Backpack Selection Guide – Part 3: Internal vs External Frame

Oct 18


From the outside, backpacks all seem to possess a similar quality. They all just serve as bags, as carrying machines, as containers for your personal items and goods. However, there is an essential factor you should keep in mind while exploring your backpack options: the frame.

A backpack’s support system can come in an internal or external frame. It is paramount that you understand the difference between the two. Only then, you will be able to determine what you need based on your usage purpose so that you would not end up wasting the extra dollars just to buy something that is not exactly what you need in the first place.

External Frame

A backpack with an external frame possesses a special quality. Its support system is on the outside. It almost looks like the skeleton of the backpack is on the outside, rather than hidden underneath the canvas.

A backpack with an external frame has many benefits, but whether it is perfect for you depends on the type of trip you are taking. For starters, an external frame greatly affects the weight distribution on your back. You will find yourself walking straighter, letting the external frame suspend the backpack upon your back. This also increases the amount of airflow you experience, which may be beneficial in hotter climates.

External frame backpacks are typically waterproof, and can often be quite affordable. Despite it all, however, they do have a few downsides. Because of their size, they can be rather cumbersome and decrease your stability as a hiker.

Internal Frame

A backpack with an internal frame is quite literally the opposite. The backpack’s support system is considered “soft” and is hidden within the structure of the backpack’s canvas itself. This style tends to be lighter, more efficient, and allows the hiker to maneuver more easily through trees and brush. It moves with you, and allows for a more rapid pace.

Internal framed backpacks, because of their increased maneuverability, allow hikers to traverse on different hiking medians. For instance, since they are snugger and tightly strapped to the back, they can allow a hiker to climb, jump, and even run.

However, like most good things, they have downsides as well. A backpack with an internal frame does not have the same even weight distribution that an externally framed backpack does. This can cause more strain on the hips and shoulders. Often, on long hikes with an internally framed backpack, hikers experience themselves leaning forward to compensate for the unevenly distributed weight on their back. Click here for more in-depth discussion about this subject.


To cut the long story short, it comes down to this. If you are going to take your backpack for a lengthy trip and you need a stable companion, backpacks with external frame are more recommended. If you need something that is more versatile, backpacks with internal frame are what you should be inclined to. But ultimately, the choice depends on individual preference and comfort needs. A backpack that is good for me might not be good for you and vice-versa.

We have now come to end of our 3-part backpack selection series. I hope you understand the 3 fundamental factors that every backpack seeker has to weigh carefully – Capacity, Compartments and Frame Structure. While everyone would love to have the best looking backpack, remember that looks can be deceiving and the best backpack may not be the one with the most stunning physical appearance but one that is well designed to cater to your purpose and need.

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