Backpack Buying Guide

GearTrends® Backpack Buying Guide

Internal Frame Backpack Pluses and Minuses:

Internal frame backpacks have a streamlined shape because the frame, a flexible one, is inside the backpack. Since the pack is flexible and carries close to the body, it offers comfortable fit, low center of gravity, flexibility, and a relative freedom of movement to the user. Those features make internal frame packs an ideal choice for rock scrambling, off trail, winter ski touring, mountaineering. The drawback with internal frames is that they do not carry unwieldy loads easily and can become quite unstable and uncomfortable if you end up lashing large amounts of gear to the outside of the pack.

External Frame Backpack Pluses and Minuses:

External frame backpacks feature rigid, rectangular frames, typically made of aluminum or a more flexible plastic/nylon. The weight carries higher than a pack with an internal frame, so correct loading is essential. The frame carries the pack away from your back, improving ventilation and making the pack a cooler choice. Since the pack frame is somewhat rigid, it does tend to restrict moment. External frame packs also typically have a higher center of gravity, making them feel a bit top-heavy unless loaded properly. However, unlike an internal frame pack, the rigid external frame can carry ridiculously awkward loads quite comfortably and offer numerous lash points for attaching items .This feature may be appealing to the parent carrying almost all the gear while the other carries the child. External frame backpacks are ideal for very large and bulky loads and for long backpacking trips. But they’re not for mountaineering or skiing.

Features to covet in backpacks

  • Durable, coated fabrics that repel sharp objects, resist tears and turn back raindrops.
  • Load lifter straps to ease the weight on the shoulders.
  • Padded back with wicking synthetic fabric for comfort.
  • Compression straps placed so you can reduce loads or compress a pack when it is not full.
  • Storm collar that extends between 8 to 12 inches for loads you don’t want to comprehend.
  • Accessory pockets to customize a pack by function and volume.
  • Hydration pockets that will accept all sizes and brands of drinking reservoirs.
  • Travel packs with removable daypacks that are securely attached when in place.
  • Shovel pocket’s are great for stuffing extra clothing and gear into.
  • Floating top pocket on internal frame packs
  • Contoured shoulder straps with designs that accommodate women’s curves too.
  • Cupped or canted hip belts with designs that accommodate women’s curves too.
  • Heavy-duty zippers.
  • Daisy chain — a series of webbing loops sewn into a chain running vertically– on the front offering multiple lash points.
  • Reinforced pack bottom to protect the end that gets abused the most.

Variable loading/closure choices in packs

Top Loading: Features one top opening into which you load, cram and stuff your gear. Many top loaders have an extension collar or tube that will add additional volume should it be needed and a floating top pocket to fit over the main compartment. Top loading packs re the most water-resistant of all the pack designs simply because there are fewer openings and zippers. This design is deal for backpacking, mountaineering, winter camping.

Panel Loading: For those who want easy access to their gear. You can open a horseshoe-shaped zipper and see all that is inside the pack. Will not hold as much as other styles, and if a zipper fails — Oy vey! Ideal for light weekend backpacking and adventure travel.

Hybrid or Combination Loading: Offers the best of both packs: top loading for stuffing to the gills, panel loading for seeing what is inside without rummaging. More openings mean less water-resistance. A raincover is a must. Ideal for adventure travel, backpacking, hut-to-hut skiing.