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Internal frame versus extrenal frame packs?

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So, I decided I was going to get an external fram backp[ack. Looked at a few and even got a recommendation from a member here who I trust.


Well today, while at the scout shop, I tried on another external frame and it fely really good and comfortable.

Can't remember the brand name of model name at the moment.


So, I was also turing in some paperwork to our concil registrar. We got talking and she told me she is going to hike the AT next weekend. So we started talking about backpacks and such, and I asked her what she thought of the one I was leaning towards.


She then tells me that I should go with an internal frame instead - mainly because an external can catch tree branches while hiking.


I told hetr my idea of using carabiners to clip stuff onto the frame and she said that was the second reason to go internal _ to avoid weighing it down b y adding alot of stuff to the outside.


Okay, I get theb tree thing, but If I add too much weight, isn't trhat a "me" problem and not a "pack" problem?


So, Eagle92 - and others:


Which has worked better for you - an external or internal frame pack?

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It's really what is going to be best for you. I think your going to get multiple opinions here, which can just add to the confusion. The everlasting debate internal vs external frames.


I spent 3 years reading reviews here and different sites, and talking to people in the troop about the best back pack type. I finally just "manned" up and went to REI and tried on a bunch of different packs with weight combinations, both external and internal.


Obviously walking around the store for 30 minutes wasn't going to represent a day on the trail, but it gave me an idea of what I liked and didn't, and what to look for in form and function.


Me personally, I'm tall in my chest area, so I needed something a little longer for that. I finally got it down to the Osprey Aether or a Deuter, I saw that the Scout store had the Osprey for about the same price as REI, so I bought it there. The Deuter was just a little out of my price range, but I did like some of the features better than the Osprey. I also liked how the Osprey supported my lower back, it just felt more comfortable for me.


So man up, and just go in and spend an afternoon trying them on and walking around the store, the right one will find you.

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FrameLESS is a valid option too. Reducing your gear weight lets you reduce your pack weight and a frameless pack can save you 4 pounds right there. I used a G4 Pack for my 800-mile AZ Trail hike last month and it was great.

If it's external or internal, I go with external. Internals have more extra materials and tend to weigh more for the space. But, externals can be very difficult to find these days.

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Been using an external frame for almost 20 years. Not sure you can find this one anymore, CampTrails Omega. At the time the only one I could find to fit me. 6'6". On second frame, (first passed on a 70' fall that I was not attached to. :)


Snagging branches and such depends on how much bushwacking you intend to do. At my height it does not matter much. Personally I like the frame at times to back into the trail and let the frame and pack take the hits.


Look around, surf the backpacking sites. I spent 2 hours in the store, different weights, different weight loads and configurations of those loads before I got the one I still wear. I am sure that there are newer and better out there but the beast that I carry now is an old friend and never let me down except when it tried to fly.



red feather

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My father and I had this argument for many years. Through the early 90's I was always with a Jansport external frame pack. Did Philmont 4 times with that pack and I still have it. Then, when I could stretch to afford a Dana Design internal frame pack, I bought one and have not looked back. While it is warmer (my father's fault with internals) that's because its more integrated into my body and I think it carries the weight much better.


I have 3 Dana packs, a 30 liter, 50 liter and 70 liter. Now of course they don't make them any more but there are similar packs out there. Whatever you buy, make sure to really have it fitted. My wife worked at a high end store in college and I'd listen to the Dana reps spend over an hour teaching each salesperson how to properly size and fit their packs. But it fit perfectly when they were done.


With that said, I haven't tried a new external frame so ultimately you just have to try it. If you're backpacking with youngsters and have to carry more to make it work then maybe something goes outside the pack, but if you're just carrying stuff for yourself I wouldn't hang anything outside the pack.

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Years ago I bough the only two we have. I bought two external frame packs. Kelty Yukons. One's a Yukon 2900. I forget the other number. I bought them with the idea I could strap alot on and also use carabiners to hang things.


Well. They are comfortable and carry alot. Easy to use. Very flexible.


BUT ... I really want to buy replacements. Probably internal frames. The problem with hanging things with carabiners is the noise as things bounce around. It gets noisy. Even though if you don't hang anything, it squeaks. Hours of hiking with squeak squak squak and you'll want to find a different pack too.


Not sure if any pack doesn't squeak, but that's my highest priority these days for packs.



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We have both internal and external frame packs. What I have found is that the external frame works better if you have some bulky items. The internal frames tend to weigh less.


The main thing that I have seen is that the internal flames allow more flexing in the torso, so possibly they can allow you to maintain your balance a little better on rough terrain. The external frames, being more stiff cause you to balance them and your body.


I personally go with the external frames or frameless just because that's what I've always used.



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The AT is a well established and maintained trail. Except for the occasional blow down you won't have to worry about hooking tree limbs as long as you stay on the trail.


You'll see very few people using external frames on the AT, mostly just scouts. Everyone else will be using internal, there's a reason for that.


If you can find an outfitter or outdoors store near you like REI or EMS have them measure you for a pack. Your torso length determines the pack size.


If you're doing an occasional weekend hike you can get by with just about any pack so maybe a you can find a used one cheap. If you get into longer trips you can invest in a top quality pack.


I personally use an internal frame pack. My last external frame was a BSA Skyline pack that went to Philmont with me almost 40 years ago.


If you want to do some research go to one of the long distance hiking forums like Whiteblaze.net or Backpackinglight.com Backpackinglight.com has a forum just for Philmont which has some good information on backpacking in general.


Have fun hiking!






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I have a Kelty Tioga external frame pack I bought circa 1976. After several thousands of miles of trail and off trail use it's still in excellent condition.


I just checked E-bay. Several are listed for a cost of about $30.


Frankly, I've never had occasion to consider the latest and greatest internal frame packs. Perhaps there are advantages to them for some uses --- climbers in particular, I would suppose.


But a Kelty Tioga remains a terrific pack that can be had quite cheaply.

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For an ultralight trip I would go internal; for big hikes with a lot of water and some special gear I like to tweak my load a lot and go external.


I will look into those used Kelty's. I like those.


You know when it comes to packs, everyone has an opinion. I say hike YOUR hike. If it is working for you and you are having fun don't worry. But do keep your mind open to new gear and ideas. I love comparing stuff on the trail.

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I prefer an internal frame pack because it does integrate into one's body much better than an external frame pack. I think it also makes one more thoughtful when packing. Sure, it can be "hotter" but I sweat a lot anyway so that won't make a difference. I used an external frame pack once - hated it every step of the way. The next backpacking trip, I used my Boy Scout rucksack without a frame, rigged a way to attach my tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the bottom using straps and has a much better experience - of course, this was a few years before internal frme packs became widely available.


However, that's all personal choice.


Regardless of which pack you get, I'd like to discourage you from hanging anything from carabiners off your pack. It either goes in the pack or is tied tightly to the pack. Items swinging from a pack on carabiners mean that your pack is never balanced from one step to another as the weight keeps shifting. The only exceptions I would make is maybe a compass hanging from a small carabiner attacked to one strap and a watch (maybe the kind that clips to your belt with an integrated carabiner) to the other strap. Otherwise, there really isn't anything that you need to have so handy that you need to clip it to your backpack.

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Yah, boxers or briefs... or more like what kind of hikin' yeh do.


If yeh do a lot of scramblin', bushwhacking, or stuff like skiing with a pack, then internal is the only way to go.


If you're talkin' all trail hiking on somethin' like the AT, then an external will work fine, and has a slight advantage in ventilation.


If you're talkin' just 3-season weekends and yeh have the other ultralight gear to make it work, go frameless and fast.


Just a matter of preference, budget, and individual fit.


Never dangle anything off a pack. Stuff goes inside or strapped tight and secure. Yeh can tell the folks who know what they're doin' at a glance by lookin' at their kit. Experienced hikers are hikin' with packs clean and properly loaded. Gumbies are hikin' down the trail with stuff lashed on, clipped on, or draped on like wilderness hobos.




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Beavah wrote: "Gumbies are hikin' down the trail with stuff lashed on, clipped on, or draped on like wilderness hobos."


LOL. That was me about six years ago. I've been so focused on the current squeaks that I totally forgot about that first time. You quickly learn to not hang a water bottle. They are heavy. With each step, it wack'ed me. Not cool. That changed pretty fast.


Any advice on the squeaks? I was thinking because I've got the expandable frame expanded to max. Comments?

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