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Internal or external frame?

backpacks-200x148I need a new backpack. What’s better: Internal or external frame?

– Confused Carl, Aptos, Calif.

Dear Confused, you must be a mind reader because thousands of other guys are wondering this same thing. Then again, if you really were a mind reader you wouldn’t need to ask me questions because you’d already know exactly what I was thinking, right?

I digress.

So, backpacking packs come in two types. External frames packs are those with a framework on the outside. These old-school-style packs are the best choice if you’ll be hiking mostly on groomed trails carrying lots of weight. They’re especially good at transferring the load so you can hike in a more comfortable upright stance. They’re also about half the cost of an internal frame pack, which has its support hidden inside like a skeleton.

Internal frame packs are usually more form-fitting, so they are better for guys who’ll be hiking rugged trails that require freedom of movement and balance. Most internal frame packs have one huge compartment with a couple of zippered access points, whereas external frame packs usually have lots of smaller compartments that make organization easier. You can also easily attach extra gear – such as a sleeping bag or fishing rod – to the frame.

Which type of pack is better is really up to you and your needs.


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84 Comments on Internal or external frame?

  1. INTERNAL FRAMES ARE BETTER THEY ARE EASY ACCESS YOU DO NOT GET SNAGGED ON SRUFF AND LOTS OF ROOM WORKED GREAT FOR ME ON PHILMONT IT WAS LIGHT WEIGHT AND HAS LOTS OF ROOM LOOK AT REI THEY HAVE GREAT SERVIC AND FIT PACKS WELL THEY CAN BE A BIT PRICY THOUGH BUT THEY HAVE SALES AND THAT IS HOW I GOT MINE FOR CHEAPER

  2. i am going to philmont in august 2009 it will help THANKS

  3. i had think it can be hard to strap and even fit certain external frame packs into canoes one boy in my troop had to strap it onto the gunnels wich isnt very desirable just somthing to think about

  4. I personally think Internal Frames are better

  5. Internal frames will ride snug against your body which can be great in tight spaces. The drawback I have noted on internal frames is that they DO ride snug against you…which means they trap heat against you….and you sweat more. That means you will need more water to drink, and if there is not a source you must carry the extra water weight making the pack weight potentially substantial. If you are cold weather packing…the extra warmth can be a real good thing though…

    So consider the type of hiking you plan…cold weather and caving or tight confines do lean toward the internal..hot wether and long trips, the external with the air flow acrtoss the back and the extra capacity of hanging stuff outside the frame is very handy.

  6. Mr.Everest // March 8, 2008 at 6:17 pm // Reply

    I have an external frame kelty youkon 2900. It is good for open trails and long-term camping trips, and has a good amount of freedom to carry alot of gear. But however it has a down side, it doesn alow you to move in certain ways, such as if you need balence on the trail it does not move with your body and is rather stiff and makes manuvering difficult wich doesnt mean its bad but it would be nice to have alittle more freadom.

  7. Backwoods_Traveler // March 3, 2008 at 10:02 pm // Reply

    I have used both an internal and external frame. Having the opportunity to do guidework through NC in the Blueridge parkway area, I have had the opportunity to stay on the trail and do some fantastic bushwhacking, with both an external and internal frame. It is true that external Frames carrying weight fantastically and at times can be well organized. With that being said, I have a Kelty Stormcloud 5600 and it is fantastic. Well organized, carries weight well, excellent durabiltiy. The internal frame sits much closer to my back and allows me to do much more maneuvering, especially in tight bush areas or water scenarios. The internal frame pack also seem to be the lighter of the two. It all comes down to preference, however in certain conditions, the internal has always proved invaluable.

  8. I have a kelty coyote and its awesome. its internal

  9. I have the scout external frame, but personaly, i think internals are better,

  10. I’ve have a Kelty Sierra Crest, witch is a external frame, And I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    With some space on the inside and sides, you can put some importent gear in it, like food and stuff, and on the out side you can hang pot’s, tie fishing kits to it, and if your like my little brother, a helment.

    So I’d go with an External pack.

    Yours in scouting

    Eagletrail

    P.s. Kelty arn’t selling Sierra Crest’s any more.

    P.s.s. I’ve had my pack for four years now.

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