What\’s the difference between external frame and internal frame backpacks?

What\’s the difference between external frame and internal frame backpacks?

The Difference Between External Frame and Internal Frame Backpacks

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you glance at backpacks as a significant tool for your hiking, camping, or mountain climbing trip. Therefore, selecting the correct one is vital. Generally, there are two main types of backpacks, internal frame packs, and external frame packs. Each has its own set of unique features and serves distinct purposes. Understanding the differences can help you choose the best one for your needs.

External Frame Backpacks – What Are they?

External frame backpacks have a visible, externally mounted frame built with durable materials such as aluminum or alloy metals. The bag itself is attached to this framework. They were used extensively in the past before the advent of their internal counterparts, and although they are not as popular now, still serve a purpose in specific situations.

Features of External Frame Backpacks

Load Capacity

One of the significant advantages of external frame backpacks is their large load-carrying capacity. They can handle large volumes of heavy equipment with ease. The backpack’s design allows for the weight to be distributed evenly across your back, allowing you to carry it comfortably. For trips that require considerable gear, these packs are an excellent choice.

Organization and Accessibility

External frame backpacks offer easy organization and accessibility because you can attach equipment such as sleeping bags and tents externally. This feature significantly helps with gear organization and access to frequently used items.

Internal Frame Backpacks: What Are They?

An internal frame backpack has the frame enclosed within the backpack’s fabric, making it invisible from the outside. This type of backpack hugs the body closer, providing better balance and maneuverability. These packs are designed for activities where you want your pack to act as an extension of your body for enhanced stability.

Features of Internal Frame Backpacks

Stability and Balance

With a snug fit to the body, internal frame backpacks provide a stable and balanced feel, especially during activities that require you to move around a lot, like climbing and skiing. The backpack sits closer to your center of gravity, which gives you better control and balance compared to an external frame pack.


One of the downsides of an internal frame backpack is the lack of ventilation, especially in the back panel. Wearing them for extended periods could lead to discomfort due to sweat generation.

The Verdict

Choosing between an external frame and internal frame backpack boils down to the nature of your activity, your personal comfort, and your load-carrying requirements. For extended camping trips where you are carrying heavy gear, an external frame outshines its counterpart. However, for balance- and maneuverability-intensive activities, the internal frame backpack wins the day.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which Is Better: An External or Internal Frame Backpack?

Both types have unique strengths. External frame backpacks are better suited for heavy, bulky loads and easier gear organization, while internal frame backpacks offer superior balance and mobility. Therefore, the better type depends on your specific needs and use case.

2. Are External Frame Backpacks Obsolete?

No, external frame backpacks are not obsolete. While they may not be as popular, they are still the preferred choice for long trips with significant gear.

3. Is an Internal Frame Backpack More Comfortable?

Comfort is subjective and depends on the activity and personal preference. While an internal frame backpack may provide better balance and a closer fit, an external frame backpack can offer more ventilation.

4. Can I Switch Between an External and Internal Frame for the Same Backpack?

Typically, the frame type (external or internal) is built into the backpack’s design, and swapping is not possible. However, some versatile models on the market can allow a switch.

5. Where Can I Purchase High-quality External or Internal Frame Backpacks?

You can purchase high-quality backpacks from various outdoor gear stores and online marketplaces such as Amazon. For more options, visit the best backpack and gear section on our website.

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