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Internal Frame vs. External Frame

Question:

What's the difference between an internal frame backpack and an external frame backpack. I was at my local sporting goods store last night and the sales person mentioned over and over again that the packs I was looking at where 'internal framed' packs. Thanks for the help.

Answer:

Hi, thanks for the question, lets see if we can't get you straightened out. All backpacks that were meant to carry some type of load have a frame. The frame is used to give the pack shape, support, and to help transfer the weight of the pack to your hips. External frame packs have that frame on the outside of the pack fabric, while internal frame packs have the frame on the inside of the pack. With internal frame packs sometimes the frame can be made of a big sheet of plastic, sometimes it's an aluminum stay running the length of the pack, sometimes it's two aluminum stays running from corner to corner and crossing in the middle, and sometimes it's a combination of all three.

Each type of design has an advantage. External frame packs are able to keep the load higher in the pack making for a better weight transfer onto your hips. They carry awkward loads and big objects better. They also do a good job of keeping the main body of the pack away from your body, which helps keep you cool.

Internal framed packs have a more streamlined shape, which makes it easy to slip through tight stops. It also makes it so the pack follows the movements of your body better. Internals are more expandable and compressible which makes it easier to fit a variety of loads. Also, based on the fact that they are currently the more popular type of pack, it's also easier to find a 'nicer' internal frame pack. A lot of the big pack companies have stopped producing external frame packs.

Hope that helps!

-Tim

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