How to Pack an External Frame Backpack
How To

How to Pack an External Frame Backpack?

One of the healthiest and enjoyable forms of exercise is hiking. A well packed and hoisted backpack makes a hike easier and more comfortable. Packing a backpack is a process and more of an art. You have to know what you are doing and concentrate on the same. Before your hike starts, being prepared with everything you need is the start of the process. If you don’t have all you need, you might end up unpacking the backpack and start afresh. That’s why we have prepared this guide on how to pack an external frame backpack.

Not so many people realize how good an external frame backpack is or its importance on a hike. External frame backpacks are used by the military and hikers alike with the design rooted deep in history. Most hikers use an internal frame backpack and thus they don’t realize the advantages of the external frame backpack. If you saw an external frame backpack in use, trust me you would want to use it for your next trip.

You might think that a backpack is a backpack but that is not true and using the external frame pack proves it. If you are used to an internal frame pack, the first thing you will struggle with is weight distribution in the external frame one. The lack of balance adds an extra load or balancing effort and you can end up jeopardizing your hike. This is quite the reason why you need to understand how to pack an external frame backpack.

How to pack an external frame backpack

Remember there must be an order in the way you pack to make the backpack comfortable to carry and make the hiking experience easier and comfortable. Let’s start from the first step to the last:

  • Find the right external frame backpack. Your backpack has to fit you and has to be made for your body size and luggage needs. Is your pack adequate for the hike or are you going to struggle carrying everything you need in it? It has to be the right size, not too small and not too large. To achieve this, you might have to go through some reviews online to determine the nest pack for your hike.
  • Prepare everything you need. Before you start packing, make sure you have a checklist of everything you need in your trip. Bring everything to a common place and countercheck with the checklist. Lay everything down literally and decide what to start with. If something is lacking, get it before you start packing.


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The reason for this is to make sure you don’t finish packing and realize what is missing is supposed to go at the bottom of the pack.

Let’s start packing 

The main aim of learning how to pack an external frame backpack is to pack your items in a way that you don’t mess with the balance of the pack. The weight has to be evenly distributed leaving it well balanced. Carrying a pack that isn’t well packed leaves you super tired after the hike. When the backpack sways as you walk, it adds on the effort. This means you will be tired two times more than you are supposed to be.

  • Separate the items by necessity and weight

Place all the aromatic or scented things in the ziplock bags like foodstuffs. Do the same to liquids such as bug lotion and sunscreen. Your clothes and other items that need to be kept dry should be in dry bags and large ziplock bags.

Group the heavy items that you don’t need until you get to your camping spot like pans, clothes, pots and tents. Group the smaller and light items that you don’t need asap like books and an extra set of clothes. The last group is the lightest of them and those items that you need on the go. Things that you need to access quickly in case of an emergency.

  • Strap the sleeping bags and mats at the bottom

At the bottom of the external frame, secure the rolled sleeping bags and mats using nylon straps. Wrap them in waterproof covers in case it starts raining before you get to the camp. Also remember to make sure they are tight enough. No swaying or jiggling.

  • Heavy equipment goes inside the main compartment

This helps keep the heavy items closer to your upper back where the external frame rests on your back. This way, your center of gravity is steady maintaining the balance of the backpack.

  • Use the external frame to strap more items on the backpack

Sometimes you can have bulky items that take a lot of space but they are not as heavy. If this happens, you can use the external frame to strap other items securely on the pack. You only have to make sure they are not heavy to avoid weakening the frame. Also make sure they are not dangling.

These include things like trekking sticks and trekking sticks. Keep the weight balanced by tying one on each side.

Before you start hiking

Make sure you have a checklist and all essential items are checked and packed. Be safe while hiking and ensure your backpack is well balanced to avoid injuring your back.

– Your bag should be a maximum of 25% of your body weight. Past that and you are putting your back at risk.

– The hip belt of the external frame backpack should be on top of your hip bones. The weight of the backpack should rest on your hips.

– Pull the bag closer to you by adjusting the shoulder straps.

– The sternum strap should be below your collarbone and should not be tightly tied.

External frame backpacks have a classic design that helps a hiker take on a trip comfortably. It gives you the hiker freedom and flexibility throughout the trip. If you are travelling by plane, consider an internal frame backpack if you can’t do luggage wrapping.

There are a lot of companies that make external frame backpacks despite them being less popular. If you are a hiker planning a prolonged trip and you need to ass some items, the external frame backpack is excellent for you. It’s also cheaper as compared to the internal frame backpack and other advantages on top. We believe this guide should help you when wondering how to pack an external frame backpack.

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If you are looking for the best hiking backpack, check our previous review below.

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