Internal or external frame pack

5:59 p.m. on February 17, 2011 (EST)
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Now of course by now most of you know I have been backpacking for about 35 years. But, I am curious. I have been using a internal frame pack for about 32 years, but which is better for taking the weight of long distant multiweek hikes, a internal or external pack. I have'nt tried a external pack in a long, long time. Would the frame of a external pack be better for carrying weight for a multiweek hike or is it about the same as an internal pack given the same weight load and use?

In a year I am planning a couple weeks hike up the Paria River from Lee's Ferry to Bryce Canyon and then the summer in the Kaiparowits Plateau and Escalante Canyon areas.

At 55 my back is not as strong as it was just 10 years ago and I would like to be as comfortable as possible

75% of my pack weight will be food and water, as my gear weight is about 15 lbs at most.

Just looking at REI, I did not see any external pack, does anyone still make them?

7:11 p.m. on February 17, 2011 (EST)
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I don't have much experience with external framed packs but as long as you are on trail I would say that yes they would carry your heavy load more comfortably, definately cooler.

There are several compacnies that still make external framed packs but mostly for youths. I don't think Kelty will ever stop making them. I see some very good prices on Craigs list on a regular basis.

Here is one site with a couple listed.

8:44 p.m. on February 17, 2011 (EST)
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Thank's Gary! I knew there was someone who made a external frame pack but could not remember the name, Kelty. There's a sale on their pack there at the link you shared.

10:15 p.m. on February 17, 2011 (EST)
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I bought three external frame Kelty packs, all tiogas, one off craigslist and two off ebay. To get a pack near as good you have to spend $350.00

I paid around 50.00 each if you count shipping on all of them. They are older packs. Kelty has a newer tioga line that is internal frame. You can find the external frame if you look.

Here is one on ebay. It's close to what I have. I don't have any red on my packs but this one looks nice for $40.00

11:43 p.m. on February 17, 2011 (EST)
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This is the pack that Kelty has at their website on sale for $70

Frame: Telescoping H-frame 6063-T6 alloy Volume: Medium 2900 cu in (48L) Capacity: Large 3000 cu in (49.2L) The inside volume of a backpack Torso Fit Range: Medium 13 in to 19 in,
Large 16 in to 21 in The torso size range this backpack will adjust to. Weight: 4 lb 13 oz,
Large 4 lb 14 oz Fabric: Nylon Kodra & Ripstop Pack Cloth Dimensions Large:: 25.5 x 24 x 11 (Large) Dimensions Medium: : 22.5 x 23 x 11 (Medium) Color : Medium Green,
Large Blue

I am thinking I might just try a external frame pack again. Last one I had was a Jansport when I spent my first summer hiking in Alaska in 1978. I replced it with a North Face internal frame pack that I bought in 1979 and used till 1999. It was a large pack expandable to 6000

1:14 a.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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I have a Jansport Carson which works quite well for me.  You should check them out.

3:13 a.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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There are still several makers of externals. You found Kelty, here are a few others.

Alps Mountaineering



If you Google external frame packs there are more to look at. Interestingly, reviews from Trailspace are the third non-sponsored link 8).

7:14 a.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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There are a number of places still selling externals:

Jansport, Kelty (quite a few, as mentioned), Alps, etc.  I believe some — Mountainsmith, High Peak, Coleman, will be offering new models for 2011.

12:34 p.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks everyone! I found a local guy n Craigslist with a 15 year old Jansport external frame pack.

9:01 p.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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Gary, be sure and ask about the zippers before you buy. A lot of the older packs develope zipper problems when they get older. I have 1ea of Trek, Camp Trails, and Jansport external frame packs that were given to me and all three have zipper issues. Kind of explanes my limited experience with externals mentioned above.

7:42 a.m. on February 19, 2011 (EST)
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I own both configurations, and choose which to use on a given trip according to the specifics of the venue.  I tend to carry a heavy kit, and prefer the external frame pack unless I am traveling over snow, intend to cross country off trail, or other situations where agility and low center of gravity are critical.

Which type of pack best suits your application will depend on how much you intend to carry that kit off trail.  If you stay on trail, the external pack configuration is a more comfortable haul. A properly loaded external frame pack makes it easier to get you and your kit's combined center of gravity positioned over your hips, allowing you to stand with a more comfortable erect posture.  But the load of an external frame pack is relatively top heavy, which along with the unyielding nature of the frame makes it more difficult to scamper and otherwise negotiate tricky off trail terrain.   If you intend to go off trail, go with an internal frame pack.  It may be somewhat harder on the back, but agility and safety of a internal frame pack off trail trump the comfort advantages of an external frame pack in corss country application.

Your size – I believe you said you were 6’4” in a different topic thread – limits what products will best fit you, regardless of make and configuration.  I cannot suggest what to purchase in an internal frame configuration, but my tall friends all seem to have good comments regarding Jansport’s adjustable external frame packs. As always, test ride before you buy.


1:05 p.m. on March 26, 2011 (EDT)
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As my handle states, 50 years ago I used Kelty, then a Coleman, then several internal, now I am into liteweight, I really like Granite Gear, but if I was going to get an exterior frame back then it would be a Kelty, probably Tioga yeas it is big but it has the best suspension out there. IMHO.

11:03 p.m. on March 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Jansport reintroduced the D2 this year.  If you want an external which will hold much more than you want to carry, this is  a GREAT pack.

11:48 p.m. on March 26, 2011 (EDT)
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I am in my mid-60s and very fit.   Sports medicine doctors have told me I have the body of a man 20 yrs younger.  HOWEVER (!) ... I (like all) need to watch my back, and what I do with it. 

I am a sometimes (substitute, non-certified) Yoga instructor.   We really focus on spinal flexibility.   I urge all here, especially the OP, to look into Yoga.

There is a Yogic expression:  "You are as young as your spine is flexible".

Without doubt, go with an external frame backpack.

Manufacturers need to know there is a strong interest in them, and they will ramp-up production.  Maybe ... introduce new models.

They have marketed and pushed internal-frame packs very successfully.   Gonna be a lot of folks walking like apes (from using internal-frame backpacks)  and with arthritic thumbs (from texting) in a few years.

May 27, 2018
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