The Ultimate Guide to Packing an External Frame Backpack (August 2023)

Are you planning an outdoor adventure and gearing up for a backpacking trip? If so, one essential item you’ll need is a backpack. While there are various types of backpacks available, an external frame backpack offers unique advantages for outdoor enthusiasts. However, to ensure a comfortable and organized journey, it’s crucial to pack your external frame backpack correctly. In this ultimate guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of packing your external frame backpack for a successful and enjoyable backpacking experience.

How to pack an External Frame backpack

Packing an external frame backpack requires a systematic approach to ensure proper weight distribution and balance. Follow these steps to pack your external frame backpack effectively:

  1. Start by packing the heaviest items at the bottom of the pack. This will help to keep the pack balanced and prevent it from swaying as you walk.
  2. Pack the next heaviest items in the middle of the pack. This will help to distribute the weight evenly.
  3. Pack lighter items in the top of the pack. These items are less likely to weigh you down, and they will be easy to reach when you need them.
  4. Pack any sharp or pointy objects in a protective case. This will help to prevent them from puncturing the pack or your clothing.
  5. Use compression sacks to help reduce the bulk of your gear. This will free up space in the pack and make it easier to pack.
  6. Lashing straps can be used to secure bulky items to the outside of the pack. This is a good option for items that are too large or heavy to fit inside the pack.
  7. Adjust the shoulder straps and hip belt so that the pack fits snugly but comfortably. The hip belt should bear most of the weight of the pack, so make sure it is adjusted correctly.
  8. Test the pack by wearing it for a short walk. This will help you to make sure that the weight is distributed evenly and that the pack is comfortable to wear.

Read more on “how to pack external frame backpack” below.

Choosing the Right External Frame Backpack

When choosing an external frame backpack, there are a few factors you need to consider, such as:

  • Size: The size of the backpack should be appropriate for the amount of gear you plan to carry.
  • Weight: The weight of the backpack should be comfortable to carry, even when it is fully loaded.
  • Frame size: The frame size should be appropriate for your height and build. A frame that is too small will not provide enough support, while a frame that is too large will be uncomfortable to wear.
  • Weight capacity: The weight capacity of the backpack should be sufficient for the amount of gear you plan to carry.
  • Features: Consider the features that are important to you, such as a hip belt, padded shoulder straps, and multiple compartments.
  • Price: External frame backpacks can range in price from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. Set a budget before you start shopping.

Understanding the Components of an External Frame Backpack

An external frame backpack has a metal frame that supports the weight of the gear. The frame is attached to the backpack by a series of straps and buckles. The backpack itself is made of a durable fabric, such as nylon or canvas. The backpack typically has multiple compartments, including a main compartment, a front compartment, and a lid compartment. It may also have additional pockets, such as side pockets, water bottle pockets, and hip belt pockets.

Organizing Your Gear

Before you start packing your backpack, it is important to organize your gear. This will help you to pack more efficiently and to make sure that you have everything you need. Start by grouping your gear together by type. For example, you can group your clothing together, your food together, and your camping gear together. Once you have grouped your gear, you can start to pack it into the backpack.

Packing Techniques for an External Frame Backpack

When packing an external frame backpack, it is important to pack the heaviest items at the bottom of the backpack. This will help to keep the weight of the backpack centered and to prevent it from tipping over. You should also pack the bulky items, such as sleeping bags and tents, on the outside of the backpack. This will help to keep them from getting crushed. The lighter items, such as clothing and food, can be packed in the main compartment of the backpack.

Distributing Weight Properly

It is important to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly so that you can carry it comfortably. To do this, you should start by adjusting the shoulder straps so that they are comfortable and snug. You should also adjust the hip belt so that it sits snugly on your hips. Once the shoulder straps and hip belt are adjusted, you can pack the backpack.

Adjusting Straps and Suspension Systems

The straps and suspension system on an external frame backpack are designed to help you to carry the weight of the backpack comfortably. If the straps are not adjusted properly, the backpack can be uncomfortable to wear. To adjust the straps, you should start by loosening the buckles. Then, you can adjust the length of the straps so that they are comfortable. Once the straps are adjusted, you can tighten the buckles.

Securing Loose Items

If you have any loose items, such as water bottles or hiking poles, you should secure them to the outside of the backpack. This will help to prevent them from falling out or getting damaged. You can secure loose items using the backpack’s compression straps or by using a bungee cord.

Essential Items for Your External Frame Backpack

There are a few essential items that you should always pack in your external frame backpack, no matter what type of trip you are taking. These items include:

  • A sleeping bag
  • A tent
  • A sleeping pad
  • A backpack stove
  • A cookset
  • Food and water
  • A first-aid kit
  • A map and compass
  • Extra clothing
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • A headlamp
  • A rain jacket

Tips for Comfortable Carrying

Here are a few tips for carrying an external frame backpack comfortably:

  • Wear the backpack so that the weight is evenly distributed on your shoulders and hips.
  • Take breaks often to rest your back and shoulders.
  • Use trekking poles to help you to balance the weight of the backpack.
  • Adjust the straps and suspension system regularly to make sure that they are still comfortable.
  • If you are carrying a heavy load, consider using a backpack carrier.

Staying Organized on the Trail

Here are a few tips for staying organized on the trail:

  • Use the different compartments of your backpack to store different items. For example, you can store your sleeping bag and tent in the main compartment, your food and water in the front compartment, and your clothing and personal items in the lid compartment.
  • Use packing cubes to help you keep your gear organized. Packing cubes are small, lightweight containers that can be used to store different items. They help to keep your gear organized and prevent it from getting jumbled together.
  • Label your gear. This will help you to quickly find what you need when you are on the trail. You can label your gear with a permanent marker or with a piece of tape.
  • Pack light. The lighter your backpack, the easier it will be to carry. Only pack the gear that you absolutely need.

Safety Considerations

Here are a few safety considerations to keep in mind when packing an external frame backpack:

  • Make sure that the backpack is properly loaded. The weight of the backpack should be evenly distributed and the straps should be adjusted so that the backpack is comfortable to carry.
  • Secure loose items. Loose items, such as water bottles or hiking poles, can fall out of the backpack or get damaged. Make sure that all loose items are secured to the backpack.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When you are carrying a heavy backpack, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. Be careful when going over uneven terrain or when passing through narrow spaces.
  • Take breaks often. If you are carrying a heavy backpack, it is important to take breaks often to rest your back and shoulders.

Maintaining and Cleaning Your External Frame Backpack

Here are a few tips for maintaining and cleaning your external frame backpack:

  • Clean your backpack regularly. This will help to prevent dirt and debris from building up and damaging the backpack. You can clean your backpack with a mild soap and water solution.
  • Dry your backpack completely after cleaning it. Moisture can damage the backpack, so it is important to dry it completely before storing it.
  • Store your backpack in a cool, dry place. This will help to prevent it from deteriorating.

How to pack an internal frame backpack

Here are some personal tips for packing an internal frame backpack:

  • Place heavier items close to your back and higher up in the pack to keep the weight centered and balanced. Pack heavy items like food, water, and cooking gear in the middle compartment nearest your back.
  • Use compression straps on the sides and top of the pack to stabilize heavier items. Cinching the compression straps will hold gear securely.
  • Pack clothing and sleeping bags in the bottom compartment to keep weight lower and focused on your hips. Use stuff sacks or compression sacks to organize and compress soft gear.
  • Keep frequently needed items like rain gear, maps, snacks, etc. near the top or in exterior pockets for easy access.
  • Balance the weight evenly from side to side as you pack. The pack should feel stable and balanced, not lopsided.
  • Pack dense, heavy items lower and lighter, bulkier items higher up. This helps optimize the pack’s center of gravity.
  • Leave some open space in the pack so you can cinch down the load when finished. An overstuffed pack will be uncomfortable to carry.
  • Secure all straps, load lifters, hip belts, and sternum straps to stabilize the load. Adjust straps as needed for a snug, comfortable fit.
  • Try out different pack loading configurations on shorter trips to find what works best for your body type and hiking style. Adjust and refine your packing method over time.


Packing an external frame backpack can be a daunting task, but it is important to do it properly in order to ensure a comfortable and safe hike.

In conclusion, packing an external frame backpack correctly is crucial for a comfortable and organized backpacking trip. By following the guidelines and techniques provided in this ultimate guide, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle your next outdoor adventure with confidence. Remember to choose the right backpack, organize your gear efficiently, distribute weight properly, and prioritize safety. With these tips and strategies, you’ll maximize your enjoyment while exploring the great outdoors.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. How do I determine the correct size of an external frame backpack?
    • To determine the correct size of an external frame backpack, consider your torso length and waist size. Most manufacturers provide sizing charts or guidelines that correlate these measurements with backpack sizes. Additionally, it’s recommended to try on different backpacks and adjust the straps for a proper fit before making a final decision.
  2. Can I use an external frame backpack for day hikes?
    • While external frame backpacks are commonly associated with multi-day backpacking trips, they can also be used for day hikes. However, keep in mind that external frame backpacks tend to have larger capacities and may be bulkier than smaller daypacks. Consider the amount of gear you need to carry and your personal preferences when deciding whether to use an external frame backpack for day hikes.
  3. What are the advantages of an external frame backpack compared to internal frame backpacks?
    • External frame backpacks offer several advantages over internal frame backpacks. They provide excellent weight distribution and stability, making them suitable for carrying heavy loads. Additionally, the external frame design allows for better ventilation and airflow between the backpack and your back, reducing sweating and discomfort. External frame backpacks also tend to be more affordable and offer greater customization options.
  4. How should I pack my sleeping bag in an external frame backpack?
    • When packing your sleeping bag in an external frame backpack, it’s recommended to place it in a waterproof stuff sack or compression bag to save space and protect it from moisture. Depending on the design of your backpack, you can typically place the sleeping bag horizontally in the lower compartment or vertically against the frame. Ensure that it’s well-secured and doesn’t shift during your hike.
  5. Are external frame backpacks suitable for all types of outdoor activities?
    • External frame backpacks are versatile and can be used for various outdoor activities, including backpacking, hiking, camping, and mountaineering. However, they may not be the best choice for activities that involve navigating narrow or overgrown trails, as the external frame can be less maneuverable in such situations. Consider the specific demands of your activity and the terrain you’ll be encountering when deciding on the most suitable backpack.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *