bit by exploiting their resources but you can go into an REI, a Gander Mountain, an Eastern Mountain Sports, etc. and you can try the gear out, get a feel for if it's right, then go home and buy it for a huge discount online.

 

Sometimes this takes patients though. From last summer I found quick-dry pants and a windproof vest that I would have liked to buy, but a limited budget is forcing me to wait until they show up in clearance sites.

 

This ended up being a lot longer then intended. Sorry about that. If I've said anything wrong, I'm confident a more experienced person will correct it.

10:59 a.m. on April 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Since renting equipment was mentioned above:

http://lowergear.com rents out camping and backpacking gear.

I've never used the service and it's not cheap, but it might make sense if someone wants to try out a specific GPS, pack, or tent (provided they carry that model). Or, it could make sense for items you need only for one specific trip, but don't have anyone to borrow from, like a bear canister.

At the least, it's an interesting idea to consider before buying a new item you're not sure about.

11:48 a.m. on April 1, 2009 (EDT)
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On the pack front, if you're going to carry a 5lb pack, in my opinion/experience, it might as well be an external frame pack. I like them better, and the main drawback is that they're heavier.

I use the Kelty Trekker 3950: http://www.mountainsports.com/msmain.asp?Option=Detail&Detail=081194

but I looked around until I found it for $75 and free shipping. I can't find it that cheap right now, but if you look around and wait you probably can. It is very easy to trim about .5 lbs off of it by taking off the head bar, trimming the crazy long straps, etc. It weighs 5lb, which is less than a number of the internals that I saw links to earlier in this thread.

I'm a medical student who is somewhere in the area of 100 grand in debt (8 years of school will do that to you), so I know about budget shopping. My pack cover is a clear trash bag. My rain gear is Coleman and was on sale at Sam's club. I bought a $60 dehydrator and make my own dehydrated meals (Mountain House costs roughly $8/each, so in about 8 meals you've paid off your new equipment). You get the idea. Use your noggin and you can usually do as well or better than the "big name" gear designers.

6:56 p.m. on April 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Sorry for probably asking stupid questions, but what are the disadvantages of an external frame pack and how exactly do you pack them? I don't know anything about them.

7:11 p.m. on April 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I have both external and internal frame packs.

I'm not sure the word disadvantage would be a good word to use. In my opinion, I like both types of packs.

External frame packs are the traditional packs.

Internal frame packs are of a more recent type.

As for the actual packing, I'll give the honours to those who would be better able to explain the process of which you inquire.

Good questions. Thanks for posting cmsuter.

9:26 p.m. on April 1, 2009 (EDT)
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External frame packs were, for a long time, the dominant species. They are generally designed such that the load is carried slightly away from the back, with fabric or webbing bands against the back stretched across the frame and an air layer providing for ventilation. Because the load is hung on the frame, and if properly positioned the frame's primary point of load transfer is at the top of the hips, it's generally considered easier to get the mass to where it can most comfortably and efficiently be carried. The design while advantageous in these ways, does have some drawbacks, however. One is weight; generally speaking, external frame packs are heavier, though such is clearly not always the case. Another potential disadvantage is that because the load is carried suspended a bit out from the back, the center of mass of a loaded hiker is moved further back, and balance, agility, etc. can be somewhat adversely affected, as well as somewhat increasing the chances of the pack getting caught in brush, branches, etc. as one is moving along.

Internal frame packs were developed through two routes, as I understand it. One was the simplicity of the basic rucksack. It was simple to make, easy to tailor re: size, cheaper, etc. A second route of development came from the desire of some, especially climbers, to have packs that carried the load very close to their bodies, making balance and agility somewhat better, and decreasing the chances of the pack getting hung up on rocks, snags, etc. But as a result of that design, internal frame packs are often described as "hotter" than external frame packs because of the lack of ventilation over the back.

For whatever reason, over the last fifteen years or so internal frame packs have become more popular here in the States, it seems. I've noted with a wry smile, however, that some of the "internal" frame designs are starting to evolve more and more toward an external frame sort of set-up. Osprey has for the last couple of years made packs that are designed to hold the load out from the back so that the cushy fabric is what one feels, and so that air can ventilate through. This year they even have a pack (the Argon, I think) that has metal projections of the frame down toward the hips to help in load distribution, etc. It looks to me like we're seeing the re-invention of the external frame pack, slowly but surely.

This last probably reflects the opinion of many that external frame packs are indeed more comfortable to carry.

There. Now that I've said my piece, no doubt someone else will come along and say "Oh, no, that's all wrong--here's the real story. Blah, blah, blah...." Until then, however, this is my story, and yes, I'm stickin' to it.

Hope that was helpful.

12:16 a.m. on April 2, 2009 (EDT)
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I probably should have been more specific. I have both an external and internal. The external is a recent addition, and it changed my world, as far as backpacking goes.

You'll hear and read that externals hold the weight farther away from your back and make you "clumsier". That has not been my experience. I only have one internal pack, and it's not exactly top of the line (Lowe Alpine Comfort Classic), but it made my back hurt and it made me sweat like a Texan.

I am a very hot person by nature, so the added ventilation is awesome. I'm only 23, so if something is making my back hurt, something's wrong. My internal killed my back, because it put a lot of the weight into the middle of my lumbar spine instead of on my hips. I find that I am much LESS clumsy with the external, and despite what I read, it is lighter than my internal and all of the internals that were linked in this thread.

I also found that my sleeping pad (thermarest ridgerest) took up a huge amount of room in an internal pack and made it difficult to get the pack balanced right. I just tie it to the bottom of my external.

It DOES snag on trees and brush just a bit more than the internal, so if you're hacking your way through hedge rows or something crazy like that, maybe that's a factor. I've charged through some pretty thick underbrush in the ozarks and it hasn't ever really been a problem for me. I just wanted to point out that ONE criticism that I have found to be true (although not very important).

I should also mention that a "top of the line" internal can be 400-500 or more. I'm sure some of these guys who use them often can point out some good quality ones for less. Kelty is pretty much the only company I could find who still makes an external, and I already told you that I paid 75 bucks for it.

12:30 a.m. on April 2, 2009 (EDT)
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"Oh, no, that's all wrong--here's the real story. Blah, blah, blah...."

LOL! Pretty close, though, Perry.

Two posts have said that external frame packs are heavier than internal. Yet my Kelty Backpacker (bought in 1960 from Dick Kelty in his garage when he was selling the packs and other gear directly) and Barb's father's Kelty Mountaineer (bought about the same time, now in our possession) are about 2.5 pounds (the top bar only added a few ounces, not the half pound mentioned above). The lightest internal frame pack in our household (the count is close to 20 packs) is a Kelty Cloud at 3 pounds with its pockets and stays, with the Osprey Aether 60 at 4.5 pounds. Yes, my Kelty Sherpa (huge expedition-capacity external frame) is 7.5 pounds, on a par with my Dana Terraplane at 8.5 pounds (huge internal frame expedition-capacity pack).

The big advantages of an external frame (yes, I know, I have posted this same babble a half-dozen or more times before on Trailspace) are weight for capacity (some more recent versions with extra straps, pockets, etc are closer to internals), coolness, capacity (you can strap all sorts of stuff to the top, bottom, and outside), ability to carry awkwardly shaped and sharp-cornered objects without poking yourself (reason the re-supply people for the AMC huts use them, and ability to arrange weird loads to balance properly. The imbalance Perry mentions can be dealt with by properly arranging "weight and balance" (to use the aeronautical process that every beginning pilot learns). I have carried far heavier loads comfortably with an external than with any internal (and I have some of the best of each type). The advantages of an external show best on reasonably good trails. The disadvantages are rigidity (especially when accidentally hooking a branch or travelling off-trail - most externals are wider than most internals), and awkwardness when climbing technical stuff or skiing or generally travelling off-trail.

The big advantages of internals are conforming to your shape, and narrowness. The big disadvantages are the aforementioned heat (they can be intolerable on hot humid days), lower capacity for the same weight of pack, more difficulty in arranging loads (in part due to the narrower configuration), and huge discomfort when carrying rigid or awkwardly shaped objects (just try to arrange a large watermellon or a wooden box of re-supply for a hut comfortably in an internal). Tying stuff on the outside of an internal often results in losing stuff along the trail, much more frequently than with an external, though both are about equal when fastening something to the top. The internal works significantly better when off trail, skiing, or doing technical climbing. They aren't as comfortable for long days on good trails.

As for history, actually both types have been around for centuries (as have soft packs which are definitely not internals - they have no frame at all). The Trapper Nelson packboard and old traditional New England pack basket are ancient examples of external frame packs. The WWII vintage Bergans ski pack is an example of a hybrid internal/external (Bergans still makes excellent packs, though they are not often seen in this country - their designs are as modern as anyone else's and their workmanship excellent). Barb and I have a couple of internal frame packs we got in the mid-1960s which were well-designed for ski touring - much lighter than the Bergans Ski Pack (especially the US Army surplus variety).

Bottom line is that each style of pack has its proper place in the universe of carrying loads. None are inherently superior than any other as a general pack that does everything. As Perry noted, when backpacking became a big sport in the postWWII era, externals were popular for their comfortable load-carrying capability. Somewhere in the 1970s, the internal frame packs became more popular, in large part because the lighter gear made for lighter pack weights, which internals work quite well with. But both internals and externals grew heavy (empty weight) because pack manufacturers insisted in answering the calls for 50-way adjustments, hundreds of pockets and compartments, and a few thousand extra straps, daisy chains, gear loops and other fastening points, along with a semiinfinite range of detachable pockets, daypacks, and fanny packs (all requiring a 200 page manual to explain everything. Ok I exaggerate a bit, but why do 90% of backpackers need 2 ice ax loops, especially for hiking in the Smokies, summertime 'Dacks, Ozarks, etc? A lot of backpackers took to cutting off the extra straps and pockets (amazing how much weight that takes off).

12:59 a.m. on April 2, 2009 (EDT)
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<chuckle>

Somehow, I just knew Bill would smoke me on this! No worries, though, Bill; I enjoyed it. Especially the history stuff. Interesting stuff, actually. And on reading it, I think I'm pretty much in agreement with everything he says, recognizing that I can't really provide much intelligent comment on things like the finer points of history, etc. But for the rest, yeah, probably so. Even when it comes to the reality of weight comparison between internal and external--I think that externals do have the reputation of being heavier, but, as Bill points out, it's at the very least not unusual for the opposite to be the case. And my own first internal, now a dinosaur, weighs more than five pounds, but it's built like a tank and still going strong.

Bill--do you see a trend toward the re-invention of the external as I think I might? Or are these just some sort of hybrid entity? Or am I just hallucinating?

12:58 p.m. on April 2, 2009 (EDT)
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Perry asked:

Bill--do you see a trend toward the re-invention of the external as I think I might? Or are these just some sort of hybrid entity? Or am I just hallucinating?

Yeah, you are hallucinating ;) Actually, it's mostly the drift of fashion. Just like which type of jacket is "best" for keeping warm in the woods. Fleece, pile, softshells, synthetic, merino wool, "puff" jackets, down parkas, synthetic "belay jackets", ..... And the colors - bright for visibility, "earth" tones to reduce the jarring visibility to Leave No Trace, ....

There have been significant improvements and innovations from time to time. In my lifetime, some of the innovations have included the aluminum welded frame, lighter but stronger materials, better waist belt designs, designs that fit women better (that's from Barb, and I think Alicia has made a similar comment), better suspensions (except that there are still some horrendously uncomfortable suspensions being sold by some popular manufacturers), better adjustability for a range of loads and sizes (and body configurations - though again, some of the adjustability is poorly thought out and a lot is to make up for poor suspension designs), and others. Some is good, but I still see a lot of bad ideas resurfacing, especially with the cyclical resurgence of too many straps, pockets, attachable/detachable "things", ice ax loops on packs intended for backpacking in areas where there will never be any snow or ice, daisy chains that are supposed to provide attachment points but are poorly located on the pack, lots of extra (heavy) zippers (some of which seem to have no purpose whatsoever), hook fasteners at points where the hook&loop will be readily forced apart, .....

I have certain packs I use a lot from among the dozen that fit me, as does Barb. For some kinds of trips we use our Ospreys for backpacking, while for others we haul out the Dana Terraplanes. And for some of the workshops I give where I have to carry awkward, or heavy, or sharp-edged loads, I get one of the old Keltys out (the Backpacker for loads up to 50 pounds, the Sherpa for loads over 50 and up to 70 pounds). And for fast and ultralight, one of my GoLites. If I am out doing cache maintenance (geocaches, that is), I use a semi-framed summit pack (a Lowe-Alpine). For dayhike photo treks, I use a Lowe-Alpine camera pack, though when I was using the view camera a lot, I always used one of the frame packs.

I think part is indeed fashion, but part is people discovering that external vs internal is what works for you. OTOH, way too many folk are out there with something that was recommended on a website by posters who hardly hike at all and who defensively tout the pack they were sold or was recommended by a store clerk, despite the fact that the thing is a medieval torture device but they have to justify despite its obvious faults for their use and body shape.

4:00 p.m. on April 2, 2009 (EDT)
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One last question. What are some good brands for external frame packs? Thanks a lot for all of the quick responses its been very helpful.

6:44 p.m. on April 2, 2009 (EDT)
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Kelty. You'll be hard pressed to find anyone else even making externals anymore, but there isn't much need to even look. Kelty has the reputation, the quality, and a good price.

10:04 p.m. on April 11, 2009 (EDT)
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I just came off a 30 mile backpacking session on the "Sheltowee Trace" w/ a very old Kelty External frame.....I loved it!! A little imagination and you can pack anything on it, lol, not always in it.....I am also new to backpacking and borrowed this pack off a friend. I was honestly kinda dissapointed when I seen all the cool, fashionable internals on the trip in comparrison to my very old (Can't even find a name on it other than Kelty) external pack.....but I loved it so much that I immediately bought it off my buddy upon returning...

Like I said, I am new to backpacking and have not yet experienced an internal frame so I am not bashing them either.....but can say very condidently that the external Kelty's are genius!!! I have also done lots of research since I have found my new lasting obsession, and Kelty seems to be very respected among avid backpackers.....Jansport also makes inexpensive external frames, but I cannot speak to the quality...I hope this helps....btw, as I said I am new and my Kelty was weighted in over 60 lbs and I had no pain or discomfort, some others were complaining of neck pain w/ the internals, but that may be due to several reasons..........Thanks for listening

2:02 a.m. on May 17, 2009 (EDT)
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Like you I am a backpacking newbie, I went on my first trip a month ago. This site is a great source for all information needed to get get started. I can not really offer anything more that what has already been said other than to add that a book that has helped me (and been a fairly interesting read so far) is the The Complete Walker IV. It outlines most gear and backpacking skills. Good luck to you on your adventure and have fun, with the proper preparation you should have a great trip.

5:36 p.m. on May 17, 2009 (EDT)
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If you are looking for a external frame pack. then Bergans have the 3800 Power Frame. You may remove the pack and use the frame only if you are going to carry bulky large boxes or other large objects. Here in Norway they are popular for elk hunters who hunt at remote places. They remove the pack and tie the large chunks of meat on the frame for transport

7:11 p.m. on May 17, 2009 (EDT)
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I could probably find an external for you for less than 10.00

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