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External Frame Packs?
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Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: External Frame Packs? on 02/25/2013 13:51:48 MST Print View

I've used an external frame rigged to carry a chainsaw, it works great for that. It carries the weight about as well as you could hope for (still feels heavy though...) but the biggest drawback is that the damn frame gets caught on every branch or bush that hangs into the the trail. If you're looking for something to haul a big load an external frame is a good choice.

Regarding the sweaty back thing, I sweat a lot and even without a pack my back winds up soaked after a long walk. I guess I've just grown numb to it because I don't notice any difference between my packs with "ventilation channels" and my "stuffsacks with shoulder straps."


Alasdair Fowler
(MessiahKhan) - F

Locale: Newcastle, UK
External Frame Packs? on 02/25/2013 13:55:35 MST Print View

My recently launched company are working on a lightweight, carbon fibre, external framed pack. ;)
It's still very early days, so it is only in prototyping stages, but the design is looking promising.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: External Frame Packs? on 02/25/2013 13:58:33 MST Print View

The old externals aren't great for scrambling, ducking under blow downs or getting over coastal headlands. Trekking poles would be very handy with these top heavy packs, especially going down root ladders and tall stone steps.

No one has mentioned that an UL base weight feels like nothing in a big external. There's no need for compression stuff sacks and bear cans are easy.

It is interesting that a SUL external pack hasn't been developed for long unsupported treks. A carbon fiber X frame on the order of the Colman Peak 1 plastic frame would allow for all kinds of size adjustments. Add a Cuben bag, a light suspension and garnish with a biped :)

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"External Frame Packs?" on 02/25/2013 14:06:36 MST Print View

I've strapped a GG pack to a Luxurylite frame. Works great; weighs just over two pounds. Oh and it carries a bear canister on the bottom flange (lip) like a dream. All the advantages of an external and then some because the belt is so comfortable, for very little weight.

Roger Williams
(KayDub) - M

Locale: Idaho
Re: Re: Re: External Frame Packs? on 02/25/2013 14:10:40 MST Print View

I can also attest to the fact that when XC skiing, an external has the ability to come flying over a guy's head and drive him face first into the snow. Skiers with higher skill levels might not have to deal with this phenomenon.

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - MLife

Locale: New Zealand
Roger Caffin on 02/25/2013 15:34:14 MST Print View

Our favourite Mod Roger Caffin uses a MYOG external frame pack that weighs under 1kg (~2.2lb).

He has even has a page showing his design

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
MYOG Option on 02/25/2013 15:43:22 MST Print View

Here's an option for those of you who like to make your own gear.

External Frame Pack

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: Re: External Frame Packs? on 02/25/2013 15:46:03 MST Print View

pff just go packboard Hut Croo style.. (do repeated resupply loads for 3-6 months.. become a beast)

Edited by JakeDatc on 02/25/2013 15:47:43 MST.

Richard Fischel
packboard Hut Croo style.. on 02/25/2013 16:21:26 MST Print View

and no waist belts. like movers they like to keep the weight on their shoulders.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: packboard Hut Croo style.. on 02/25/2013 16:32:55 MST Print View

From what i've seen they tend to hike like they are posing there.. hands on the bottom rails to help take some of the load. regularly do 50-80lbs with 100lb load being a prized accomplishment.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: "External Frame Packs?" on 02/25/2013 17:10:35 MST Print View

I would like to see a leaner smaller external frame sized for modern UL loads. The pack bags can be changed and canisters and other things cold be strapped to it. The size of traditional externals seem too big for lighter loads and more compact gear. Would love to see what some modern external deigns would be like.

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Re: "External Frame Packs?" on 02/25/2013 17:46:00 MST Print View

Like Mr. Fowler, I am also working on a UL external frame, although, you are likely to see his before mine. I think there is a lot of potential for UL externals. Time, and the market, will tell I suppose.

Jason McSpadden
(JBMcSr1) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountains
External Frame Packs on 02/25/2013 17:51:06 MST Print View

What I have done is used an old but beautiful Trailwise external frame that weighs 2 lbs 8 ozs. with just the frame, shoulder straps, waist belt and back mesh but no packbag. Laid down my silnylon Rayway tarp and put all my gear in it. And then wrapped it up neatly and tied it to the frame using a diamond hitch. I haven't used this set up often. Kind of just an experiment. I realize it puts my shelter at risk being used as the packbag/wrap. I've thought about sewing a lighter pack bag or using a silnylon ground cloth as a substitute for the tarp. But I haven't done that yet. It's not ultra light but it is very comfortable. I think I could carry quite a bit with it--but I don't want to.


Diamond hitch video

Edited by JBMcSr1 on 02/25/2013 17:54:52 MST.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
external frame packs on 02/25/2013 17:56:12 MST Print View

My kelty has a MUCH higher center of gravity than my Lowe internal, which causes me to work more on rocky ”stair step like” trails. I think if the pack bag was attached 12” lower it would probably fix this problem.

The Kelty is also a lot wider, causing it to catch lots of branches on the trail, which almost pulls me over backwards sometimes. I think making the frame and pack bag 9-12” narrower, and mounting the bag lower would fix this.

The frame bars hit my shoulders when I swing my arms when walking naturally but quickly. I think making the frame narrower would fix this.

The many extra pockets were always ” not quite big enough to fit my filter, bowl, wind shell, etc, and I could never remember which pocket had which small item - so I ended up packing everything in the main compartment, and 1 big (lid sized) pocket.

The external pack swayed around when I walked. It didn't pull me around on rocky trails but an internal frame pack was much easier to hike with through rock / boulder fields.

The internal frame pack fit much better in a canoe or inside a tent, or in my car.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Thinking... on 02/25/2013 17:59:08 MST Print View

Thanks for the input. if I got the Kelty, it wouldn't be for moving fast or bushwhacking. Still, as you're not the first person to say this, I am giving more consideration.

I think I'll try one of the school Kelty's out for a weekend trip.

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Thinking... on 02/25/2013 18:25:12 MST Print View

if you are undecided, check out Craigslist and eBay. You should be able to find an old jansport or kelty for $20. Cheap way to find out if you like it before buying a new model. Unless of course you can borrow one for a weekend.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
External Frame Pack Features on 02/25/2013 19:30:50 MST Print View

I like the following features of an external frame pack because they allow me to experiment with and fine tune the fit and use of the pack:

(1) Frame can be adjusted upward or downward on waist belt.
(2) Bag can be adjusted upward or downward on the frame.
(3) Waist belt, shoulder straps frame and bag can be replaced independently because they typically aren't sewn to each other.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: External Frame Packs? on 02/25/2013 19:35:54 MST Print View

Some classics on Craigslist up here.

Really on trail they are fine.

Edited by kthompson on 02/25/2013 19:36:38 MST.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Switched back and forth, stuck with internal frame packs on 02/25/2013 22:50:15 MST Print View

Started with external frame packs way back when (no-name Boy Scout, REI, Trailwise). Switched to internal frame in the 1980s - MUCH more comfortable, and smaller volume meant I had to carry less, enforcing a kind of lightweight discipline.

Skipping ahead to early 2000s, tried a variety of internal frame packs that handled traditional weights poorly. Tried the Luxurylite, but I hated the fit and the rigid frame (other people love them). So went back to internal frame and learned to pack much lighter! I can tolerate occasional overloads to 35 lbs (e.g. long water carries), YMMV.

I sweat like a pig with either internal or external frames, no major difference for me. A good synthetic t-shirt works wonders.

HMG Windrider is my current pack of choice.

Generally speaking, if you want light weight and comfort, internal frames work best. If you want or need to carry a lot of weight, check out external frames.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Light vs. Comfort on 02/26/2013 07:22:54 MST Print View

Generally speaking, if you want light and narrow at the expense of comfort and ventilation, the internal- or frameless-backpacks and rucksacks are better.

If you want comfort, ventilation, high-placement of your load and/or the ability to carry more load, an external-framed pack will be better.

If you want what's most trendy, the last few decades give you an internal frame and these days you need some translucent, disco material to really make the grade. All the cool kids have it. The link to Roger's home-built, UL external-frame backpack with UL materials crosses all boundaries and must therefore somehow be immoral and likely illegal in Australia. :)

"Generally Speaking", implies the existence of exceptions and acknowledges that we might all be "more comfortable" with the product(s) we've invested in.

The largest-capacity packs one can buy are internal-framed rigs with far more capacity than any commercially-available, external-framed packbag. I think back to a couple we met on the PCT a few years ago, he with a giant, blue cordura internal-frame that must have been 40" tall and which he reported to be 80lb for their 7-day trek. when he set it down, I think I felt it thump the earth... His comment at my Kelty was that he used to have one, but it couldn't carry enough stuff! All I could think was how that entire load rode right on his back. Nuts, man. Probably very comfortable!

Noting the absence of UL-Externals on the commercial market, it's also notable that the typical internal-framed backpack, say at REI, weighs far more than an external-framed pack of similar volume capacity. They're heavier, less comfortable, more expensive and cantilever the load out off the back with a narrow profile. This is another reason why the reliable, light, comfortable, ventilated external-frame packs are still preferred by many youth and adults that care (and that carry higher-than UL load weights). Go with the stuff that weighs less and works better. How cool would it be to have external-framed, commercial packs with UL-quality packbags? VERY.