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When choosing a new pack consider:
Internal frame packs are the dominant choice for backpackers. These packs keep the center of gravity close to the user's back. An internal pack has its frame inside the pack (members of the frame are called stays). Ultralight backpackers select frameless packs to reduce weight.
Popular Backpacks (View all Backpacks)
Osprey Rain Cover
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Types of Frames

What is an Internal Pack?

Since the early 1990's, internal packs have become the dominant choice for backpackers. An internal pack has its frame (members of the frame are called stays) inside the pack. Some packs provide removable stays. Removable Stays can be removed and then bent to fit your back. Dual aluminum stays have parallel or X-shaped stays that provide additional support.



What is an Ultralight Pack?

An ultralight pack is one that is specialized in being lightweight. Most models are meant to carry at most 25 pounds of weight.



External Pack
What is an External Pack?

Though external packs were extremely popular until the early 1990's most models have been retired. An external pack is a pack with the frame on the outside.



How should a pack fit?
A good backpacking pack should be comfortable and should be able to transfer weight from your shoulders to your pelvis.

Torso length is a crucial measurement to backpackers, because if you get the length wrong, your pack will be unable to properly transfer weight away from your shoulders and onto your hips.

Torso length by convention is measured from the C7 vertebrae to the iliac crest. To identify the C7 vertebrae, simply feel the back of your neck and feel for the most prominent bone at the base of your neck. To identify the iliac crest (see picture below), find the top of your pelvis and follow the ridge a few inches on the top around to the front of your body.

The easiest way to measure your torso length is to take a belt and put it around your waist at the iliac crest, then have someone measure the distance from your C7 vertebrae to the middle of the belt.

Once you've measured your torso length, you can check out manufacturer's websites to figure out what size pack will fit you best. Keep in mind that each designer builds packs in a range that will fit multiple torso lengths, and the shoulder harness can move up and down to better fit the user.

The trick is that the shoulder harness needs to be set at a position where you can transfer about 75% of the pack's weight to the hip belt, and about 25% of the weight to the shoulders. To get the pack's weight distributed properly you need to adjust the load levelers (see diagram below) and the harness adjustment strap.

The next thing to focus on is how closely the pack's back support aligns with the wearer's back. Ideally, it should follow the contours of your back perfectly without any areas that are pressing too hard against your back, or any areas that are not in contact with your back. Many manufacturers make great "one back support fits all" systems like Gregory, unfortunately, they don't always live up to their name. Most of these systems can fit between 70-80% of people well (which are pretty good betting odds), but leave nothing for the rest of us. Another option is that Arc'Teryx and Marmot offer bendable aluminum stays that you can bend to the contours of your back for a more custom fit.

Pack Covers
Pack covers are lightweight, water-proof covers that can be placed over your bag if you get trapped in bad weather.

Good Features
A good suspension system trumps every other feature on a pack. If the pack doesn't fit right and doesn't feel good with weight in it, then all the bells and whistles in the world shouldn't sell a pack. With that being said, here are some other features to look out for.

Heavy vs. Ultralight
This is a debate that has been going on for quite some time, and there doesn't seem like there is much middle ground. Usually, if you are running at about 30-35 pounds or more, you are typically considered a "heavy."

One of the problems that most people run into is that as soon as you start adding things like a better mattress, more clothes etc., you need a bigger, heavier pack to hold it all in. Once you have a bigger pack, you need boots that support the increased load better... and now you've entered into a vicious cycle. Although it can be more "comfortable" going heavy, ultralight backpackers can usually go farther, and feel more refreshed at the end of a long hike.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a backpacking philosophy.

Packing your Backpack
Weight Distribution

Your heaviest items should be packed as close to your back as possible. This will help maintain your center of gravity (therefore reducing how much energy your legs use to maintain balance).

Attaching items to your backpack

On extended trips it is not unusual to have to attach your sleeping bag, sleeping pad or tent to the outside of your bag. Always try to attach these items to the bottom of your bag. Attaching heavy items to the top of your bag or to a side will affect your balance.

Keep things accessible
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