How To Pack An External Frame Backpack?

Stuck trying to decide how to pack an external frame backpack? Been on the trail for hours searching for shelter and still haven’t found it? Then you’ve come to the right place!

You probably know how important it is to have a properly packed backpack. The consequences of having improperly packed gear can be life threatening. I know this from personal experience as I once got lost on the trail owing to a poorly packed backpack.

Choosing the right backpack for your wilderness adventure is meaningful. It not only serves as your luggage in the trip but could also make a difference in where you’re able to go and how easily you get to your destinations. Backpack will also determine what kind of and how much gear you can carry. So making the right decision in choosing a perfect backpack becomes vital.

Although external frame backpacks are less useful and not much common, as compared to internal frame backpacks, still no one can deny its importance. It has various advantages and can be considered preferable for different outdoor adventures and trips.

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Especially when hiking a clear, marked path, an external frame backpack will help maintain your center of gravity and allow you to carry more weight without causing any damage to your lower lumbar. External frame backpacks are an upgrade from lopsided knapsacks, but if you are not packing an external frame backpack properly, it means you are not making full use of it. To utilize every aspect of the external-frame effectively, theirs is a way to pack.

If you are wondering how to pack an external frame backpack, go through the article and learn how you can organize your gears properly.

What Is An External Frame Backpack?

How To Pack An External Frame Backpack

External frame backpacks are those with a framework on the outside. The suspension system in this pack is a rigid aluminum or composite frame that helps you to carry heavy loads without hurting the back and ensure excellent weight transfer to the hip if fitted-properly.

External frame backpacks are usually with frame space left over, either below or above the pack that helps you to attach larger gear on the outside, in the shape of a sleeping tent, sleeping bag, or pad.

Difference Between Internal Frame Backpack and External Frame Backpack

Internal Frame pack:

Internal frame backpack is sleeker and form-fitting. It sits flush against your back, which keeps your overall center of gravity closer to its natural position. Mostly internal frame packs are more compact and usually contain one or two aluminum stays. These rods hold the loads closer to the body and can be bent to fit your spine curvature, for providing extra comfort.

With one or more main compartments, these types of backpacks contain big internal capacity. In addition to that, internal frame backpacks are inherently lighter, and you can find a range of options from lightweight to ultralight. Its slimmer profile is also less likely to catch on branches, brush, or rock faces.

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External frame pack:

In comparison, External frame packs are easy to spot by their squares’ backpack and visible out frame elements. These packs tend to be bulkier, longer, and have lots of smaller compartments that make the organization easier. An external frame backpack also offers more sections and pockets as compared to the internal frame, and you can also attach equipment directly to the frame-itself.

An External frame packs transfer load nicely to your hip that allows an upright walking position that adds extra comfort. Moreover, the retro look of an external frame backpack definitely has its own fan base. In short, External frame packs are best for lashing on bulky gears and are best suited to use on well-maintained well-graded trails.

Some other noticeable difference between Internal and External frame packs

Affordability: There’s a noticeable difference in the price of both internal and external frame backpacks. Initially, the internals were less expensive, but as the designs have evolved and the structure has changed, now they are more costly than an external frame pack. Another reason behind the difference in prices is, external frame backpacks are less common today than their counterparts. People tend to buy more internal frame packs that resulted in a rise in prices.

Weight: External frame backpacks come with thick frame pieces that make them heavier whereas internal frame packs are much heavier, and you can also find a range of options from lightweight to ultra-weight in internal-frame packs.

Packing: Most internal frames backpacks come with a top leading pack, meaning you need to load the backpack from the top, instead of filling it from the front panel. Its design also discourages strapping a lot of gears outside. Whereas, you can use an external frame pack to strap gears onto your backpacks. If you need to pack in supplies to a remote location or pack out after a hunt, the external-frame is better for that.

Finding a backpack: Finding a good external backpack can be tricky and time-consuming, but internal frame backpacks are available in great numbers and different varieties. You can easily find one without any trouble.

How to pack an External Frame Backpack?

Packing a backpack is the most vital yet uphill task. A traveler can easily understand how important it is to organize gears perfectly. If it is not done properly, you may suffer a lot of inconvenience. Packing depends on the total weight and also determining which place is best for which item. Now without any further delay, let’s get straight into how you should go about picking an external frame backpack.

Having a lot of baggage is a frequent mistake that most people make. The first thing you should do while packing aback is to make a list of essentials that are necessary for your trip.

  • Categorize the items according to their weights. Make a group of essentials, lightweight things, and bulky items separately.
  • Start with placing a lightweight item at the very bottom of your external frame backpack. Make sure these are the items that you won’t need access to throughout the day.
  • Use nylon straps and roll-up the sleeping mat at the bottom of the pack.
  • Medium weight items should be placed furthest from your back, preferably in the middle of the backpack.
  • Heavy items should be placed at the top of the backpack, next to your back that helps to keep you in a balanced position.
  • Use outer pockets to place quick-access items like torchlight, phone, first aid kit, survival watch, etc.
  • Keep any emergency items close to hand in an easily accessible area.
  • For go-to items like drinks, snacks, maps, and waterproof that you will need throughout the day, use the side pockets.

If you want to carry any bulky, long, awkwardly shaped items, straps them to the external frame itself. Whereas strapping makes sure that they are securely attached and balanced perfectly or else, these items will keep swinging and causing you inconvenience while moving.

Make sure to pack an external backpack carefully with given instruction. If the backpack is not properly set the external frame will not be able to transfer the weight equally on your body. Any movement from the interior of your pack could also set you off balance, causing discomfort, body ache, and even a fall.

Tip: Wrap all the soft items around the bulky things. It will prevent the shifting of items. To fill in the gaps, you can use the rainfly, tent body, and extra clothing.

Advantages Of External Frame Backpacks


External have a large gap between the frame and the backpack. It holds the weight higher, with the pack further away from your torso, this ventilation channel allows the airs to flow across your back. It not only prevents the build-up of perspiration between your pack and bag but also keeps you cool on the hot sunny days. There are also some netting and straps that have been designed to keep the distance between the back and metal frames.

Weight Distribution:

 The external frame backpack also allows a better weight transfer to your lower body. As your pack load sits higher on your back, an external frame pack distributes the load nicely to your hip and allows an up-right comfortable walking position.


External frames backpacks often have different compartments and a lot of outer pockets that make the organization of your equipment easy. In an external backpack, usually, the access to the main compartment is through the top of the backpack.

Heavy loads:

 Thanks to their large capacity and solid-frame, externals come with the ability to carry the heavy load across long distances. If you are looking to lift heavy, bulky items and equipment along your journey, then an external frame backpack can make doing so much easier.

Custom external frame backpacks:

You can buy a custom external backpack for one time, and it can last you for life with ease. Another more useful and beneficial feature is, you can detach the metal frame when and whenever you want for some other use. It also gives the user facility to replace straps, belts and change the pack if needed.

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