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  1. #1
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    Default Advice needed on External vs. Internal frames

    Im buying my first pack. Im totally overwhelmed by all the choices out there. But the biggest choice I need to make to continue my research on this is External or Internal. Both have lots of pros and cons. I am leaning towards external but just not sure.

    What are your experiences with both or either? I like that the external has more airflow between body and frame as I sweat more than the normal person no matter what I am doing. I like that you can attach to the frame. There seem to be very limited options for external packs, thus my hesitation. The majority seem to go to the internal.

    Is this truly just a personal choice? I've tried on both and find them both comfortable. So that did not help me too much. Any help at all would be great!

    Thanks so much!!

  2. #2
    BYGE "Biggie" TOMP's Avatar
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    I never really considered a external pack before I thought that they weighed alot, were kinda outdated, and uncomfortable. The gregory Z40 and all z series packs have a spring board like mesh that allows airflow and drys sweat off your back. I got the z40 and its a nice size for a 4 day hike and about 3 lbs. I also have a ALPS cascade 5200 its alot bigger and heavier but its alot more padding and comfort for long distance hiking (supposedly can carry up to 55 lbs not that I would).

  3. #3
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    Grew up with external as most common. Prefer internal since it hugs my body & better balance. Never noticed any great venting with external. first 400 miles of now aroud 5K done with external, now gone to internal.

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    Messed that up first 400 miles done with external. Now switched to internal frames

  5. #5
    Registered User moytoy's Avatar
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    I use a Kelty Trekker 3950 external. Before the Kelty it was an external frame something (name wore off) and have had is since the late 60's. That doesn't mean I think you should. The overwhelming majority of WB members use internal frame or no frame ruck sacks I believe. That says something for the internal frame. If I were a beginner I probably would buy the internal and go with the crowd. Having said all that I think the only way you'r going to really know what you like is to carry one of each type on extensive trips. Say a week or more. Before I do a whole summer on the AT I will buy a good internal and give it a two or three week tryout and then I'll make my decision on what I will carry for my thru hike of the AT. That's three years down the road.
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  6. #6
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    Narrow down the selection to packs that weigh less than 2 pounds.

  7. #7
    Registered User Papa D's Avatar
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    External frame packs are bulky, catch on things and uncomfortable ... they have pretty much gone the way of the 8-track player

  8. #8
    Garlic
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    There's yet a third option--frameless. And another--frameless packs that have removable stays to carry more load if needed. Look at Gossamer Gear, Z-packs, SixMoon Designs for examples.

    Comfort is most important, but also consider the weight of the load compared to the weight of the pack. I have an old Gossamer Gear frameless pack that weighs 9 oz and can easily carry 25 pounds, more than I ever carried on the AT. That's a 40:1 ratio. If your pack weighs 6 pounds and you carry 36 pounds with it, that's only 6:1.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  9. #9

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    i use externals and i think my packs are very comfortable
    i also carry a water filter,this will never change
    i am open to the idea of newer lighter everything else though :-)
    have a great hike

  10. #10

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    I've used an old boy scout ruck sac,and no name externals,early jansport internal when they first came out.Honestly if you want to be nostalgic get a external if you want to be comfortable and probably a little lighter on your base weight get internal.If this is a thru-hike definitely I would go with the internal it really is just a better choice IMHO

  11. #11
    Hike smarter, not harder.
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    Externals are no longer stylish. The 3# external largely disappeared in the 80s due to a desire by everyone to look like a mountaineer, carrying an 8# internal. I think externals are cooler in hot weather, carry a heavy load better, and allow you to walk upright. At least my Jansport D5 does. And if you're on maintained trails, and not bushwacking, you won't notice any balance/snagging issues with an external. That being said, I must be a slave to fashion, because the only packs I use anymore are ULA and Gossamer Gear.
    Con men understand that their job is not to use facts to convince skeptics but to use words to help the gullible to believe what they want to believe - Thomas Sowell

  12. #12

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    Are you using this for a thru-hike? Or just on the AT in general? I used to have an external, however I made the switch to internal frames because they are lighter and store your gear better. Additionally, internal frames have better balance and don't snag as much. If you're gonna be hiking the AT, there WILL be things that will snag an external frame and you will need the balance benefit of an internal frame because the AT is not flat and wide, there are very few sections where it is. But generally, yes, it is a personal choice.

  13. #13

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    Navigating some sections of the trail here in New England with a big ol external frame pack was, lets just say, "interesting".

    As the gear needed to be carried got lighter and more compact over the years, the need to carry a heavy, bulky load deminished, so smaller and lighter internal packs became more practical and are now the norm. I do kind of miss all the pockets and compartments of my old Camp Trails frame pack, but not it's 7 pound wieght!
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  14. #14
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    External frames carry heavy loads (≥ 35lbs) more comfortably on trails that don't require a lot of scrambling around rocks and such. Internal frames are generally better suited to lighter loads (≤ 35lbs) and trails where mobility and balance is needed. By design, external frames carry a load higher to put the weight more in line with your spine and the body's veritcal center of gravity (COG). This aids in getting the vertical COG closer to your spine, allowing you to bend forward less, but at the sacrifice of moving the horizontal COG up higher toward your shoulders and away from your center of mass (just above waist) which makes you want to tip over more easily. Internal frame packs pack the weight lower by design, more in line with your body's horizontal COG (just above your waist), so you are less likely to be pulled about (tipped over) when hiking / scrambling at odd angles. The sacrifice here is that they move the weight farther laterally/horizontally from your spine which makes you bend forward more. This can be minimized by keeping heavier items as close as possible to the framesheet that is against your back (water bladders like platypus do this well).

    Given the lower weight of today's gear, the advantages of externals in carrying heavier loads are largely gone for most purposes. Most thru-hikers and sections hikers tend to carry 30lbs or less these days even with food and water. Externals tend to organize gear better with their multitudes of pockets, but they also pack the sleeping bag outside usually. Some internals have a few outside pockets, but they still don't compare with the organization capability of an external. As with most choices, there are pros and cons to each.

    There are of course exceptions, such as mountaineering expeditions where large internals are used for heavy loads, and packing supplies or gear in to cabins and huts and such where large externals still rule the day.

    Either will work on an AT (or similar) hike of any duration, but for most of us the internal provides better balance and the gear is light enough these days that the advantages of load carrying of the external are outweighed by the better balance of an internal.

  15. #15
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    It doesn't appear that anyone has really answered her question. As a newbie that is confused by the offerings, then I'd have to point her to a 2-3.5 pound pack with internal frame, hopefully in the 55-60L range that will comfortably carry at least 3-4 days of gear and supplies weighing up to 30 pounds total. Size and weight might be a smidgen more if she's a big girl, or a smidgen less if she's petite. At this point in the industry, I wouldn't recommend a frameless pack or external frame; she'll know when it's time to consider those options.
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

  16. #16
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    You can save a fair bit of cash by going to a UL pack right away, something 2 pounds or less.

  17. #17
    Ickybod jburgasser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerosene View Post
    It doesn't appear that anyone has really answered her question.
    That's becuase it is not a question one can really answer for another person; especially a stranger. It's a personal decision that you have to figure out yourself. All you can take from here is to tally up the totals of internals vs. externals.

    By the way, I have a Kelty Trekker 65. I have tried internals and I don't like the way they make me bend at the waist. It keeps me from looking up as much as I would like.

    JB

  18. #18

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    i recieved a free ULA and tried it, didn't like it, didn't care how it felt on my shoulders for some reason
    1#i disagree the internals pack the gear better(tighter/compact yes, but don't you have to?), i love my pockets much faster in/out of camp
    2#my pack does sway--not a problem
    3#the AT is not a bush whacking trail, did i have to bend once in awhile not to hit a tree branch yes, problem no
    lemon squeezer i had to take my pack off, no big deal (manly cause im a big fat guy)
    4#i had no problem thruhikng with my external, i can and have hiked many30+miles a day,on my last thru or two, my dog bear was getting up there in age, so she would have days off at friends houses, i wanted her with me on the journey,without all the miles(on those days i would generally unload just her gear and food.)
    5#my dog had no problem with me wearing an external, i think she like me carrying her stuff
    i can and have made it thru the mahoosuc notch in 30+ minutes more than once! yes wearing an external
    i think kerosene and JB make a great point about not choosing someone else's pack
    whats right for you might not work for me
    Last edited by CrumbSnatcher; 01-05-2012 at 23:09.

  19. #19
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    Im diggin all the input. Thank you ALL for responding. It sounds like I might start with an internal. Keep the thoughts coming. The more information I can absorb the better!!! Im planning a few local hikes first (WI) then in 2013 plan on hittin the AT.

  20. #20
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jburgasser View Post
    That's becuase it is not a question one can really answer for another person; especially a stranger. It's a personal decision that you have to figure out yourself. All you can take from here is to tally up the totals of internals vs. externals.
    I'm going to disagree with this one. Sure, tallying up the count gives you some sense, but it puts a lot of onus on the OP. With a basic question like this, I believe that the best response is to give her an opinion on which direction to take, perhaps what additional data to consider (such as base weight), and any cautionary advice. I'd never point someone to an external frame if they do not yet have a basis of comparison; in fact, most people would argue that you'll walk more upright with an internal frame as the weight is closer to your back with a lower center of gravity (that's not to say it would necessarily be more comfortable though!). Now, if the question was framed around an interest in learning more about the benefits of an external frame then I'd respond differently.
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

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