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Considering external frame
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Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
Considering external frame on 05/28/2013 11:44:52 MDT Print View

Im thinking about going back to an external frame pack. I pulled out an old external frame K2 that is in great shape. The pack is meant to carry more weight than I would ever carry even before going light.

The shoulder straps- heavily padded and adjustable to fit my body.

The hip belt- also heavily padded, has interesting set up that brings the weight forward on the belt instead of the full load just puling down the back of you(will post pics).

I took the pack and removed the pack part leaving only the frame, shoulder straps and hip belt. Now my plan is to attach my bear can to the bottom acting like a platform to then put my main packbody(or in this case I will be using a schnozzle for an exped mat). I will attach the pack body with guy line.

Carries 15 pounds as comfortably as 40
versatile- I can always add more volume by strapping on another stuff sack.
bombproof- There is no pack body to fail
adjustable to my body- fully adjustable for maximum comfort
beathability- no pack body means nothing against my back except a little mesh.

heavier than typical Ul pack
Loading can take some getting used to. (but could be faster depending on the user.)
can be more pack than necessary in a lot of conditions
Seperate day pack needs to be carried.

Im not trying to make an external frame pack Ultralight as much as I am just going to be throwing my UL gear in/on an external frame. I'm thinking that this would be the most comfortable option.... I have always missed the rigid way in which external frames cling to your body and the adjustability for improved fit. Also, padding, I like heavy comfortable pads. I dont mind weight if the purpose of the weight is to make carrying it comfortable. It doesnt matter if you have a 4 lb pack weight if you have floss for shoulder straps.

Does any one else still use or has gone back to an external frame just carrying lighter loads with it and loving life?

Has anyone made this change and then immediatly changed back?


Edit: added a disadvatage to original post.

Edited by needsAbath on 05/30/2013 15:08:54 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Considering external frame on 05/28/2013 17:30:20 MDT Print View

I sill sometimes use an external -- mostly of nostalgia. Pretty easy to get under 10lbs base weight. But they aren't my preference.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Considering external frame on 05/28/2013 19:28:38 MDT Print View

Yup, with my own MYOG frames. Anywhere from <8 kg total to ~28 kg (in to a snow base camp). Very comfortable.


Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Re: Considering external frame on 05/28/2013 20:07:04 MDT Print View

I'm not yet a ULer but I try to keep weight down generally and I like my external frame a lot. A cool back, a rigid frame, a 25lb total pack weight seems to work well together. I also like to tie a bear canister on the frame for that solid feel. Soft, frameless packs have their appeal too but I think you need to get lighter than I am for them to be comfortable.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Considering external frame on 05/28/2013 22:10:17 MDT Print View

I have friends who still love / use their A16 external frames that were made in the 1970s even though all the rest of their gear has gone ultralight. They love the ventilation, the carry comfort, and the ability to carry A LOT of food for multiple week trips without resupply.

10+ years ago Brawny described her packbagless system.

LuxuryLite is the ultralight version of an external frame pack, and Bill did some interesting prototypes such as his external frame winter pack.

Personally, external frame packs have never worked well for me, I MUCH prefer internal frame that are very close to my body, but as the saying goes, Hike your own Hike!


Edited by verber on 05/29/2013 08:39:05 MDT.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
pictures of Ultra-frame on 05/28/2013 22:58:58 MDT Print View

ultra-frameultra-frame 2ultra-frame3

That is it with my gear loaded in. Its missing my rain gear, stove, and my extras ie fishing pole Ipad camera. weighs in at 11.2 pounds and carries like its nothing. Well on short hikes/walks anyway. And so very comfortable. I feel like another 5-10 lbs would not make much difference with this set up. Atleast on the shoulders and hips, the legs are a different story.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
considering external frame on 05/29/2013 18:54:57 MDT Print View

I have one of the ZPacks external frame packs. I love the way it carries the weight on my hips, especially when I have to carry extra food and water.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
Re: considering external frame on 05/29/2013 22:17:48 MDT Print View

I just threw my whole kit in it today(basically adding rain gear, day pack, stove and fuel) and I'm just under 15 pounds and feels good. I'm going to take it to horse tail falls and see how it does this weekend.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Very cool K2 Pack on 05/30/2013 11:06:46 MDT Print View

Notwithstanding the heretical nature of you even having posted photos of an external frame pack, let me congratulate you on the finished prototype you posted photos of. It looks great, it looks light and it looks comfortable! I love the ess-bend frame design on the K2, also.

Out of nostalgia and frugality, I use an external frame pack with the lightest loads I can manage inside it. Mine's a 1980 Kelty Tioga XL with 2009 shoulder straps but the original cam-lok hip belt. I have owned and used internal-frame packs, but they were heavier than the Kelty and were not as comfortable. I enjoy the ventilation, the ease of loading, the organization of my external pockets and, frankly, the ability to carry loads such as a large bear canister inside the pack without sacrificing stability or security of the load. I even keep the removable extender bar in the pack, because there have been those times where it's been useful to strap on either deer meat or another hiker's pack...and I am nostalgic. :) Total carry weight for 7 days, including 3 liters of water, full BearVault 500, stove, fuel, all of a tent, REI tripod stool, kite, camera and "croc-off" camp shoes is reliably at 35lb on day one and the rig carries it "lightly" if that term can apply.

Having carried 62lb in the same pack, I can assure you, 35lb can be lightly and 27lb for a summer weekend is heavenly.

I think the K-2 system needs a pack cover to protect the upper load from sun and brush.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
Re: Very cool K2 Pack on 05/30/2013 15:06:52 MDT Print View

Pack cover is a great light addition.

It was a concern of mine that the snozzel bag at one point in time fail while bush whacking or falling over...... or something lacking the grace in which was intended. But I carry a lot patches with me along with sil tape and thread and needle so I should be fine. Also, I dont really NEED to use my schnozzle to blow up the Exped synmat.

I was thinking I could go buy a couple different size pack liners also so that I have different capacity options available for the actual pack body. Well and they are pretty cheap...

Thank you for the response!

Edited by needsAbath on 05/30/2013 16:13:42 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: pictures of Ultra-frame on 05/30/2013 15:16:45 MDT Print View

Nice frame and I like the upper suspension. I like the pad around the bear can too. A frame like that has great potential for photographers, geologists and packrafters.

I wonder if an external frame pack and a packraft could be hybridized, like the rowing frame in a whitewater rig? Dangerous thoughts.....

I did a postmortem review of sorts on an old Jansport pack at

I think a lot can be done with external frames using UL principles and some modern fabrics.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
Re: Re: pictures of Ultra-frame on 05/30/2013 16:31:14 MDT Print View

"I wonder if an external frame pack and a packraft could be hybridized, like the rowing frame in a whitewater rig? Dangerous thoughts....."

Thats funny I was thinking the same thing! imean im not a pack rafter but for some reason the same thought poppen in my mind.

And photography is one of many reasons I was wanting to make something like this. The gear for photography is usually very compact for the weight so I would need UL size pack with paddingand belts to carry a heavy load and Ive looked every where(not literal) with no success. Things like tripods just dont fit inside packs well and strapping a 6 pound tri-pod on the outside of my gorilla just doesnt work well I've tried.

Funniest thing about that k2 pack is I got it used I when I 13-14 for nothing(I think at a garage sale). Now 15 years later im going to try to use it again..... I dont know how many UL packs will make it that long with plenty of life still in them

Mike Farrell

Locale: C.A
Thinking along the same lines on 06/02/2013 12:09:59 MDT Print View

I find a that a bear can makes my Circuit a bit uncomfortable. Since Kifaru packs fit me like a glove I have a Kifaru Bikini frame on the way. I like the idea of having a very comfortable frame regardless of the weight placed on it. Check this 6oz bag from HPG that will strap right on just about any external frame.
Hill People Gear pack bag

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
kool bag on 06/03/2013 09:20:54 MDT Print View

I like that bag.. ill have to look into them when I get home.

Im thinking of adding nylon webbing straps. Three with buckles and change out the bear can ones also to add two straps with buckles. It'll look a lot better and pack easier.

Ill update picks after I order the stuff and am able to get it together.

but the pack works great so far.

Ivo Vanmontfort
(Ivo) - MLife
from internal to external on 07/01/2013 07:43:34 MDT Print View

I used an old internal frame of a Gregory pack (shasta)
that I transformed into an external frame
Similar to a epic ula
some photo's
Some thoughts on my (Dutch) blog
The idea was that I wanted an extension for my short sleeping mat

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: from internal to external on 07/01/2013 09:11:07 MDT Print View

Very cool, Ivo. Is there no support strap on the bottom?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Scouts and couples on 07/01/2013 09:57:52 MDT Print View

I led Scouts on one-night overnights from a fixed week-long camp. Some wouldn't have a backpack. We had loaner frames. Throw everything in their sleeping bag, roll it down, and use a diamond or spider hitch to lash it to the frame. Lighter, cheaper. My troop had a few wooden frames - frames only - for the same purposes. Add a trash-compactor bag for rain. Add a simple fanny pack for sunscreen, water, snack accessibility.

Couples: one partner could do this. The other partner could have a UL soft pack with less weight in it but quicker access to lunch, water, rain gear, etc. Solves the whole bear can dilemna.

Worry less about the frame, but carefully select the suspension system.

Ivo Vanmontfort
(Ivo) - MLife
supported on 07/01/2013 10:42:15 MDT Print View

@ spelt
At the bottom, the two webbings are crossed
and fixed in the middle with a trigide

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
nice on 07/02/2013 20:23:06 MDT Print View

Wow that external you made is awesome. and it appears you have made different sacks for attachment.

I finished mine the other day. I attached the straps to the frame and I have my day pack holding my snacks and easy access stuff. for the main compartment I am using and OR UL drysack

That is fully loaded with everything but food and water and weighs in at 16lbs.





Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: nice on 07/03/2013 00:04:14 MDT Print View

Seems like you will be all set if you can just resist the urge to start drilling holes out of the frame! I guess a titanium frame external would be out of the question. With the extra hardware it seem a shame not to have it multi-use, such as fold into a chair when in camp. Possibly I'm mixing milieus too much here - been brainwashed.