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Going Frameless? Will my back regret it?
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/24/2012 18:36:26 MST Print View

I recently bought a Boreas Buttermilk 40L, and I could go on for days with how thrilled I am with that bag. Will review upon request.

Anyways, the bag has a plastic sheet and a metal tubing frame system that is fully removable, as shown here. Note, there are two of them in this photo:
Boreas Frame Sheet

After taking the frame out, It's easy to pack the bag in such a way that the foam backpanel keeps it's shape, and the nature of that foam being so thick and substantial, I can't really detect a difference with or without the frame; if anything, the fit seems better without the frame!

My question is, am I going to damage my back if I were to hike extensively without the frame if my baseweight is around 13-15lbs? I don't know how large a role a frame has in redistributing weight to the right places, but I don't want to risk an injury.


Edited by mdilthey on 11/24/2012 18:37:51 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Will Your Back Regret a Frameless Pack? Depends... on 11/24/2012 19:30:40 MST Print View

As surely you know, there are tradeoff's between full frame vs. frameless packs -- else everyone would have gravitated to frameless a long time ago!

The trick is to match your pack with your gear volume and weight. You just need a pack that will give you the comfort you need. Once you are at that point, you do NOT need a heavier pack with stouter frame and beefier padding for extra comfort. Why not? Because carrying a heavier/stouter pack to provide additional comfort that you don't require (for your gear weight) just means putting that much more poundage onto your hips, legs, ankles, and feet!

So, how do you know what gear weight matches frameless packs well? There's general rule of thumb for starting point -- and then there's actual experimentation. And I would focus on your total pack weight -- in terms of the type / duration of hikes you take. As a general rule, most people are perfectly OK using frameless packs to carry weights of up to 25lbs.

Given your base weight, you are a good candidate to try out frameless packs. Best way is to pack up and do a nearby hike -- or even hike the neighborhood for an hour or three. If you feel no particular discomfort or stress points, then the pack is right for you. Remember, we are all different.

Hope this helps.

Edited by ben2world on 11/24/2012 19:35:51 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/24/2012 19:52:12 MST Print View

The issue isn't your back or injury, it's your shoulders. With heavier loads, you wont be able to put the load on your hips and most of it will be on your shoulders. They can get sore easily. You can condition your shoulders a bit to prevent soreness.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Anecdotes on 11/24/2012 20:29:00 MST Print View

I've heard anecdotal war stories from people who hiked 200 miles with a bag, only to be taken off the trail for an injured back because they didn't realize the pack was relying on the wrong muscle groups. Any weight to these stories? (no pun intended)

Justin: the thicker foam padding near the bottom of the Boreas seems to allow load transfer to the hips. That particular issue may be remedied.

Edited by mdilthey on 11/24/2012 20:29:46 MST.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Total Pack Weight on 11/24/2012 21:02:04 MST Print View

What you have to keep in mind when choosing framed/frameless packs is not just base weight but total pack weight. I saw on another thread that you're considering a thru-hike of the Long Trail. Figure out not only what your base weight will be but the maximum load you will carry with food and water. That will make or break the difference in weight between carrying the frame or not.

Also, test it out extensively beforehand and see if the extra ounces are worth it on a long hike or totally unnecessary. Only you can decide.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Frames on 11/24/2012 21:08:12 MST Print View

For a 13-15 pound baseweight I would ALWAYS us an internal frame pack. You can carry 25 pounds (and occasionally more) in a frameless pack in tolerable comfort. But above 20 pounds I argue most people will feel a bit more comfortable with a frame. With a 13-15 pound baseweight you will probably top 20 pounds fairly often.

If you want to go frameless you should be using a sub 2 pound pack and savine 1 or 2 pounds over the weight of the Buttermilk. But if you carry the Buttermilk you are only adding a few ounces by keeping the frame. In my opinion 5-10 oz more for a frame is worth it.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Buttermilk v. UL on 11/24/2012 21:14:21 MST Print View

I think, because of its minimalist construction, the only difference between my Buttermilk and an UL pack is some durability in the bottom section and the luxurious back foam panel. My Buttermilk is a hair under 2lbs without the frame sheet, so the 1lb tradeoff for the durability and the comfort seems like weight well spent. That is relevant, since a lot of frameless UL packs will feel very different than mine, and the associated issues will be different. Perhaps.

When I load it up with 13lbs as my baseweight and then add water, I can feel the weight on my shoulders but also on my hips, and the feel of the backpanel is no different from when I'm using the frame. One thing I forgot to consider, however, is the 5lbs of camera gear I have on my shoulders, resting in front of me on a chestpack. My backpack might weigh sub-20, but my shoulders are carrying that +5lbs.

Still, if the foam sheet redistributes to my hips, this seems possibly doable.

I think testing is my only surefire way to solve this, but I wondered if anyone had a similar experience worth sharing. I'm loving the feedback: THANK YOU!

Edited by mdilthey on 11/24/2012 21:15:11 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Buttermilk vs. UL on 11/24/2012 22:03:12 MST Print View

Well if your Buttermilk is a bit under 2 pounds that must be a rather heavy framesheet. If I recall the specs said the Buttermilk with framesheet was right at 3 pounds. Saving that extra pound might be worth it but again it comes back to total pack weight and what your body can handle.

Everyone is different but my sweet spot is about 20 pounds. Up to about 18-20 a frameless pack is about the same as a framed pack. Over that limit I CAN carry a frameless pack without horrible pain, but I can tell its not as comfortable as a pack with a frame in it.

If you are feeling weight on your shoulders then comfort is basically going to boil down to your physiology. Some people are more comfortable with weight on their shoulders then others.

Remember saving a pound is great but it is still maybe 5% of your total pack weight. If carrying 5% more reasults in greater comfort then don't worry about it.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Clarification on 11/24/2012 22:18:20 MST Print View

Thanks for noticing my numbers- I double checked it. My pack is 2lb 5oz without the framesheet, and the framesheet weighs 11oz.

I honestly don't know how I hold up physiologically compared to others. I have broad shoulders and a strong back and absolutely no pain while backpacking, but I also have a desperate fear of a 40 year old version of myself who has back/knee problems, so I try to take precautions.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Frame on 11/24/2012 22:30:29 MST Print View

If your frame really weighs 11 oz. and there is still ample foam on the pack, look into some MYOG frames that will save you some weight. I wonder if you could easily integrate the Gossamer Gear U-stay into the pack somehow or add twin aluminum ones.

/*/Edited for above information/*/

Edited by GlacierRambler on 11/24/2012 22:32:54 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Clarification on 11/24/2012 22:48:49 MST Print View

Well I don't think you can do too much damage trying it out for short hikes. I had an overuse injury to my back at work but it built up for a long time. Listen to your body, if you are constantly sore or especially if the pain is concentrated in a certain area (as opposed to an overall soreness from a hard day's work), change something.

Now if you are planning a thru-hike I might keep the frame both becuase I think 10-11oz is worth it for the frame and because a framed pack is much more forgiving if you do kink your back somehow. I did 400 plus miles with my back only partially recovered and was fine with my internal frame pack. My frameless pack on the other hand was hugely uncomfortable even with a weekend load.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/25/2012 06:58:47 MST Print View

Generally, duration between resupply points, will dictate pack weight. Once you establish a base weight, such as yours at 15 pounds, then live loads will determine the actual totals. If you want a week's supply of food, that means about 14pounds for most people and a 29 pound pack weight plus fuel and water. Easily, you are topping 30 pounds.

At 30pounds you need some sort of frame.

At 15 pounds you do not.

So, these are the two end points for your weight parameters. I would go for a smaller pack, and reduce the base weight to about 8-10 pounds. Then reduce your weight for food by using high density foods. This will get you to 25pounds for a week. Add a CCF pad, mounted internally, an this will add the difference between needing a framed pack and not needing one.

For example: Cutting a CCF pad, fanfolded into next to your back makes a good frame and padding against tuff in there. It still doubles for sleeping.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Suggestion on 11/25/2012 09:05:12 MST Print View

Load up your frameless version pack with the maximum you will carry, and go for a one or two night hike. See how it feels. Go on from there!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
You've got to try it out... on 11/25/2012 10:38:02 MST Print View

+1 for just going out and trying it. I treat a lot of bad backs and knees in my clinic and honestly, if you don't have any trouble with your back or knees now, nothing is really going to "sneak" up on you on a thru-hike that you wouldn't have seen coming. And if it does, it most certainly was NOT because you took out the frame in your pack.

Honestly, load up with as much weight as you would maximally carry (even if you just carry a bunch of water to add to the overall poundage) and take some short and longer trips with it. You'll know right away if it's not carrying right, then you can make adjustments either to your overall weight or the frame.

No worries about your 40-year-old self sneaking up on you...unless you fall off a cliff and break your leg, none of these kinds of injuries are surprises. Even backs...

And speaking as a 40-something with a bad back, I just switched from my framed Exos 46 to a GG Gorilla and my back simply LOVES it. I've been backpacking for more than 20 years and this is the first time I realized that my shoulders didn't have to hurt. Which is exactly opposite of what you'd think from going frameless.....

So load up and go hike. It's the only way to answer your question.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Suggestion on 11/25/2012 11:02:58 MST Print View

on the LT the furthest i went between resupply was 4.5 days 84mi from the Inn to Jonesville/Richmond. and from Smugglers notch to the end 4days 70mi

so worst case.. 5 days food 2L of water see what it feels like.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Thanks Jennifer! on 11/25/2012 22:38:34 MST Print View

Jennifer, thank you. That's very much the answer I was looking for- assurance that I'm not going to hurt myself and that there are possible exceptions to general rules about weight. I was iffy since my pack weight was 25-30 and that's right at the threshold- I will test it!

Dale South
(dsouth) - M

Locale: Southeast
RE; Jennifer on 11/26/2012 09:07:42 MST Print View

+1 on what Jennifer said except from a 65 yo who has been backpacking over 30 years. I also switched from an Exos and now carry a GG Gorilla also, and a GG Murmur and my shoulders and hips DO NOT hurt and my back also LOVES it.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Just Try It on 11/26/2012 10:47:04 MST Print View

I would say give it a try. I was thinking of the finer points of "most comfortable" you seem more worried about possible injury. Trust me if you are healthy enough to be backpacking no pack with 20-25 pounds in it is going to actually hurt you.

If you feel comfortable with it frameless that opens up the possibility of buying (or making) a frameless pack that is even lighter then what you have now.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
REALLY - for the weight of 2 aluminum strips... on 11/27/2012 15:16:00 MST Print View can have the comfort of transferring weight to your hips (and back to your shoulders for a while if desired).

Why anyone sould opt for a frameless pack to save maybe 2 to 4 ounces and sacrifice comfort has always been beyond me. As mentioned above, you also sacrifice load carrying ability with a frameless pack.

BTW, I have twice added 1" wide, pre-curved aluminum stays to packs to make them more comfortable. Loew's 1" aluminum strips and stainless bolts with washers and stainless Nylock nuts completes the setup. Melting bolt holes in the packcloth and framesheet is easy with a heated spike held in locked Vicegrips. But it must be done with great care.

Edited by Danepacker on 11/27/2012 15:19:51 MST.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
It's not necessarily for weight savings... on 11/27/2012 17:15:46 MST Print View

You're right - it's not worth sacrificing comfort to save 4-5 ounces. But in my case I resisted the idea of a frameless (because that's what I kept reading...and so that's what I thought) for more than a year before I tried the Gorilla (for size, for saving a pound, and because one of my hiking friends raved about her frameless).

As I mentioned before, I have never, ever had a pack this comfortable. I've carried EMS, REI, Gregory and Osprey packs over the years and every last one of them hurt in some way. Granted, some of those early years were just really really heavy, but the Gorilla is the first pack that I've not felt the urge to take off at rest stops and that I don't need to put blister dressings on my collarbones.

Everyone has a pack that works better for him or her, and the only way to know is just to try it out. I certainly wish I'd NOT paid attention to all the talk about how difficult frameless packs can be...I'd have started carrying one 2 years ago.