Nothing is more important than your backpack for long walks and camping trips. After all, it carries everything you need for the trip. One may assume that backpacks are only for storing your things. Some might notice a layer of complexity in the different sections inside the bag, but that’s it.
However, backpacks have their own secret layer of complexity. Over the years, backpacks have evolved from just a bag to carry your stuff to packs that can carry stuff as well as be comfortable on the body. These advancements in comfort are due to the development of the backpack from the material used, like titanium backpacks, to its shape and design.
Backpack frames are the skeletons that give structure and support to your pack. They come in two varieties: the external frame and the internal frame. These frames are crucial figures in effectively distributing weight effectively across your body. All in all, they make carrying heavy loads feel manageable and comfortable.
How Backpack Frames Work
Backpack frames are built to provide comfort as well as stability for your backpack. As such, we can examine how backpack frames work by looking at these three main factors: Weight Distribution, Stability and Control, Ventilation and Comfort.
- Weight Distribution: This is the ability of your pack to distribute weight evenly across your hips, shoulders, and back. The type of frame may matter in how this can be achieved. For example, some internal frame backpacks achieve this through a suspension system that connects the hip belt frame to the shoulder straps.
- Stability and Control: Good frames allow for stability and control, which should be prominent when carrying heavier loads. The frames can do this due to their own rigidity and the way they transfer weight to your core. With this stability, your body can prevent the pack from swaying or bouncing too much. In turn, there is less fatigue and strain when carrying your pack.
- Ventilation and Comfort: While not necessarily exclusive to them, air channels or mesh back panels in internal frames are designed to create space between the pack and your back. Such a feature allows for better airflow and a way to prevent sweat from building up. As such, this provides the much-needed ventilation to keep you cooler and more comfortable which are welcome features in long hikes or walks in warmer temperatures.
As mentioned above, backpack frames come in two different main types: the internal frame and the external frame. While the main difference is already spelled out, There are still many things that make both stand up.
Internal Frame Backpacks
In terms of structure, internal frames are built into the backpack itself; as such, they are entirely invisible from the outside. Frames of this type are usually made from plastic or aluminum and run vertically along the back and a horizontal hip belt frame. These are then connected to a suspension system that is usually made from mesh or webbing that helps cradle both your back and shoulder
When it comes to weight distribution, internal frames do it efficiently. The suspension system mostly does the heavy lifting and transfers 60-80% of the load to your hips, which is naturally stronger. This makes the internal frame backpack comfortable for carrying weighty things in over long distances
Ventilation and Comfort
Most internal frames enjoy the feature of having air channels or mesh back panels that provide space between your back and the pack. This promotes air circulation and helps reduce sweating. They are not perfect, as heat can still be trapped between the layers, especially in hot weather.
Stability and Control
Internal frame backpacks generally provide better stability and control, especially with good suspension systems. They have a close fit with your body, minimizing the pack's movement and bouncing around. As such, you don’t have to worry when traversing uneven terrains.
External Frame Backpacks
External frame backpacks are made of a metal skeleton that stands independent of the pack itself. The bag is suspended from the skeleton with straps or brackets. While they are more prevalent in the past, they can be rarely seen now.
Weight distribution on external frame backpacks can be a hit or miss. Most of these packs have a gap between the frame and your back, which makes the weight stay closer to your shoulder, which some might find uncomfortable. That said, some heavy-duty external frames have an adjustable strap, which can remedy this problem. The frame’s material can also be a huge factor in weight distribution. Frames made from titanium can even rival the comfort of internal frame backpacks while being more durable.
Ventilation and Comfort
The same gap that is a bane to most external frames when it comes to weight distribution also provides a boon when it comes to the ventilation and comfort of these types of backpacks. That said, the gap provides for an excellent area for air to circulate. This makes the external frame backpacks perfect for hot weather or strenuous activities.
Stability and Control
External frame backpacks, especially the older types, can be extremely bulky. This bulkiness is what compromises the external frame’s stability. As such, external frame backpacks are less ideal when walking on challenging terrain. However, the rigidity of their frame does offer good control for other activities, such as hunting or when carrying heavier and bulkier gear.
Choosing the Right Frame For You
When buying your backpack for your camping gear, it is not enough to mindlessly choose the backpack that you fancy. You should weigh your options and see which frame suits you and your purpose. When choosing, you should look out for several factors, including:
When choosing the right type of backpack, consider what you intend to use the backpack for. If you want a backpack for hiking and backpacking, the stability and efficient weight distribution of internal frame backpacks might be best for you. Of course, if you are hauling bulky and awkward gear, such as those for fishing and hunting, then consider the external frame backpack.
Body type is also a huge factor when choosing the right backpack frame. Those with shorter and taller torsos could find comfort in internal frames as it is more adjustable and can fit between these torso lengths. That's also why sometimes it's recommended to choose backpacks for guys or women.
A pack with adjustable suspension systems is a plus. Meanwhile, external frame packs are perfect for those who have broader shoulders or hips, as they don’t compress these body parts as much.
For lighter packs, both external and internal frames are good options. This will depend on your preference. If you want a sleek and comfortable carry, go with the internal frame. For better ventilation and bulky items, go with the external packs.
When it comes to heavy packs, the internal frame would be better when it has the necessary suspension systems. Meanwhile, get an external frame if you want more load capacity and control as well as if you need something to carry awkward gear.
When choosing a backpack, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all choice. As such, it is important to try before you buy your backpack to properly find the one that suits you. If you can, wear the pack fully loaded to fully assess how it really fits your needs.
Always consider your personal preference. Ultimately, this should be your best bet when choosing your backpack. All these factors mean nothing if you yourself don’t find the backpack comfortable when you use it. Always choose a bag that you want to use and wear. After all, you will be the one benefitting from it the most.
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