Framed packs

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Woody110

Mod
Mod
Mar 8, 2009
294
94
Leeds, Yorkshire
I’ve just watched a horror film with some campers on the Appalachian Trail.
The film isn’t the point, and to be fair and not really sure of the point of the film, however one of the people were carrying a Kelty pack from the 70’s and wonder why no one uses them now.

So does anyone still use them or like many things, have they been replaced by modern materials and ideas.

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Mowmow

Forager
Jul 6, 2016
186
81
Nottinghamshire
I don't really know why they aren't as popular as they may have been in the past, but a externally framed rucksack definitely has some big advantages over an internal frame pack. A lot of companys still make them, a lot of hunting packs feature external frames as they're great for packing meat out, ive even seen some where the frames shaped to be a rifle rest.
Quite a few military style pack have external frames too. Generally made for big heavy loads being carried over long distances.


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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,656
1,619
McBride, BC
I bought an external frame pack in about 1970. Huge thing, it will hold 2 cases of wine.
You are a Camping GOD when you arrive at the top hut.
The design from Recreation Equipment (Seattle), used by the American team away back when to do Everest.
I bought it because the bag comes off really easily (wearing thick mittens) for other loads.
I've still got it.
Big enough to be practical for 3-5 days winter camp and travel.
In summer, I put an empty wine box in the bottom to fill space with little weight.

Mountain Mule (New Zealand) made an exterior frame pack that was hollow.
You could fill it up with gas/petrol for the stove, had a wee tap and all.
Enormous pain it the rear to refill a stove from it.
 

Bishop

Full Member
Jan 25, 2014
1,540
476
Inside the wire, Llanelli
The AT is a bit of a special case, there's a whole tourist industry geared to supporting hikers that simply was not there in the Kelty started making gear. Back then you could be a week on the trail between towns and any hope of resupply, hence the need for a good size pack. Now.. you can phone ahead and an Uber will be waiting to take you to civilisation, a bunkhouse, hot showers & wifi. Local stores all eager to make some coin stock trail friendly food, equipment, etc and the US postal service deserves a special mention for its mail drop service. All this has helped drive down pack weights considerably. The weird thing is though if anything rucksacks themselves have actually gotten heavier since the Seventies.

Ergonomically the Kelty style packs do have some advantages, I was rocking a slightly smaller Millets/Campari clone for a while and loved it.. Getting the weight up high and slightly forward puts the load more down through the spine & hips as opposed to pulling back on the shoulders like low slung packs do. The downside however if you lose your footing and get a wobble on with a high-frame pack, abandon all hope..
 
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SCOMAN

Full Member
Dec 31, 2005
2,178
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Perthshire
Kifaru and others do frame packs but whilst the principals are similar the rest is light years ahead. I had a Kifaru external frame the only weak point in carrying anywhere near its max weight was me! The Savotta Jaakari XL is also an external pack. Karrimor SF do the Loki frame for load lifting duties. They can carry massive weights and my experience of the Kifaru product was comfort in the extreme. I will add I sold my Kifaru frame in my downsizing of kit though, to much pack for infrequent use.
 

Van-Wild

Full Member
Feb 17, 2018
642
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UK
I have a Kelty Redcloud 110. The frame while being external, is more akin in design to internally framed packs rather than the traditional tubed external frames. The Redcloud frame is lightweight and forms part of the very substantial hip pads, thus being very comfortable even with very heavy loads (I've loaded up with 30kg of gear and it was still comfortable to move with).

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TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,040
408
Vantaa, Finland
An external frame can in most cases be fairly easily fitted to most people, internal "frames" meaning mostly Al slats must be bent to fit the individual. If the bending is done properly one can get the load slightly closer to body than with most externals.

The best internal frame I have met was a thermo formed composite plate, that pack had quite a few other tricks that I am waiting to see in other ones. It was a prototype that never got into production.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,650
695
Lancashire
The best way to shape an internally framed rucksack to your back, as I found out once, is to put a big weight into it and walk for at least two full days. After that the frame or your back will be permanently adjusted to fit the other!!!! It turned my Berghaus sack with a two, alloy slat, X frame into the most comfortable rucksack ever. I even continued for 9 days with a bad back after straining it. Wearing the fully loaded rucksack actually reduced the pain in my back that I felt when not wearing it!!!

As to external frame sacks, I believe they've become more specialised such as for hunting or long, unsupported treks. The triple crown trails do have more support along their lengths but there are still two week stretches on all of them I believe. Many require bear canisters under threat of hefty fines. However with the renewal of the ultralight movement you can now go for several weeks without the loads needed when external framed rucksacks had their peak. I believe they are not as stable as internal frame sacks on the whole.

As to weight increases since those days, well you're talking 80s and early 90s but nowadays things have moved back to lighter weights. In long distance walkers it's gone really lightweight. My base load without food, but it did have 2 litres of water when measured which I forgot I'd packed, was measured at 6.5kg. that's without trying to get light. It had a fair few luxuries in TBH. I could have easily dropped to below 4kg. In fact taking the water out I was really at 4.5kg base load. Taking the frame out of my sack, taking out my 3/4 length TAR out (I had a cut down CCF mat that weighed 130g before cutting down to fit me) and removing my luxuries could easily have got to below 4kg. That in a sack that could manage to be carry at least a week's food possibly 2.

I'm not even trying to be UL and 4kg is realistic. Why carry heavy external frame when it's easy to carry what you need with lightweight loads that will never need the carrying capability of external frames? Unless you've got a specialist need such as hunters to carry out heavy meat loads. Or you're a bushcrafter carrying heavy loads of kit and luxuries to your favourite base camp of course. :) :)
 

Tiley

Full Member
Oct 19, 2006
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Gloucestershire
For multi-day trips to remote areas or just indulging the desire to be completely independent, I reckon an external frame pack is hard to beat. Although a bit heavy, the comfort and versatility that you enjoy soon make you forget those extra grams. I'm not of the ultralight fraternity and I enjoy using gear that I know is utterly dependable, almost irrespective of its weight; so, I apply the same thinking to my pack. My Savotta Jaakari XL is superb and somehow makes the weight of bigger loads on longer trips just vanish somehow. I think it's some sort of Finnish witchcraft...

It has to be said that the Savotta iteration of the external framed pack is a massive improvement on the Karrimor Annapurna 2 pack that I started with all those years ago!
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Lancashire
Durability is more about quality than weight. Some of my worst quality kit were considered weighty and thus durable. The quality meant durability was a false premise with them.

Take stoves for example. There's probably no stove lighter and more reliable than esbit stoves made out of titanium. IIRC my vargo one was supposedly 7g in weight. Great backup on trips where I was planning on staying in the hills for a week or more.

My mates 30 year old karrimor internally framed rucksack carries all the weight you'd want, tough with it and weighs about 1500g. Last I heard it was still his only backpack. Can't get rid of it partly because of the gold warranty it came with. He isn't lightweight and usually carried 15-20+ kg loads. Apparently you can still get good karrimor alpine rucksacks that are also lightweight but that's not common post Mike takeover AIUI. Bear in mind there's a guy who did a lightweight, first winter Munro tour using karrimor kit including a 1kg tent. The Great outdoors magazine had it on the front cover one month. Good, durable and lightweight. That's about the quality of the materials and design. They lost their way but modern design has returned to the ideas of the 70s with the high end and new design kit from then.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,650
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Lancashire
If so I think the slats were too thin, they will of course bend under load but they should not do that permanently.
I don't know how but the sack was uncomfortable before that trip even lightly loaded for day walks. So much so I stopped using it for 10 years. Went back to it for that trip and suffered. Then it was so comfortable afterwards. The alloy slats were strong and not easy to bend, which was why I never did it.
 

Herman30

Settler
Aug 30, 2015
582
301
53
Finland
I´m going on a trip to see my girlfriend and the trip includes a +6 hour train ride.
This is my pack for the journey. A LK35 frame with a smaller swedish army day pack.



And attached a smaller pack for food and drink (and miscellanious small stuff) for the trainride.

 
Sep 18, 2020
7
5
41
Norway
I have a modern version of a framed pack; "Norrøna Syncroflex 125 litres". It's designed for big heavy loads and is used by some military branches here in Norway, also popular among hunters that have to carry what they kill. Quiet good for it's purpose, but a bit big for summer backpacking.
 

baggins

Full Member
Apr 20, 2005
1,438
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45
Coventry (and up trees)
Sorry, only just watched the 'walk in the woods", with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. The film based on Bill Brysons book of the same name about him hiking the AP. A very funny part in it is why he chose his pack, " well, it beats carrying all my stuff in my arms". Good film and an even better book. Just thought it was rather apt for this thread!
 
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santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
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Florida
I remember mine I’m the 70s. However I don’t remember the brand name or if it even had one; generics were common and those frames were ubiquitous then. What I do remember was that it was so much lighter than the internal framed packs of today. And the frames were normally bought separate from the packs and you could easily mix and match them.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,650
695
Lancashire
70s generally were light then 80-90s things bit heavier as sack companies added features we supposedly needed. Then there were cottage industry companies in America and later elsewhere who started experimenting with materials and design to reduce weight for longer distance, remote trails. Right now there's options that are going to be considerably lighter and more comfortable than even 70s kit.

As to lighter than internal framed packs, the way to go now is to not need internal frames because your kit is so light transfer of weight to hios isn't needed. External framed sacks I've seen have heavier gauge tube than internal framed sacks. Then you've got to have a means to attach the fabric part of the sack. IMHO if you're arguing that they're lighter then I suspect it's because you're not really comparing like with like. A big, heavy sack with so many features to cause the weight is probably the interrailing or world traveller types. Backpackers who are into it will probably be headed towards lighter weight with every upgrade.

Of course there's always those who like durability and equate that with sacks for squaddies at the expense of extra weight. Personally for durability I like the crux AK range. Lightweight but not UL. What they are is a simple climbing or alpine sack that can take abuse yet still light. Far more abuse than those heavy, squaddie sacks I reckon. Plus they never look new, they look well used straight out of the gear shop throughout their life.

IMHO external frame sacks for backpacking have had their day but for specialist use they've got advantages. If you're carrying heavy kit or meat then perhaps they are worth it. If you're backpacking one of the triple crown trails you'd be better off carrying lighter kit with lighter sack that can carry your kit.

In the UK for weekend trips my sack was IIRC 600g and 32 litres, another I used was 20 litres. For two weeks without resupply I used a 50 litre with 15 litre overflow capacity yet it weighs less than 1.5 kg possibly 1.1kg. triple crown trails I'd probably look at a larger capacity frameless from a us lightweight brand and use my kit and careful packing to give it shape. Especially if I need a bear canister. A former friend did one of them with a golite jam rucksack. A Kevlar reinforced 55 l sack IIRC with internal frame but barely a kilo in weight.
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,708
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Florida
As I remember the frames from the 70s (at least the early 70s when I was using them) hip belts were a rarity. None of my packs nor frames had them (the point was to raise the center of gravity up onto your shoulders and away from your back) As to attaching the pack to the frame it was simply a matter of sliding the upper tips of the frame into short sleeves (no more than 2 or 3 inches) on either side of packs that had them. I don’t know about the squaddie packs of the time (I was in my early teens) but that was standard for BSA packs and most backpacking packs. Even my day pack (an old BSA Yucca pack) had sleeves to attach pretty much any external frame.

True, some hunting parties might use a frame to pack out their meat quarters, but I imagine most in that position (hunting in remote areas where you can’t get a vehicle) prefer to use a pack animal and do it in a single trip.
 
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