External Frame Packs

9:14 a.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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I thought I was the last one to switch from an external frame backpack to an internal one (2 years ago).  After seeing some pictures on here I see I wasn't. 

So, how many of you still use external frame backpacks? Why?

Besides having a frame to lash large parts for machines, firefighting pumps and quarters of elk and moose to, I am not seeing a lot of advantages to using external frame packs for general hiking and climbing. 

What does the group think?

10:56 a.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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Oh that picture is not real, I just photo shopped it to make me look old school :)

I use an external frame pack for all on-trail trips with pack weights greater than ten pounds.  I find the frame pack carries loads better, especially when the loads tip past 70 pounds.  I use a internal frame pack for snow travel, and cross country travel, and a frameless pack for light loads.

Ed

1:32 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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I had an interesting conversation with Dana Gleason at the Winter OR Show (all my conversations with Dana are very interesting!) That's the Dana of Dana Designs and the Dana packs like the one I am wearing in my avatar photo. Dana's expedition packs some years back really revolutionized internal frame packs for expedition use, with a lot of his ideas being copied by others. After he sold Dana Designs, then left the big company that bought it (and has now pretty much dropped the "Dana" name, he started Mystery Ranch, with a bunch of his always original ideas. For his current "tactical" packs, he has gone back to external frame packs. The discussion of why he has done this was very interesting.

What it comes down to is that, as Ed says, if the trip is on-trail, externals load better, are cooler in hot weather, and handle heavy loads more comfortably. While for skiing, climbing, and off-trail travel, internals (and in some situations, frameless) have advantages, for heavy loads, externals work better even off trail. Which is why hunters prefer something like the NICE line from Mystery Ranch.

For basic backpacking, I often use my Kelty Backpacker or Mountaineer (externals, the Backpacker at 2.5 pounds bought from Dick Kelty from his garage back in 1959 or 1960, the Mountaineer at 2.7 pounds inherited from Barb's father). If I am heading into the backcountry for climbing where I have to carry a lot of climbing gear, I sometimes use my Kelty Sherpa (also external). For climbing expeditions and backcountry skiing tours, I go to the Dana Terraplane (in the avatar) or Osprey Aether for lighter trips, both internals. The main summit packs I use are a Lowe Alpine 40 and an Osprey Mutant, both light enough to carry along with one of the other packs to base camp.

1:50 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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I had an internal once. The load seemed to ride on my shoulders more than on my hips. I can load my Kelty Tioga up with 50+ Lbs and it feels like 15.  For me its just more comfortable.

5:18 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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In the past I had an external and changed to a lumbar pack due to the downsizing in weight and equipment. 

When I packed the external (which was an older Jansport), I would rountinely pack around 50 pounds. On extended trips it would be between 70-90 pounds (I carried all the major stuff for my 2 younger boys then).

The weight was proportionate to my shoulder straps and waist belt. I remember that in warm weather my back would sweat and the frame kept the pack off it, so that I had decent ventilation. The only spots that maintained moisture were the shoulder strap and waist belt areas only. 

Now with the lumbar pack, my winter weight with all items included, plus extras is 21-22 pounds. Summer weight is 11-14 pounds. 

 

5:48 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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I like the way that the external frame packs carry weight better than internal frame packs.  It seems like the weight rides more on my hips with a little on the shoulders.  Internal frame packs feel like all of the weight in on my back itself rather than hips or shoulders.

I do use a an internal frame pack for day hikes and overnight trips if the weight will be less than about 20 pounds.  Anything over 20 pounds and I use one of my external frames.  Since most of my gear is older and not lighweight by modern standards, it is usually the external frame pack.

6:45 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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If I had to choose only one pack for climbing and hiking I'd go internal. 

I still use my external for hauling meat but I also like the Kelty Redcloud I am wearing in my pic. What I first noticed with an internal was a lot less load swaying and that the load was much narrower.  The only thing I REALLY miss is my top crossbar for putting the thing on and taking it off. 

I think that the hips/shoulder argument is more of an adjustment/fit issue but I do notice that the "soft" pack keeps my back warmer.  I swear that once while training on Granite Mtn on Snoq. pass the sweat running down my ^$$ had whitecaps on it!  

Ever try to find a decent external at an outdoor store?  Sometimes its like trying to find an honest man in politics.  They are deffinately loosing favor with retailers. 

5:54 a.m. on April 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Because that's what Colin used. I have both and yes my GG is nice and light but the Kelty sure is cooler.

6:39 a.m. on April 9, 2011 (EDT)
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I'm with the external.   Much, much better on the spine ... and much, much cooler on the back.  

I do a lot of cross-training in the gym, and outdoors.  Keeps me in-shape, for heavy loads with some of my vintage gear (non-lightweight), and wearing my vintage Fabiano FGL boots ... 'clunky' and not light ... but, I can hike dozens and dozens of miles with confidence (weak ankles) and comfort without 'cooking' my feet in GoreTex.

I would kinda miss the 'squeaking' of the pins and such, if I only used an internal pack.

Odd.

 

r2

2:18 a.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I think that the hips/shoulder argument is more of an adjustment/fit issue

This is exactly what I thought as I was reading through this thread. My favorite, main pack is a bigger internal. First, I purchased the right size. No big feat, but it's surprising how often I used to run into people with the wrong-sized pack, including myself as I ran through pack company after pack company. Second, it required a few trips to tune-in the torso length just right. No shoulder issues. Most of the weight on my hips, but no sore spots after long days on the trail, either. I don't even like to take it off during breaks. Fits my body like a glove and is like wearing the most comfortable couch.

Back to the wrong-sizing. I remember renting a Lowe Contour IV, a Dana Design Terraplane, and an Osprey Silhouette before ordering a pack from an unknown upstart company. I couldn't get any of those others to fit properly. It was very frustrating. It's why I bothered to try a new, untested company ordered directly from the factory. Years later, after a lot more experience adjusting packs, I again tried Dana Design and Osprey. I quickly realized that the reason I originally didn't like the way they fit was because I was given the wrong pack size. Merchants would look at me, estimate my height and waist, check their book, and throw a pack at me. I trusted them because thats was what they did, SELL PACKS. I didn't know to second guess their "expertise". I probably would have been happy with one of those Terraplanes or Silhouettes had I been given the correct-sized pack.

Since then, I often assume folks who don't care for the fit of internals is because they weren't fit properly in the first place. I like externals as well, so I'm no internal loyalist. I think internals demand a more exact fit. That's all. And I've also learned to not trust proprietary spec charts. You may think you're a large, but a medium might actual conform to your body a lot better. You might be one of the many exceptions to their specs. I know I was for several companies.

12:03 a.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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...for me it is a matter of weight.

I have two McHales that are easy to carry but weight 6.5 and 7 lb. I also have a old Kelty Tioga 3.8 lb, a BB5 at 3.5 lb, and a Trailwise like Colin Fletcher carried at 3.2 lb plus it's totally waterproof.

The McHales tend  to go on climbs where I need the pack to ride well if we are doing a carry over while on any backpack approach trip that is mostly trail I'll take the Kelty's or the Trailwise and make up the difference in weight with some Bushmill's or a fav single malt.

I also had a couple of the retro Rivendell type Jensen packs made for me but I haven't used them enough to really decide a verdict of yes or no. They are light as the frame packs, carry well, but don't like hurried packing. The frame packs all are just big open sacks on a frame so it's a piece of cake to hustle out of camp.

2:45 a.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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mazama

how do you compare the trailwise to the kelties and the mchales? i have a kelty but for really heavy weight i love the trailwise. the trailwise gets daily use in the winter. i can carry 125 lb bales of hay out to feed the horses easier than i can get a wheelbarrow out to the fields. i hear the mchales carry like a dream too.

if i am going for a short time and want to carry an external i have some smaller gerry and kelty bags that i use on old antelope camping equipment frames. they are really light frames and would not want to carry much over 40 lbs with them.  they are held together with bolts so you can take them apart. these are nice for using on a horseback or canoe trip where you can dismantle the frame for easier packing. then if you want a pack to do a little backpacking they are easily put together.

for skiing or off trail packing i have some early caribou internal frame packs that are my favorites. i am really partial to the wood/fiberglass stays in the caribou as opposed to metal stays i have used in other internal frames. i ski more than i backpack these days so the caribou's get more use than the frame packs. 

11:02 a.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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mazama

how do you compare the trailwise to the kelties and the mchales? i have a kelty but for really heavy weight i love the trailwise. the trailwise gets daily use in the winter. i can carry 125 lb bales of hay out to feed the horses easier than i can get a wheelbarrow out to the fields. i hear the mchales carry like a dream too.

if i am going for a short time and want to carry an external i have some smaller gerry and kelty bags that i use on old antelope camping equipment frames. they are really light frames and would not want to carry much over 40 lbs with them.  they are held together with bolts so you can take them apart. these are nice for using on a horseback or canoe trip where you can dismantle the frame for easier packing. then if you want a pack to do a little backpacking they are easily put together.

for skiing or off trail packing i have some early caribou internal frame packs that are my favorites. i am really partial to the wood/fiberglass stays in the caribou as opposed to metal stays i have used in other internal frames. i ski more than i backpack these days so the caribou's get more use than the frame packs. 

 

Actually I don't notice any difference in my Kelty packs and the Trailwise. I've taken both on 14 day trips into the Winds and been quite comfortable....except for the Mosquitos of course. Late July is almost too early. The McHales are more comfortable of course but the terrain and outing type is so often different when I take them vs the frame packs.

11:39 a.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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mazama

thanks for the reply. could be the trailwise works better for me with the hay bales because it is wider. hard to beat the full mesh backband for a heavy loads. 

3:39 p.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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mazama

for skiing or off trail packing i have some early caribou internal frame packs that are my favorites.

 

I wish I knew more about Caribou gear. My college backpack was Caribou. I have no idea where I got it. Getting thrown around skate sessions and all over the urban terrain, it held up really well. I've wondered about their more serious gear.

4:29 p.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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caribou was started in chico california. they are now located in texas. here is a pretty good history link

www.snewsnet.com/snews/gt.../Winter08_outdoor_history.pdf

you can either download it or view through google with no pixs.


4:32 p.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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not working for me

4:37 p.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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hey didn't work for me either. try googling "caribou mountaineering" and "bill ford" that should get you to the snewsnet link

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