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Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

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Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby HikingGeek.com » Tue May 24, 2016 6:11 pm

Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

When looking for a new pack, do you consider external frame packs, or do you feel that the technology outdated? Do the lighter loads carried by hikers today make external frames unnecessary? I hadn't really considered buying one until I saw a surprising number of people coming over Kearsarge Pass using external frame packs this past July.

While it's been a goal of mine to reduce my pack weight in general, I usually carry a few electronic items that tend to push my pack weight into territory that's too heavy for most UL packs. These items include a Delorme inReach Explorer, my camera and camera clip, phone, solar charger and occasionally, a tripod. These items can easily add 10 lbs or more to my base weight. While many would consider these to be unneccesary or luxury items, they are essential for me to have the experience I want to have on the trail.

I've been using a Seek Outside Divide 4500 as my primary pack since February. Oddly, I didn't really realize how much I like this pack and how much it makes sense for me until I sat down to write my review this past weekend. I see it being my go-to pack whenever I carry more than 30 lbs, when it's preferable to strap items to the outside of my pack for extended periods of time (snowshoes, bear canister, crampons, ice axe, etc.) or when damaging my pack is a concern (brush and cuben fiber don't play well together). While heavier than what most would consider lightweight, the comfort and durability of this pack are well worth the extra weight in my opinion. It's one of the best packs I've ever used.  If your pack tends to be on the heavy side (30+ pounds) and a pack in this price range is in your budget ($350), you should give the Divide 4500 some serious consideration.

You can read my review in its entirety by clicking on one of the photos below:
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Gear Review: Seek Outside Divide 4500 Ultralight External Frame Backpack



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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby longri » Tue May 24, 2016 6:45 pm

It pretty much goes without saying that for larger loads a sturdier (which usually means somewhat heavier) pack is the better choice.
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue May 24, 2016 8:22 pm

I have remade my old Kelty - replaced shoulder straps and waist belt with lighter versions, and sewed a very lightweight pack bag. The entire pack, with extension bar (to carry the bear can) plus the stuff sack and straps for the sleeping bag, weighs 3.75 pounds. I use this anytime I have to carry more than 40 pounds. I actually like external frames - very comfortable carry. My internal frame packs weigh from 1-3 pounds. The homemade pack bag is a prototype made of old stuff sacks. I am going to someday sew a real bag, perhaps using Cuben material, if I ever get brave enough to sew on such expensive material!

The load carries differently from an internal frame pack. Once you learn how to pack it, and how to walk with it, I find that it is no more unstable than an internal pack with the same weight. You are not exactly agile with any pack if you are carrying 60-70 pounds. Heaviest load I carried on an external frame is about 100 pounds- carried out elk meat for 7 miles. Never care to do that again! When my kids were babies, I inserted a floating seat and had a canopy when taking the babies backpacking. That old Kelty is a real do-it-all workhorse. You can even lash two external frames to poles and make a litter to carry out an injured person.
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Hobbes » Tue May 24, 2016 8:24 pm

Kook carrying 30lbs on a frameless, 45L MYOG backpack. Dyneema 210 & Gutermann Mara 70 thread [Tex 40 not the Tex 30 of the generic Sew-All Mara 100] have no problem; it's the human element that is the fail point:

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Reformed kook with 58L internal frame pack (Osprey Exos 58):

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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Cross Country » Wed May 25, 2016 10:10 am

I never (bagged) peaks but I went over many difficult cross country passes like Millys foot. Of course when doing this you want a stable pack. I still always usted a external frame because for me they were just more comfortable.
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Tom_H » Wed May 25, 2016 4:22 pm

Wandering Daisy and I likely started out with the same external frame pack-a Kelty expedition frame with a custom expedition bag made by Paul Petzoldt Wilderness Equipment out of Lander, WY. It was one voluminous external frame bag. Nevertheless, within a couple of years I found my Internal Frame Synergy Works 7200 in3 Expedition pack much superior, then my Gregory Denali the penultimate freight carrier.

After getting old, I went to ultralight internal frames. I didn't get light enough to go completely frameless.
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed May 25, 2016 7:17 pm

I never used a PP pack bag. My Kelty was pure Kelty all the way! Although I worked for NOLS, I preferred and used my own equipment instead of theirs. My current prototype Kelty is a newer frame I picked up at the REI garage sale for $20. The newer frames use slightly thinner dimension aluminum and are a bit lighter lighter. Comfort depends on weight carried. Once up to 50+ pounds the Kelty is more comfortable. Gregory packs are also load haulers, but they just do not fit me for some reason. Nothing carries bulk like an external frame. When I backpacked with my kids and had to carry most of their stuff in addition to mine, the external frame allowed endless bulk. It also did very well carrying technical climbing gear, ropes, helmets, crampons, etc. into base camp. An external frame pack is very versatile if you do a lot of odd-ball stuff, like take off the bag and lash on half an elk.

I think everyone has a specific and different body build, and what works best for one is not necessarily the best for another. I think Hobbs no frame pack works well for him because he has a good sized back length. A sleeping pad can provide structure to a frameless pack. Not sure it would work for me, as short as I am, and definitely would not work with a bear can loaded with 10 days food.
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed May 25, 2016 7:19 pm

Sorry Hobbes. I keep mis-spelling your name. :o
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Hobbes » Thu May 26, 2016 7:40 am

Just think of the author of Leviathan, after whom Hobbes, of Calvin & Hobbes, is named:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hobbes

And yes, 40+ years of surfing provide a strong back, but frameless packs still don't work very well past 20, 25lbs max.
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby Jimr » Thu May 26, 2016 12:45 pm

I tried an internal frame in the mid 1980's and didn't like it, so I took it back to REI and got an external frame pack that I used for 30 years before replacing last year with a new internal frame pack. I'm comfortable with either one, but prefer the internal frame these days. Much better design than many years ago

P8180337.JPG
2010



Horseshoe to Shepherd 026-4.JPG
2015
What?!
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby zacjust32 » Thu May 26, 2016 3:26 pm

The lack of back sweat on an external frame is a huge plus for me
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Re: Internal Frame vs. External Frame Packs

Postby freestone » Fri May 27, 2016 8:58 pm

My first backpacking trip into the Sierra with some of us using wooden external frames. August 1967, "Summer of Love". We were more beach bum and less moutaineer.

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Times have changed and now my external frame pack is the Exped Lightning. This frame departs from the traditional square design by using a more anatomical approach, the single flat bar as the spine, the small cross bar at the top as the shoulder girdle, and the belt attached directly to the bar in the sacral area transferring the weight to the hips. This design does a good job of keeping the weight close to the core and transferring weight directly to the hips.

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I have now seen it go full circle with packs- external, internal, frameless, hybrid, and back to external. My all time favorite external frame pack for monster loads or ultralight was the Kelty 50th Anniversary pack. Kelty abandoned that design after a couple of years and went back to the original concept.
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