When you’re hiking or camping, having the right external frame backpack can make or break your experience. Nobody wants to be stranded with a backpack that’s painful and unreliable.
The best external frame backpacks provide you with adequate storage while helping you support the weight of your belongings.
An external frame backpack is a bag supported by a lightweight metal frame. Whereas an internal frame backpack keeps the frame inside the bag, an external frame backpack keeps the frame on the outside, saving you space.
People prefer external frame backpacks because they offer added rigidity. They’re also great for ensuring that weight is distributed comfortably. In contrast to other backpacks, external frame backpacks are useful for longer expeditions as they offer more space for ventilation (Source).
The external frame itself is also particularly useful for attaching carabiners, allowing you to travel with objects like water bottles and tents on the outside. External frame backpacks might also come with useful features like an adjustable hip belt, water bottle pockets, and load lifters (Source). If you’re an avid hiker, or you’re going on a canoe trip with a lot of portaging, an external frame backpack is a great storage solution.
Prior to purchasing an external frame backpack, you’ll need to consider its weight and capacity in liters. You’ll also want to consider if there’s comfortable padding on the shoulder straps, what storage compartments it has, and whether or not it’s weatherproof.
Don’t embark on your next adventure without one of these top-rated external frame backpacks.
What is an External Frame Backpack?
Table of Contents
- 1 What is an External Frame Backpack?
- 2 Most Common Issues People Have with External Frame Backpacks
- 3 Comparing The Best External Frame Backpacks
- 4 1. Kelty Yukon External Frame Pack – The Best External Frame Backpack
- 5 2. ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Freighter Frame Bag – Best External Frame Backpack for Money
- 6 3. Kelty TIOGA External Frame – Most Durable External Frame Backpack
- 7 4. Extreme Pak Dgt Camo Mountaineers Backpack by B&F – Most Affordable External Frame Backpack
- 8 5. Outdoor Products Dragonfly External Frame Backpack – BestExternal Frame Backpack for Young Hikers
- 9 Which Is Better – External or Internal Frame Backpacks?
- 10 Features of the Best External Frame Backpacks
- 11 Factors to Consider When Buying External Frame Backpacks
- 12 External Frame Backpacks FAQ’s
- 13 Ready To Buy The Best External Frame Backpack?
An external frame backpack is much like a traditional camping backpack, except that it has more space and a frame to help loosen the burden of weight. These are great for people who are making backpacking trips, extended trips abroad, and so on.
Most Common Issues People Have with External Frame Backpacks
- Not Comfortable: There are various factors that help make an external frame backpack comfortable. This can include the frame design, quality of shoulder pads, hip and chest straps, and the materials which are used. Each of these factors, among others, help make the backpack comfortable.
- Weak Parts: An external frame backpack should hold up for years of rough use. It is common for people to get a backpack with weak parts that break easily. Usually, this happens with parts like the buckles and strap connectors.
- Space Limitations: External frame backpacks are designed to hold much more than a traditional backpack. This doesn’t mean that any model will work for you, though. It is important to consider how much you need to carry so that you don’t get an external frame backpack that is too small.
To make your work easier when buying, below is a list of the best external frame backpacks on the market.
Comparing The Best External Frame Backpacks
|Kelty Yukon External Frame Pack|
|ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Freighter Frame Bag|
|Kelty TIOGA External Frame|
|Extreme Pak Dgt Camo Mountaineers Backpack|
|Outdoor Products Dragonfly|
1. Kelty Yukon External Frame Pack – The Best External Frame Backpack
The frame has a hip belt and the back panel is properly ventilated. It also comes with shoulder straps which ensure that the weight of your load is uniformly distributed to ensure that you can carry the backpack easily.
Additionally, it comes with belt stabilizers and adjustable straps. Apart from that, it features double foam on the shoulders straps and around the hip belt to provide comfort. You can also adjust the hip belt easily to suit your requirements.
Another fantastic thing about this backpack is that it comes with six storage pockets that provide more storage space for your items. Moreover, it comes with a separate compartment with a zipper where you can keep your sleeping bag. Moreover, the hydration sleeves can store up to 3 liters of fluids.
If you are searching for a comfortable, large and well designed external frame backpack, Kelty Yukon Pack might be the perfect choice for you. The best thing about it is that it comes with a lifetime warranty.
2. ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Freighter Frame Bag – Best External Frame Backpack for Money
Apart from that, the frame is made of aluminum to make it strong and durable. It is also lightweight since it is made of nylon ripstop. This material is long-lasting and waterproof.
You will find that it has a divider in the middle and at the bottom which allows you to organize your items in order of their importance. This makes your work easier when searching for an item.
Another thing is that it is well padded around the shoulders. The waist straps are also padded to make you comfortable.
Additionally, it features a spindrift collar which has a drawstring closure to provide extra space at the top. You should also note that it has many pockets where you can place smaller items.
The backpack also features a back band mesh which provides the required ventilation to prevent sweating.
3. Kelty TIOGA External Frame – Most Durable External Frame Backpack
This one is made of long-lasting double ripstop nylon, a 500-denier Kodra, and 450-denier nylon material. It is large enough to accommodate all your items. Apart from that, it allows you to carry additional items such as a sleeping bag.
Additionally, it has a 3-zipper pocket on the sides and a stash pocket where you can keep small items. You can also keep some of your items in the big front pocket.
Many people like it because it features additional pockets inside the backpack where you can place water bottles and other hydration systems up to 3 liters. You can buy the hydration system differently since it is not included.
The backpack is very comfortable especially for long trips where you need to carry a lot of gears. It comes with adjustable straps which allows you to adjust the load to ensure you are comfortable. This means that you will not feel the additional weight.
It also comes with belt stabilizers and shoulder straps which makes the frame to be very comfortable when carrying an extra load. Finally, it features an extra mesh band which enhances ventilation when the weather is hot.
4. Extreme Pak Dgt Camo Mountaineers Backpack by B&F – Most Affordable External Frame Backpack
This model is ideal for mountaineers who are searching for a backpack with both superior suspension and extra storage.
It comes with big compartments, which can hold up to 12 small duck decoys and other items. Apart from that, it has 6 additional pockets where you can keep small items and a water bottle. It is able to withstand external elements like bad weather since it is made of waterproof material.
In addition, it comes with additional straps and adjustable suspension which allows you to carry extra items that cannot fit inside. You should also note that it features an adjustable shoulder harness and waist strap which ensures that you are comfortable.
It looks like a military bag but it is suitable for hiking and camping.
5. Outdoor Products Dragonfly External Frame Backpack – BestExternal Frame Backpack for Young Hikers
It is designed in a unique way and it can fit smaller frames of young hikers. The backpack also fits users with a torso length of between 15-18 inches. You will also note that it is small in size but despite its small size, it provides a large storage area where you can store different items that you may need when hiking or camping.
This backpack also has a capacity of 2780 cubic inches and features top-loading compartments and two side pockets. These pockets are large enough and they can hold a 32-ounce water bottle. It also has a nice bungee’s compression system which keeps everything in the bag intact. It is recommended to carry the lightweight backpacking mess kits to ensures the backpacker doesn’t hurt his/her back.
Lastly, it has a nice mesh suspension system which keeps you cool when carrying a heavy load. Lastly, it is well padded around the shoulders and the hip belt is also padded. The best thing is that it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Which Is Better – External or Internal Frame Backpacks?
External frame backpacks are best used on well-maintained trails. On the other end, internal frame backpacks hold the weight of your belongings closer to your body. This makes them more ideal for rugged pathways and when you’re going off-trail (Source).
Features of the Best External Frame Backpacks
A high-quality external frame backpack or rucksack will hold up for years, store everything you need, be easy to carry around and require very little maintenance. If this sounds like the kind of external frame backpack that you want, here are all the features that you need to search for.
Lightweight When Empty
Of course, you shouldn’t expect your new backpack to be lightweight once you fill it up. The weight of the backpack, while it is empty, is a completely different factor to consider. Any of the best external frame backpacks will be less than 8 pounds.
The heavier the backpack is by itself, the more weight you will have to carry when it is filled up.
Durable & Weatherproof
External frame backpacks will be most commonly used while you are out on the go. They are constantly thrown around, moved, touched, scratched, and so on. Nylon is a great choice if you want the backpack to hold up well with rough use.
In addition, the best external frame backpacks will protect the interior pockets from rain. To do this, the material itself should be waterproof or water-resistant. Or, at least come with rain cover or poncho.
Comfortable on your Back and Shoulders
There is no sense in getting an external frame backpack if you can’t comfortably carry it around for long periods of time. Check out the quality of the backpack frame, weight distribution, and the padding.
If you can’t carry the backpack without quickly getting a sore back and shoulders, you are best off looking at other options. External frame backpacks are supposed to take much of the weight burden away.
Factors to Consider When Buying External Frame Backpacks
You should be very careful when buying an external frame backpack to ensure that you have purchased a quality product. It is not possible to determine the price of a backpack just by the appearance.
If you are using frame backpack for hiking or outdoor activities you should consider buying the best tactical flashlights as it allows you to have more adjustability and custom features than a standard flashlight. It is handy for focusing a beam into a precise spot for a long distance.
Since the weather is unpredictable, you should always be prepared by ensuring that the backpack you have selected is waterproof. The materials should either be 100% waterproof or at least semi-proof. Ensure the material is able to keep your items dry in all weather conditions.
Ensure that the backpack you have chosen is well padded and will be able to offer the required back support when carrying heavy items. A poorly positioned backpack can lead to back pain and other problems.
The material you have selected should be lightweight and durable. Nylon is one of the best materials you should consider since it is very easy to carry. You should also consider the items you would like to carry with your chosen military surplus rucksack. Ensure that it has a nice design which will allow you to carry them easily.
A frame pack with good ventilation will be very important especially when you are hiking when the temperatures are high especially summer. These backpacks are very comfortable to carry in such conditions since external backpacks feature a non-anatomical design.
Ensure that the backpack you have selected is large enough and can accommodate all the things you would wish to carry comfortably. If possible, you should look for a camping backpack with side compartments. This will create space for snacks and water and will allow you to access them easily.
External Frame Backpacks FAQ’s
Q: How to Pack Your External Frame Backpack Properly?
No matter what you are bringing, there are some general rules regarding the layout you should follow when packing an external frame backpack. The following rules can help in fitting any specific items into your backpack:
- Proper weight distribution – You should take into account the weight of all items before starting to pack. Make sure that the weight is distributed evenly on either side to reduce fatigue and shoulder strain.
- Necessary gadgets should be outside – While gadget hooks and side compartments can be very useful, you should not always rely on them. Your necessities, such as a tactical flashlight and hanging EDC kit, are the only things that need to be placed outside.
- Pack tightly to prevent potential snags – Backpacks with external frames may easily snag or get caught on hanging branches and bushes. This is particularly true when walking through covered paths and dense foliage. To prevent potential snags, pack your tent tightly and secure your gadgets with bungee cables.
Q: How to Clean My External Frame Backpack?
You should keep your backpack clean. The cleaning regimen of these backpacks is a bit ‘drawn-out’ because of external frames. This is why you will need to do the following things when cleaning your backpack:
- Empty everything before doing anything else.
- Dry clean your backpack using the vacuum cleaner nozzle. You need to clean every nook and cranny of your backpack. Pay particular attention to dust and dirt hidden in the creases where stitches meet.
- Wash out the frame to remove grime and foreign items from the compartment cloth. This can cause odors and discoloration of your backpack.
- Rub the outside and inside of the internal compartment with white distilled vinegar.
Q: How to Adjust My External Frame Backpack?
It is recommended to adjust your external frame backpack when it is empty. Otherwise, you may run into problems. Because of the positioning of the external frame, you need to keep the same level of restraint and comfort all the time.
So adjust your backpack while empty, then load it up, and sling it over shoulders. If everything is done properly, there might only be some minor adjustments.
Ready To Buy The Best External Frame Backpack?
An external from the frame pack is an excellent choice if you are searching for a quality military surplus backpack for outdoor adventures, such as hunting trips, backpacking trips, hiking, and camping.
The best thing about these camping backpacks is that they are comfortable and spacious enough to accommodate your items.
Irrespective of your choice, we hope that this guide will help you in selecting a quality external frame backpack for your outdoor activities. Also, check out our soccer backpacks article if you’re a soccer fan.
Also, if you’re a racing fanatic and need a backpack to carry your stuff while riding, consider buying a waterproof motorcycle backpacks. Also, if you’re camping and want something to keep you warm, take a look at our guide for the best flannel sleeping bags.