M MYOG: Contoured Side Panels for Improved Load Carry in Frameless Packs

by David Chenault

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Article Summary:

Four years ago, Ryan Jordan reviewed the Zpacks Blast 18, an excellent example of the sort of frameless pack which has been a haulmark of lightweight backpackers, and is almost certain to remain so.  A frameless pack, most meaningfully defined as a pack lacking any frame whatsoever beyond a folded foam pad, carries truly light loads very well when properly packed.  All things equal, a frameless pack will also always be lighter than any other alternative.  

That said numerous design choices will create a frameless pack which is better predisposed to carry weight well.  Proper height and depth for the given volume is one.  As Will Rietveld explained several years ago in his frameless article state of the market report, the ability to pack the contents of a frameless pack to a point above the torso length enables load transfer to the hips (if this is desired), and facilitates a controllable center of mass (i.e. some hikers prefer the greatest weight at a certain point inside the pack itself).  Side panel contouring is another factor, which has unfortantely been far less frequently discussed.  Below, I present my ideas for how side panel contouring on frameless packs can improve efficiency.

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