Fewer companies make them these days, but you really ought to give external frame packs another look.
Sure, not all of them are as tactical as those “assault packs” and so on. If that’s something you actually need, fair enough. If you work in an office and commute from the suburbs, well, that’s up to you.
However, for the serious outdoorsmen, external frame packs have a number of distinct advantages that merit a serious look. It’s a viable system for hikers, hunters and survival enthusiasts alike.
External Frame Packs: Comfortable, if Set Up Correctly
Obviously, the fit of any pack is essential whether it’s an external frame pack or an internal frame pack. The straps and hip belt have to be placed and sized correctly in order for it to fit.
That said, you usually don’t need to worry as much about sizing when ordering it. External frames tend to fit most; all you may need to do is move the shoulder straps and hip belt up or down on the frame.
When properly worn, the pack — and, therefore, the load — is higher up on the back than with an internal frame pack. The center of gravity is therefore just above yours.
If properly set up, the shoulder straps should merely act as leashes; the weight should sit mostly on your hips. Internal frame packs can also achieve this effect, but not all will as effectively.
This has the effect of getting the weight off your shoulders, making this pack design a bit easier to carry.
Since the frame creates separation between the pack and your back, you also get a bit of airflow, so you stay a bit cooler and certainly drier. While beneficial in summer, it’s also desirable for those late season hunts since sweat will dehydrate you in a hurry and warmth is supposed to come from base layers anyway.
More External Storage
External frame packs can have a lot more added to it than an internal frame pack. Granted, plenty of internal frame packs have MOLLE webbing and other means for various add-ons; it’s just that an external frame pack makes it that much easier.
If you need to carry your sleeping bag or bedroll outside your pack to save space, you can easily do so; just secure it with strapping. Free up the room without issue.
Add a gun bearer so you don’t have to either carry your gun in your hands or put up with the continuous shuffling between your sling and shoulder strap, which is just downright annoying. Pick the right model with a quick release strap and you can easily get ready to shoot.
The frame makes attaching any necessary gear that can’t go in the pack itself easy, which is a handy feature that other pack designs just don’t have.
The other benefit is that the frame can double as a freight hauler.
Can’t use the pack itself to haul anything? That’s OK. External frame packs allow users to take the pack off and use the frame as they might need to.
If you need to haul a collapsible blind, or lash an elk quarter to the frame, or haul anything else you can think of that doesn’t or can’t go in a pack, it can be easily secured to the frame with a strap or a bit of paracord and carried with ease.
Having the frame also means that the pack has a certain amount of modularity. The typical backpack is as it comes. If you want something different you have to go buy it.
With an external frame pack, you can change the pack, the straps, the hip belt and any accessories at will. So long as you have a method of securing whatever it is you’re upgrading or replacing to the frame, you’re good to go.
If the typical backpack breaks or tears, you have to just buy a new one. The pack, straps and hip belt on an external frame pack can just be replaced. As a result, you have a pack system that can last you for life with ease.
Ask around, and you’ll find a bunch of people still using Kelty D4 packs, vintage Jansports and ALICE packs for good reason. They still carry comfortably, and they can haul whatever gear you need or game you need packed out.
If you’re looking at getting a new pack, external frame packs may be worth a second look.
About the author: Sam Hoober is a contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters, a subsidiary of Tedder Industries.
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