External vs Internal Frame Backpack

External vs Internal Frame Backpack

Selecting the right backpack is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning a backpacking trip. The backpack frame is essential for carrying the weight of your gear and distributing it evenly, making the backpack comfortable to wear.

The two main types of backpack frames are external frame backpacks and internal frame backpacks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and preferences.

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between external and internal frame backpacks and help you decide which type is right for you.

What is an External Frame Backpack?

An external frame backpack is a type of backpack that has a rigid frame on the outside of the pack. The frame is usually made of lightweight materials like aluminium and is designed to provide support and structure to the pack.

The backpack itself is typically made of durable materials like nylon or another synthetic material that can withstand the elements. External frame backpacks usually have a large main compartment, several smaller pockets, and straps for attaching gear to the outside of the pack.

External frame backpacks were the first type of backpack to be introduced and were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. They were designed for carrying heavy loads and were typically used for mountaineering, hunting, and other outdoor activities.

Today, external frame backpacks are less popular than internal frame backpacks, but they still have their advantages.

What is an Internal Frame Backpack?

An internal frame backpack is a type of backpack that has a flexible frame on the inside of the pack. The frame is typically made of lightweight materials like aluminium and is designed to provide support and structure to the pack.

The backpack itself is usually made of durable materials like nylon or another synthetic material that can withstand the elements. Internal frame backpacks typically have a large main compartment, several smaller pockets, and straps for attaching gear to the outside of the pack.

Internal frame backpacks were introduced in the 1980s and quickly became popular among backpackers.

They are designed to be more comfortable and stable than external frame backpacks and are typically used for hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor activities that involve travelling long distances.

External vs Internal Frame Backpack – Understanding the Key Differences

When choosing between external and internal frame backpacks, it’s important to understand the key differences in their construction and weight distribution.

External frame backpacks have a rigid frame on the outside of the pack, which distributes weight evenly across the back and hips. This makes them well-suited for carrying heavy loads and provides superior support and ventilation.

External frame backpacks
External frame backpacks

In contrast, internal frame backpacks have a flexible frame on the inside of the pack that conforms to the shape of your back and distributes weight evenly across the hips and shoulders. This makes them more comfortable and stable when tackling rough terrain.

Another important factor to consider is the design of external and internal frame backpacks. External frame backpacks tend to be larger and have more compartments and pockets, making them ideal for carrying bulkier gear and supplies.

Internal frame backpacks, on the other hand, are more streamlined and have fewer compartments and pockets, making them lighter and more manoeuvrable.

When it comes to carrying heavy loads, external frame backpacks have the upper hand over internal frame backpacks. The rigid frame on the outside of the pack evenly distributes weight across the back and hips, reducing strain and discomfort.

External frame backpacks also provide better ventilation, as the frame keeps the pack away from your back, allowing air to circulate.

However, when it comes to comfort and stability, internal frame backpacks have an edge over external frame backpacks.

The flexible frame moulds to the shape of your back and distributes weight evenly across the hips and shoulders, making them more comfortable to wear.

Internal frame backpacks are also more stable when navigating uneven terrain, as they have a lower centre of gravity than external frame backpacks.

Ultimately, the choice between an external and internal frame backpack will depend on your specific needs and preferences. If you plan on carrying heavy loads or trekking through rugged terrain, an external frame backpack may be the better choice.

However, if you plan on hiking long distances or travelling through narrow spaces, an internal frame backpack may be more comfortable and stable. The most important factor is to choose a backpack that feels comfortable and meets your needs for a successful backpacking trip.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between External and Internal Frame Backpacks

When deciding between external and internal frame backpacks, there are several factors to consider to ensure that you choose the right backpack for your needs. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

Weight and Load Capacity

External frame backpacks can usually carry heavier loads than internal frame backpacks, and they are better suited for carrying larger and bulkier items.

Internal frame backpacks, on the other hand, are more lightweight and streamlined, making them a better choice for long hikes or travelling through tight spaces.

Comfort and Support

The frame of a backpack plays a significant role in determining its level of comfort and support. External frame backpacks provide better ventilation and weight distribution, making them a good choice for carrying heavy loads.

However, internal frame backpacks conform to the shape of your back, providing a more comfortable and stable fit.

Terrain

The type of terrain you will be travelling through can also influence your choice of backpack. External frame backpacks are better suited for rugged terrain, as they provide more stability and support.

Internal frame backpacks are ideal for flat or rolling terrain, as they are more lightweight and flexible.

Storage and Organization

Consider the amount of storage and organization you need in your backpack. External frame backpacks typically have more pockets and compartments, allowing you to easily access your gear.

Internal frame backpacks have fewer pockets and compartments, which can help keep your gear organized and streamlined.

Price

Finally, consider your budget when choosing between external and internal frame backpacks. External frame backpacks are generally more affordable than internal frame backpacks, but this can vary depending on the brand and features.

By taking these factors into account, you can choose the right backpack for your needs and ensure that you have a comfortable and successful backpacking trip.

Read more about Mountaineering tent vs bivy sack

Conclusion

Choosing between an external and internal frame backpack can be a daunting task, but by considering the factors mentioned above, you can make an informed decision. Keep in mind that the most important factor is selecting a backpack that feels comfortable and meets your needs on your backpacking journey.

FAQs

Can I use an external frame backpack for long hikes?

Yes, you can use an external frame backpack for long hikes. External frame backpacks are designed to carry heavy loads, making them a good choice for longer trips.

Are internal frame backpacks more comfortable than external frame backpacks?

Internal frame backpacks are generally more comfortable than external frame backpacks, as they conform to the shape of your back and distribute weight evenly across your hips and shoulders.

Do external frame backpacks provide better ventilation than internal frame backpacks?

Yes, external frame backpacks provide better ventilation than internal frame backpacks, as they keep the pack away from your back, allowing air to circulate.

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