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ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Frame

rated 3.0 of 5 stars
photo: ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Frame external frame backpack

The ALPS Commander frame pack is very comfortable to wear and is extremely durable. It is lightweight, solid, adjustable, and easy to use.


  • Lightweight
  • Solid construction
  • Quiet


  • Material can rip easily if you aren't careful

I wasn't sure how well the pack would fit my shoulders with a heavy load, so in order to test the capabilities I piled everything on it. The Commander has a shelf that can be lowered and this is a great feature. I loaded camera gear, a spotting scope, tripods, food, water, etc. You get the picture.

When I weighed the pack 3/4 loaded it was 57 lbs. I'll admit, planning to hike over a riverbed full of boulders, running water and thick brush may not have been the most comfortable way to test it out. On the other hand, I think it was one of the best ways because I got to see how it would feel and work in a crazy situation. After I lad it loaded, I was able to tighten the side straps attached to the shelf to tighten the fit. This was a very nice feature.

Once I loaded the Commander with my gear and separate backpack, I ran out of strap for two of the three on the back side. I wasn't sure I could secure everything, but Alps Outdoorz thought of that and included three lash extenders. Let me tell you, these worked very well. I was able to clip them in, cinch everything down and nothing moved.

Once on my shoulders, I was able to adjust the shoulder harness and belt with ease. The pack itself was very comfortable even with the extra weight. I was sure to keep most of the weight on my hips and that freed up my shoulders. There were a few times that my gear shifted on the frame and pulled me one way or another. A few minor adjustments and I was back in business.

The hike in was a true test, but I kept imagining having to pack out an elk in the backcountry. We hiked in nearly a mile and a half. Most of the terrain was rocky, no make that full of boulders. My legs were given quite a workout, but I managed. Some of the areas were tricky and it was good to have more people around to lend a hand when needed. 

The pack was run through the gamut. I dropped it on rocks, sat down and dinged it up, and I even dragged it a few time just to make it over some major deadfalls. Some of the fabric tore underneath the shelf, but that was about it! It held up well through the beating.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the straps held everything down in the back. They didn't loosen up and were also easy to adjust if needed. Some pack straps lock down so tight that you tear flesh trying to release them. This was not the case as the Commander straps locked down easily and even with me going through thick brush they stayed locked down. Releasing them was super easy and required a little effort, but nothing out of the ordinary. 

Loading the pack back up for the hike out was quick and painless. Everything had a place and I had confidence that my camera gear would stay locked down through the journey. That made the hike even more memorable. Everything stayed in place and while I drifted toward the back of the pack (my legs were super tired), I was able to truly enjoy the remaining quarter mile over semi-even ground. The weight was still manageable and my shoulders and hips did not ache. 

The Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack suggested retail is $129.99. When compared to other frame packs, the Commander falls right into the average price range for one of this quality. Well constructed and durable. I would recommend this frame pack to anyone.

Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (Kept it)

Huge carrying capacity, it fits me after modifying with a smaller hip belt and adding a crossbar so the load lifter straps were the correct height.


  • It is big, lots of space and even more below the pack
  • Seems sturdy enough—have had it for years, no issues with anything breaking.
  • Comfortable after lots of mods


  • I did this the hard way. Buying everything separately was stupid. But I wanted a big pack and once I got started I could not quit.

Bought the frame then took off everything except the shoulder straps. The hip belt was too large, bought a smaller one (they have 3 sizes of hip belt).

Put a pack on the frame (PACK BAG ACCESSORY FOR COMMANDER) as found on this website  

There were no shoulder strap lifters so I bought another cross tube to have someplace to attach the load lifter straps. I drilled more holes in the top tube so I could raise it and get the additional cross tube installed. (ALPS sells them). 

Finally, I had a pack, 86 liters capacity + bottom space where the ledge is. It works well.  It may be the most comfortable pack I have ever used. I put it on, adjust the different straps, then forget it until I take it off miles later. I put the shelf back on, added a bear canister holder, and that is where my canister goes now. Bonus—the pack now stands up on its own; this is more useful than you might think.

I watch people with their internal frames and after a few miles they are trying to get weight moved cause they hurt—simply does not happen with me and this pack. Here is the message: you can customize external frames easily. Internals are a fad as far as I am concerned for backpacking because they are not easily customized. 


If I did it again I would have bought an external frame with shoulder lifters that fit me out the door instead of making it into a project.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: altogether probably $200

I bought this pack four years ago, used it twice to pack out elk quarters for a friend, one load each as there were three of us. Went to use it this year and every single strap broke and fell apart from dry rot or bad quality.

Their warranty dept. told me because it's 4 years old it's considered normal wear and tear and not covered. Offered to sell me another one for the same price that I could buy it online for—not a good deal and terrible limited lifetime warranty, more like a one year warranty I guess.


  • Great design, poor materials


  • Poor quality straps



Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $75

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Price MSRP: $149.99
Historic Range: $95.79-$98.39
Reviewers Paid: $75.00
Frame 35-41" H x 15.5" W (Commander)
Torso Range 17-23 in (Commander)
Waist Belt Range 33-60 in (Commander)
Weight 5 lbs 7 oz (Commander)
Capacity 86L / 5250 in³ (Commander Pack Bag)
Main Compartment 33 x 16 x 8.5 in
Spotting Scope Pocket 16 x 6 x 2.5 in
Weight 2 lbs 8 oz (Commander Pack Bag)
Product Details from ALPS OutdoorZ »

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