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     Different Types of Packs for Different Uses

Packs are made in three basic styles:

  • Internal Frame,
  • External Frame, or,
  • Frameless.

Internal Frame Packs have become very popular thanks to their flexibility and comfort. These packs fit close to your body which allows the load to move with you.  This load position also creates a lower center of gravity and gives you more stability as you walk, jump, or run.  Internal Frame packs create fewer sore spots on long hikes because the frame distributes the load along your back, shoulders and hips, rather than concentrating it only on your shoulders or hips the way an external frame does.  The internal frame is composed of stays (flat, wide pieces of semi-rigid material) made of lightweight materials such as aluminum or new composites. Such materials offer a good strength to weight ratio and the ability to flex or conform to your body’s contours. 

Some folks prefer internal frame packs because they are:

  • Stable:  Internal frame packs usually have compression straps to hold the load tightly. It keeps things from moving around in the pack.
  • Flexible: Because these packs utilize aluminum or composite stays, the frames can support the load without impairing your movement. The pack can conform to your body shape - rather than making your body conform to it.
  • Maneuverable: Most Internal frame packs concentrate the load in a higher, narrower volume. This allows you to move your arms freely and also reduces the likelihood that your pack will snag every single bleedin' bush you walk past. Runners, climbers and skiers find this feature particularly valuable. Really.
  • Adjustable: A good internal frame pack will have multiple adjustment systems that allow you to tailor the load distribution and the pack fit to your body shape.

Internal frame packs are great for a wide range of outdoor activities including
Mountaineering, Cross-country skiing, Climbing and Off-trail hiking.

External Frame Packs are typically less expensive than internal frame packs. They feature a fabric pack attached to a rigid aluminum frame. These packs are best suited for carrying heavy loads over fairly level terrain or trail.  The frame concentrates the load on your hips and allows the strong muscles of your legs and thighs to carry most of the weight. The rigidity of the frame may affect your overall posture and limit your freedom of movement.  Some people prefer external frame packs because they are:

  • Traditional: These packs have been around since hiking began. Wear one and maybe they'll believe your  tale about going to the Pole with Perry.
  • Cooler to carry: Not that kind of cool. We mean temperature cool. An external's load is typically held slightly away from your back, allowing air to circulate. You'd be surprised how much this can mean in hot, muggy weather.
  • Supportive:  Like a great BFF, external frames offer a rigid construction that supports heavy loads more efficiently. If carefully packed, the load won't shift (much) and the largest percentage of the load can be adjusted up or down depending on your perference.
  • Affordable: They tend to cost less than internal frame packs.

External frame packs are good for b eginning hikers who need an affordable pack, h ikers who need to carry heavy loads and, of course, d ie-hard traditionalists.

Frameless Packs or “Daypacks” are commonly put into service carrying daily essentials such as school books, lunch, water bottles and personal needs for short hikes or everyday use. I carry one as a purse when I travel.
Frameless packs are great for school, day hikes or trips, biking, travel and daily use.

So now that you have a handle on the type of pack you need, let's explore fit...  

    1. Fitting a Backpack
    2. The Complete Guide to Selecting and Fitting the Proper Backpack
    3. Different Types of Packs for Different Uses
    4. Backpack Capacity

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