Thinking of Getting an External Frame Backpack? If you are considering moving up to a more heavy duty rigid frame pack; you should look at the benefits of a traditional external frame backpack before you make a decision. External frame packs of some kind or another have been around for thousands of years. They are classics for a reason: they work well when you have to big loads.
The first thing you need to look at is the comfort of the pack before you buy. Visit your local camping center or sports store and try on a few backpacks that fit within your budget. The things you need to look for are:
A Properly Fitted Frame
Does the backpack frame fit your torso? Does the curve of the frame fit the contour of your back? It’s not your height but the length of your torso (from the base of the neck to the top of the tailbone) that determines what size external frame you should get. Have a friend use a tape measure to find your torso length before you go shopping.
Since I’m a small person with a short back, a properly sized frame or one that can be adjusted is essential. The same precautions should apply if you have a long back or are broad in the shoulders.
Get the Right Hipbelt
The hipbelt is like the shock absorber for your backpack. A properly fitted hipbelt can transfer as much as 90% of the weight from the pack to the strongest muscles in the body, your legs. The hipbelt should fit around the hips not the waist. Your hipbones should fit in the middle of the belt.
Comfortable Shoulder Straps
Straps should be padded for long term comfort but not so big as to restrict the movement of your arms or shoulders. The shoulder strap should come up and curve over your collarbone snugly. They should be easy to adjust for easy adjustments and quick take offs.
Get a Pack with Load Lifter and Sternum Straps
Loader straps help pull the weight of a pack off the shoulders and more in line with the back and hips. This helps reduce fatigue and stabilizes the overall weight. Sternum straps give you greater freedom of movement and stop shoulder straps from slipping down your arms.
Get a Sturdy and Water Resistant Pack Bag
Although you may not be traveling into the rainforest and a mild but steady drizzle can invade even the best of packs if they have not been made to withstand a certain level of moisture. Is it tough enough? Check the stitching along the seams and on the straps of the backpack. Are they reinforced or double-stitched?
In summary, when you go shopping for that first external frame backpack, look at a:
- External Frame sized for your torso measurements
- Hipbelt with good padding, that rides comfortably across your hipbones
- Shoulder Straps that are well made and well padded
- Load Lifter and Sternum Straps to help stabilize the load
- Rugged and Water Resistant Pack Bag for long term use