Three Things to Consider Before Buying an External-frame Pack

Having a rigid system to shoulder heavy loads can make it easier to get in and get out of wherever you’re hiking.

external frame pack
The advantage of a pack frame is it keeps the bulk of the weight close to your body’s core where it’s easier to carry long distances.Badlands

Although internal-frame packs dominate the recreational backpacking market, traditional external-frame packs still offer several advantages for sportsmen. They are generally less expensive than internal designs, more rugged, and offer greater load-carrying capabilities. What an external-frame pack may add in bulk and weight, it makes up for in durability. Whether you are looking to access the backcountry for a week or a day, either to hunt, fish, or just wander the great outdoors, here are a few pointers on finding the right external-frame pack for your next adventure.

ALPS OutdoorZ Commander + Pack Bag
This model is made with ripstop nylon for harsh weather environments.ALPS

For all-around use, it is hard to beat an external-frame pack with at least 40 to 50 liters of capacity, or roughly 2,500 to 3,000 cubic inches. That’s enough for a two- or three-day outing, with longer trips requiring more volume. Look for a pack with plenty of attachment points and a load shelf for hauling game as well as for stowing your sleep system while hiking.

Badlands Vario Modular Hunting Pack System
This frame has a 17-inch shoulder drop.Badlands

If you are looking specifically for a backcountry hunting pack, then consider an external frame that you can modify for various scenarios. Reduce pack weight by configuring the bag to carry only those provisions that the trip demands, and then strip the set-up to just the frame for long hauls off the mountain with your hard-won game.

Military Rucksack Alice Pack Army Survival Combat Field Backpack with Frame
This model has over 3,000 cubic inches of storage space and can carry up to 50 pounds.MT

A minimalist, military-style ruck can help hone woodsmanship and outdoor skills by reducing your load to the bare essentials. High-volume packs are antithetical to the practice of bushcraft and survival, and the traditional ALICE pack is a tried-and-true system for those expeditions where what you know is more important than how much you can carry.