I'm new here, and new to the "modern world" of backpacking although I did a lot of hiking, backpacking and camping when I was young (back in the 1960s). After many years away from the outdoor life, I have decided to jump back in with both feet. I have some ambitious dreams of things I'd like to do, and will probably share some of them in other posts, but my main purpose in being here is to learn and to put together a set of gear (home-made and otherwise) for myself.
I have no specific questions right now, but one of my quandaries is between pack types... external, internal or frameless. My first pack ( at age 11) was an army surplus bag on a packboard my father made out of wood and Masonite - it probably weighed 5 lbs by itself, but worked pretty well for me and a 35 lb pack weight plus 4-5 quarts of water. Over the next few years, I tried a pack with a strange tri-lobed tubular aluminum frame (uncomfortable and the frame eventually broke), a small frameless pack Dad sewed from parachute nylon (nice and light but too small for what we carried back then), and eventually came to love my brother's Boy Scout pack frame. I think it was called the "Cruiser" frame, and it lasted him a long time despite needing to repair the canvas pack many times.
Anyway, I see lots of tradeoffs in pack types these days, and am not quite sure what I want to choose. I love the superlight approach with a small frameless pack, but want to have enough bag volume to carry extra insulation during the colder seasons so I need a bigger pack that may not compress enough with a smaller summer load. I also want to be able to carry enough food for an extended time between resupply stops (say, 2 weeks)... that puts my load well over 30 lbs, and it seems most light packs these days are aimed at loads of 20-25 lbs max. So it looks as though an external frame is the most sensible approach, but those seem to be 5-6 lbs or more for the pack and frame alone which leads to a still higher total weight. Am I missing something?
Hmmm... that turned out a bit more rambling than I expected! I'm happy to be here, and look forward to getting to know people and learning a lot.
Loc: California (southern)
I suggest you spend a fair amount of time reading the information on this site, both stuff on the first page and many of the threads before spending any money. First and foremost, you want a pack that fits you well - that could be any of several brands.
The external vs internal debate is interesting. A lot depends upon the type of trips you will undertake. Externals do fine on trails, while internals and frameless really shine off trail and in rough country. Externals are the only way if you will be packing staggering loads, but you seem like a sane person.
I would recommend that you borrow or rent (think REI) and try them out on the trail before making a purchase, and buy from a place that will give you good expert fitting. Don't be afraid to spend money on this item, if necessary. Backpack,boots, and sleeping bag are three essential items that will affect your enjoyment and well being on every trip. They are key items. You can easily scrimp and save money on other stuff.
You will probably always have use for a well fitted, internal frame pack with about 3500-4000 cu in capacity. A quality one will last forever. Just be sure it fits.
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Welcome, Sam. You're already way ahead of me in your backpacking experience, but let me just second what oldranger said about reading the articles and threads here; there's lots of good information.
Also, I'd say the volume of the pack you get depends on your gear. Furthermore, many frameless packs depend on the stiffness of a closed cell foam sleeping pad against your back acting as the suspension, so if you're uncomfortable on a CCF, you may be better off with an inflatable mattress and a pack with a frame.
The journey is more important than the destination.
Hi, Samantha - welcome aboard. I'm from the Dayton area - we've got a nifty little trail called the Twin Valley Trail, if you get tired of Old Man''s Cave, Zaleski, etc.
You might want to wait to decide on an internal v. external v. frameless pack until you have the rest of your gear figured out (or at least a first pass at it.) The volume and weight might influence your decision a lot.
Having said that, if you're predisposed toward the external frame, take a look at the Osprey Atmos/Aura series. They're a modernized version of the Cruiser you liked so much (I'm old enough that I remember those - and the Camp Trails Adjustable II packs they were cloned from.) The packbag is internal frame, but with lots of pockets (a la externals); the suspension is pure external frame, from the peripheral wire to the trampoline mesh backband. I have a buddy who swears by his; I've used it, and liked it, but I like my Deuter ACT internal frame suspension better. The Aura is the female-specific model, but if it doesn't fit you right, try the Atmos (male-specific). Best of all, the Atmos/Aura packs only weigh about 3.5 pounds.
Thanks, oldranger... I am slowly working my way through the site (plus several other forums as well as books and websites) to update my knowledge base.
As for my sanity, that is debatable but you are correct that I have no desire or intention of packing staggering loads. Philosophically, I am firmly in the ultralight camp and figure my routine pack weight will be under 25 lbs with full consumables... I'd just like to know my gear and I can manage an occasional overload condition of perhaps 40-45 lbs at the start of a particularly long or dry leg. I tend to think a light external frame will work best for that, with some good approach to adjusting the pack volume... but I may change my mind by the time I get to the point of settling the pack design/selection.
While I said in my profile that I am not a gearhead, I love making things myself. With a background in engineering and lots of time free, I intend to make most of my gear unless I can find a more cost-effective way to do it. The design of an external frame and pack seems pretty clear to me, as does the frameless pack using a CCF pad as stiffener; the internal frame approach is much more muddy in my mind.
Thank you for the welcome, 4evrplan! I do intend to accumulate most of my gear before finalizing the pack size, and at least develop a good volume estimate for anything I do not have at that time... good point about that.
As for the sleeping pad, we used to use an open cell pad that rolled up nearly as large as our sleeping bags (which were old-style polyester fill bags – big and heavy)! My back does not give me too many problems these days as long as I keep up my stretching exercises, so I hope I can manage with a CCF pad... probably something closer to 1/2” than 1/8”, though!
Glenn, thank you for the lead regarding the Atmos/Aura packs. They look great, and I will keep them in mind if I decide to go the internal frame route (the ventilation especially caught my attention). I think I will probably make an external frame (unless my brother happens to still have his old one... I need to give him a call!), and try that first off. Old habits and all that!
Welcome, I'm in Columbus also. On family trips, I'm the pack mule because I carry most of the gear and all of the food for our family of six (4 young kids). I use a large internal frame Kelty pack which isn't light, but it "comfortably" (ha ha) carries the load of around 80 lbs or so. I've tried external frames in the past, but I really like the stability of the load internal frames provide.
Check out these companies, as they make packs which I think would work for loads of 30-40 lbs:
ULA Six Moon Designs Mountain Laurel Designs
On my own, I use a lighter Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack which seems to do well with loads up to 20-25 lbs.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I didn't see this thread when it first came out--was out of town.
My own experience with external vs. internal frame is that the external frame that I used for years kept pulling me off balance--it inevitably zigged when I zagged. My first trial of an internal frame pack was a revelation--it moves with me instead of against me! Your mileage, of course, may vary, but I suggest you try on several models of each, with a load, before deciding..
Be sure to try any new pack with a load, preferably the gear (plus the equivalent in bulk and weight of food and water) you plan to carry in it! Do a lot of twisting and turning and going up and down stairs. When you get it home, immediately do a several hours' "hike" in the house or (if nice weather) around the neighborhood, being sure to keep the pack clean (and leaving the tags on) so you can return it if it doesn't work for you. Pack fit is almost as individual as shoe fit!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
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