A number of simple yet well-thought technological solutions such as a rifle pocket, lower door access, hydration port, and a fully functional removable backpack ensure the ultimate flexibility, comfort, and versatility of this model.
Pretty heavy weight.
Designed with heavy-duty outdoor needs in mind and tested by experienced outdoorsmen, the ALPS OutdoorZ is a perfect all-arounder model for keen hunters, fishermen, and extreme hikers. It’s highly capacious and versatile gear for all outdoor activities involving heavy loads handling.
Nylon ripstop fabric, Aluminum frame
5250 cu. in.
Main compartment, Two side accessory hinged pockets, Main, Front, and spotting scope pocket, Hydration pocket and port, Pockets for a flashlight and knife
17" - 23"
Rifle holder, Spindrift collar with a drawcord, Frame and lashing straps included with a pack bag, Hold-open frame, Lower door access – #10 zippers, Internal horizontal divider, Webbing loops for lashing
Bag weight: 2 lbs. 3 oz.
Total weight with a frame: 7 lbs. 5 oz.
Llifetime warranty against manufacturing defects
Thanks to a frame made of ultra-light yet highly durable titanium alloy, this model is one of the lightest out there. Besides, it ensures the maximum comfort and stability and perfectly distributes the load.
It is not recommended to load the bag over 35-40 lbs.
Focused on comfort and convenience, the Vargo Exoti backpack is a great choice for those who plan to cover long distances on foot. Due to a well-thought compact design, it will cause no discomfort during long walks on irregular terrain. It's a real find for a mountaineer, hiker, or backpacker.
Nylon with a DWR finish, Titanium alloy frame
3051 cu. in.
Main compartment, Dual water bottle pockets, Two zippered hip belt pockets
16" - 22"
Ergonomic lumbar support plate, Removable floating lid, Ventilated adjustable shoulder harness, Load lifting compression strap system, Hydration bladder compatible
2 lbs. 11 oz.
This model stands out for a smaller torso range to fit youngsters and teenagers. Meanwhile, it is still very capacious and offers a number of comfort features for younger adventurers.
Main compartment divider is somewhat inconvenient.
Whether you need a reliable pack-sack for your young scout or camper or simply seek a comfy model ideal for people up to 5 feet high, the Kelty Yukon 48 will keep you covered. Despite a smaller frame, it still boasts the functionality and usability you expect from full-sized backpacking gear.
600D Polyester, Aluminum frame
2900 cu. in.
Main compartment with a divider, Reservoir sleeve, Larger front pocket, Zippered side pockets, Sleeping bag compartment
13" - 19"
Hydration compatible, Hold-open bar, Spindrift collar, Lash tabs, Key fob, Adjustable suspension, Dual density foam hip belt, Padded shoulder straps, Belt stabilizer straps, Sternum strapless ax loop, Daisy chain
5 lbs. 1 oz.
Lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects
The backpack set comes complete with a PU 2000mm rain cover providing additional protection under bad weather conditions. There is even a separate compartment to keep a wet cover and some other wet items away from other stuff.
Front pockets on the waist look somewhat bulky.
The relatively capacious and comfortable backpack from Tofine offers an optimally balanced construction for handling rather heavy weights without overloading your back that makes it a great choice for short trekking, camping, and hiking tours on weekends and holidays. Besides, it’s great carry-on luggage for leisure travels.
1953 cu. in.
Main compartment, Dual side mesh pockets, Two zippered hip belt pockets, Rain cover compartment
SBS zippers, YNS buckles, Ventilated adjustable back, Ergonomically adjustable harness, PU 2000mm raincover included
A unique lashing system with three extension lashing straps and a freighter shelf will let you comfortably haul out even pretty heavy and bulky loads and game.
Metal retention rings touch the frame and clink as you move.
The ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Frame is a great deal for seasonal hunters, fishermen, enthusiastic survivors and simply those backpackers who need more flexibility when packing up for their trips. Fitted with a smart strap system, it will let you carry bulky cargo without resembling a pack horse.
Nylon ripstop fabric, Aluminum frame
Two front buckled compartments, Two zippered hip belt pockets
17" - 23"
Lashing system to secure meat, Three extension lashing straps for extra large loads, Freighter shelf, Shooting sticks holder, Knife and flashlight pocket, Adjustable shoulder harness, Padded waist belt and shoulder straps, Waist belt can accommodate clip-style holsters, Mesh back band
5 lbs. 2 oz.
Lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander + Pack Bag
All-in-one Solution for Great Outdoors
The last thing a professional outdoorsman wants is to carry some gear or other essentials in their hands that is not only inconvenient but also a bit dangerous, since it will restrict your freedom of movements. Hence, choosing a backpack for the great outdoors with climbs and descents, you want it to meet all your specific needs and have some extra features to offer. And this is exactly what you will get with the Commander pack from ALPS OutdoorZ.
This model belongs to a hunter series and has a lot to offer both in terms of design and in terms of performance. First off, the model can be used as a functional full-scale backpack and as a freighter frame for hauling bulky and heavy loads. With a total weight of over 7 lbs, it’s a pretty heavy tool. So, it is not the best option for a day-long hike or no-load light tracks. However, if you are out for backcountry camping, hunting or fishing, the Commander is by far the best external frame backpack to opt for. Featuring an impressive capacity of 5250 cu. in., it will let you carry all the stuff you could possibly need and even more. Besides, a hold-open system provides ample space inside the bag while an extendable collar spindrift collar will give you about 600 sq.in. of added volume. The bottom compartment has a zipper and another collar with a drawcord to ensure more smart packing options.
Another advantage that sets this model apart from the rivals is a hydration compatible design. The main compartment features a special sleeve and a hanger to accommodate a 3-5 L water bladder that might be crucial for trails with limited access to water sources.
As for the design, it is highly flexible and customizable to your personal needs. Thus, the frame height can be adjusted to fit torso lengths from 17” to 23”. When using the frame with the bag, a lashing system and a shelf can be removed to lessen the item weight. The frame being made of first-class aluminum and the backpack made of highly durable nylon, this multi-functional external frame pack will withstand heavy loads and inclement weather with ease and will faithfully serve you for years to come.
A Pocket and Attachment Point for Everything
All externals stand out for numerous points of attachment enabling you to carry all essentials for outdoor trips on your back. The Commander is not an exception. This model boasts plentiful attachment points and a whole bunch of pockets on the pack. And this is where it really shines. Thus 4 webbing loops on the lid allow attaching a full-sized sleeping bag or any other bulky item. A daisy chain on the front is there for some tiny objects. Two compression straps will easily hold a tent and there are even extra straps on shoulder straps to fix more tools and gear.
When it comes to pockets, you will have two zippered pockets on the belt along with webbing elements for a handgun holder, a long vertical spotting scope pocket, a special rifle holder on the side, two middle-sized side pockets for trifles, and a huge zippered pocket on the lid.
Though it is not the lightest and most compact model out there, the Alps OutdoorZ Commander is an extremely versatile and reliable hauling tool and a quality piece of gear for any outdoor activity related to carrying a lot of stuff such as hunting, backpacking, camping, and hiking.
Vargo Exoti 50
Travel Far and Travel Light
If you like long-lasting climbs, hiking on irregular terrain or bushwhacking, you definitely need a light and sturdy backpack that offers comfort and convenience for your long trails and provides enough capacity to accommodate all the stuff you need. Portability, compactness, and the ultimate user comfort are the features where the Vargo Exoti 50 external frame pack really shines.
What Vargo did is try to combine the best of internal and external frame models to meet the needs of the most exacting users. Thus, with a total weight of 2 lbs 11 oz, this is one of the lightest externals available on the modern market. And even at a glance, this model resembles an internal frame pack since it is much more compact than other bulkier externals.
Well, how did the manufacturer manage to cut down the gear weight that much? It should be mentioned straight off that it is not at the expense of internal volume. Despite its size, the Exoti features the capacity of 3051 cu.in. which is a decent size. Besides, the pack features a number of external pockets and attachment points to cleverly organize your belongings. To reduce the item weight, they worked on the design and replaced zippered pockets with open mesh pockets, skipped a zippered bottom compartment, excluded a rain cover often coming in a separate zippered compartment and minimized the padding on the back. It might seem that all those changes were done for worse. Yet, it’s a model for lightweight travels, hence, the changes are fully worth the final goal. Moreover, mesh pockets are fully functional, a rain cover is not much needed since a nylon bag with a DWR finish is water resistant, and heavy padding on the back is not essential for open-frame models.
Clever Load Distribution
While a light weight and sack design are what Vargo took from internal frame models, the Exoti still offers the comfort and clever load distribution of externals. The model comes fitted with a rectangular frame featuring small reinforcement bars in each corner that makes already strong and durable titanium construction even sturdier. Thanks to a well-ventilated adjustable shoulder harness that moves up and down the frame, you can achieve an exact fit for torso lengths within a 16”-22” range. But what you will like the most is how comfortably the backpack rides even when packed to the rafters. Efficient load distribution and a well-balanced fit are ensured by a thought-out suspension with a U-shaped shoulder harness, thick lumbar pad and highly supportive hip belt. An open frame system carries the load down to your hip line where the belt takes off the strain and minimizes fatigue in the lower back area. Besides, X-shaped compressions straps are designed to cinch the loaded bag and offer better stability when you move.
To sum up, the Vargo Exoti 50 is a kind of a hybrid backpack encompassing the advantages of both internal and external frame models. It stands out for its lightweight construction and a super-comfortable fit that makes it a real find for those who plan to cover long distances on foot. The only downside of this model is its pretty high price-tag, yet it is worth every cent you pay.
Kelty Yukon 48
A Well-thought Design for Maximum Convenience
When it comes to choosing a backpack, the very first thing to check is whether it will suit you right since all people are different as well as backpack models. With open-frame models, a properly chosen backpack size is especially important as you will definitely feel discomfort if a rigid frame is too small or large for you. As we’ve already mentioned, externals are classified by the torso range which is normally adjustable. By this criterion, they are basically divided into models for adults, females, and juniors. Yet, there is a category of users that are somewhere in between adults and juniors. These are growing youngsters and people up to 5 feet high. The Yukon external frame pack from Kelty is designed for this type of user.
Made of wear-proof 6000D polyester and featuring a solid aluminum frame, the pack can endure all sorts of outdoor impacts and heavy loads. With a weight of 5 lbs, it is not the lightest model out there but the item extreme durability and damage-proof construction compensate somewhat for the heavy weight. Besides, a thought-out frame and suspension design distributes the load in the right way, so, you won’t even feel it. A well-ventilated mesh back panel, padded shoulder harness, and dual density hip belt work to ensure a maximum comfortable fit. Meanwhile, the belt straps along with an adjustable sternum strap in front will help stabilize the pack and fix it in the right position to transfer the cargo weight to your hips and lessen the load on the back and shoulders.
Fitted with 4 zippered side pockets, a large lid pocket, separate sleeping bag compartment, an ice ax loop, lash points, and a mesh pocket for a water bottle will let you conveniently separate and duly organize all your gear and still have access to all your stuff while a really large top opening ensures quick and easy packing. Other than that, this pack is even hydration compatible and can accommodate a hydration bladder if needed.
Created to Grow With You
What sets the Kelty Yukon apart from other similar models is the torso range. Thus, the harness can be adjusted between 13” and 19”. Moreover, it can be attached to the frame in one of three positions allowing you to customize it to your shoulder width. It is definitely a big plus for a growing teenager as well as for families where the pack can be used interchangeably by different persons. However, more compact than standard packs for adults, the Yukon provides a capacity of a full-sized pack (2900 cu.in.).
Both for Your Outdoor Adventures and for Travels Across the Country
If you are the kind of occasional backpacker who goes hiking on holidays or weekends and does a lot of traveling across the country, the Tofine external frame backpack will fit you just right.
At a glance, this model looks like a closed-frame pack but an open frame made of solid aluminum carbon alloy is still there to move the load down to your hips and let you cover long distances without the strain and fatigue in your back. However, the Tofine weighs several times less than traditional open-frame pack-bags and is much more compact, which makes it similar to internal frame packs. With the weight of only 2.71 lbs 71 and a size of 22.44”x 11.42”x 7.87”, it won’t add much load to your back and offers a comfortable fit and ride for all sorts of activities where you don’t have to carry extremely heavy loads and a lot of gear. Though a manufacturer doesn’t specify the torso range this mode will suit, taking into account the pack's overall size, we suppose it’s a great choice for people up to 6 feet tall.
As far as the item design is concerned, you’ll get all the benefits of externals including a padded shoulder harness with sternum straps to prevent chafing in the armpit area, width-adjustable dense hip belt, a mesh insert on the back for a better air circulation around your back, and stabilizer side straps to fix the pack in a comfy position. A number of pockets and a convenient top-loading construction with an internal divider provide ample storage space for all your travel stuff. Meanwhile, a large zippered compartment in the front will give easy access to some essential items you might urgently need. The backpack set also comes complete with a PU 2000mm rain cover providing additional moisture protection under bad weather conditions. There is even a separate compartment in the bottom to keep a wet cover and some other wet items away from other stuff.
To round things up, this relatively capacious and comfortable backpack from Tofine offers an optimally balanced construction for handling rather heavy weights without overloading your back, which makes it a great choice for short trekking, camping, and hiking tours on weekends and holidays. Besides, owing to its lightweight design, it can even be used as a mere piece of carry-on-flight luggage for those who prefer to travel with minimum stuff on their shoulders. And what’s more pleasant, you’ll get all of this at a truly affordable price.
How to Measure a Torso Length
No matter how capacious and versatile a backpack is, in the end, the best backpack is the one that ideally fits your body. The basic measurement that determines which backpack size is the right one for you is not your overall height but torso length. Though it might seem like nothing special, it is not that simple and many end up with wrong measurements. The best option would be to let an expert from a backpacking store do it. However, you can also do it at home with the help of a friend and a flexible measuring tape.
- Stand straight and tilt your head down to let your 7th vertebrae protrude over your shoulder line. That’s the top of your torso.
- Place the hands over your hip bones and draw an imaginary line between your thumbs pointing backward. Where this line intersects the lumbus is the bottom of your torso.
- Now hold your back and let your friend measure the distance between the top and the bottom points. That will be the length of your torso you should rely on when choosing the backpack size.
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Frame Only
A Do-it-all Pack
Right off the bat, this model is not a full-scale backpack which usually resembles a bag or sack. What you’ll get here is actually a frame with a harness system to carry the whole thing on your back and numerous straps, buckles, and pockets. Looks strange and you doubt its functionality? There you are wrong. Despite its weird design, this piece of gear might beat top-rated external frame backpacks in terms of functionality and any experienced outdoorsman will see the great potential of this item at a glance. Let’s figure it out.
To put it simply, it’s an external frame backpack without the backpack itself. Yet, the biggest benefit such a design offers is the utmost flexibility. You won’t be limited by the capacity and the size of the sack and will be free to pack onto the frame pretty much anything you need. Though it might seem difficult at first sight, with a certain degree of skill and some practice, you’ll be amazed how much stuff this piece of rigging can handle.
Initially, the model is designed as a hauler frame for dedicated hunters and fishermen to carry the game to the camp after a big hunt is over. However, apart from that, this rather specific piece of gear is a multifunctional item that will cater to the needs of many serious outdoorsmen. With a smart strap system we will talk about below, you’ll be able to easily and compactly carry bulky cargo and equipment you would normally have to attach to your backpack or handle in some other way. The frame made of durable first-class aluminum can endure a load over 75 lbs while a supportive freight shelf will let you securely fix the cargo. Whether you need to transport meat after a hunt or carry campsite packs, foodstuff, and other supply for survival trips, the ALPS commander frame will handle it.
Smart Straps for Clever Packing
As we’ve mentioned above, what makes a mere metal frame so functional is a specific strap design. A unique lashing system with three extension straps and an adjustable freight shelf will let you comfortably position and securely fix some large and long tools, hefty outdoor equipment, camping supplies and any other stuff you might need. What’s more, the cargo will not feel cumbersome on you back. Meanwhile, a frame with padded shoulder straps, a hip belt, and a cross-chest snap will evenly distribute the weight over your back, waist, and shoulders and you’ll be able to walk miles without fatigue. Other than that, a number of compartments, holders, and pockets allow conveniently accommodating a knife and flashlight, a rifle and shooting sticks, and any other minor stuff.
Designed for carrying bulky and tricky cargoes, the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Frame is a great deal for seasonal hunters, fishermen, enthusiastic survivors and simply those campers and backpackers who need more flexibility when packing up for their trips.
What Is an External Frame Backpack?
A backpack is a must-have item in the arsenal of any outdoorsman and keen adventurer, no matter if you make occasional camping trips or dig deep into the wild. However, with a whole bunch of backpacks available on the modern market, it might appear hard to figure out which one is your perfect type. Well, basically, the type of backpack you need largely depends on the type of activities you most often go for. Thus, if you are the type of traveler who can spend days on the trail and need to carry an amount of gear and supplies, an external frame backpack will be your go-to option.
As the name suggests, this type of backpack consists of a sack-style bag with harness and a metal frame that serves as a suspension system for a backpack. With the appearance of internal frame backpacks where the frame is sewn into the backpack construction, open frame models start losing ground. However, in certain aspects, this type still excels and beats more contemporary rivals. And these aspects include the ability to carry heavier weights, fuller storage capabilities, better weight distribution, and user comfort. Mostly, all of this is due to a frame that might seem awkward and bulky and add some weight to the entire item. Yet, it takes the strain off of your back, handles the load, and ensures better air circulation around your back. Besides, open frame models are more convenient for accommodating other essential outdoor gear. You can simply strap a sleeping bag or even a tent to the frame.
What Features to Compare
When you decide to stay with an external frame model, you are only halfway to your perfect all-around backpack. Though all featuring similar design types, open-frame backpacks come in a variety of models. Hence, there are some basic features to check to find the gear that will fit your individual needs.
Material and Weight
Externals are meant predominantly for carrying heavy loads up to 100 lbs. Hence, one of the first points to check is a perfect balance of durability and portability ensured by the materials the backpack is made from and its overall weight. The lighter your backpack is, the easier it will be on your back. Yet, lightweight materials should in no way compromise the item durability and service life. Ideally, the sack with straps and harness should be made of some kind of wear and tear resistant waterproof material that will not only securely protect all your belongings but also withstand any unforeseen circumstances. As for the frame, normally, it is made of an aluminum alloy that is solid enough to endure heavy loads and light enough not to add much weight to the entire item.
The storage capacity (that is the internal volume of your pack-sack) directly depends on your hiking needs. Measured in cubic inches or liters, external backpack capacity can vary from about 2000 cu.in for short day trips to 3000 cu. in. for weekend journeys and to more than 5000 cu. in. for the extended week or multi-day treks. So, if you are rather an occasional traveler without some specific needs or hobbies, a medium-sized or smaller pack will be your best option while seasonal hunters and keen backpackers will appreciate larger models.
All external pack models are also made to fit a specific torso range. Thus, before you even start looking for a backpack, measure the length of your torso to choose the model that will suit you just right. The torso range of most externals is 17”-23” which is a perfect size for adults with an average torso length from 16” to 22”. However, some females and teenagers might need a smaller backpack due to a lower height and slimmer body. For them, 13”-19” models will work best.
Apart from general characteristics, external frame packs also differ in overall design and some extra features they come packed with that contribute to the usability and comfort of any specific model. Padding in a shoulder, hip, and lower back area is a must for proper load support and the ultimate user comfort. Mesh inserts on the back will ensure due air circulation while an ergonomically designed frame will snugly fit your body and evenly distribute the weight. Finally, numerous outside pockets will help you pack more stuff and have all the necessary items such as a bottle of water, a flashlight, or some specific gear within hand reach.
Did you know?
Backpacking Tips for Newbies
Backpacking is a favorite pastime and even a hobby for many people. In fact, backpacking combines hiking with backcountry camping. Following beaten tracks or exploring wild paths, you will have the chance to enjoy the beauty of virgin nature and also importantly, train your body endurance. Experienced backpackers can talk hours about their outdoor adventures luring you to try backpacking for yourself. However, the biggest challenge for all beginners is that they don’t know where to start, not to turn their first hike into a miserable experience that might discourage you for good. To not let that happen, we summed up some simple tips and hacks that will make your first backpacking tour a memorable adventure.
Choose your destination. The best starter trip would be to join a group of newbies with a guide or ask an experienced friend to be your guide. Nevertheless, you can try to do it on your own as well. Just pick a place more or less close to your home or go for a well-traveled trail. As for the season, late spring, summer or early autumn would be the best time to start. Set off on your first hike on a warm sunny day to get more a pleasant experience.
Pack essential gear and clothing. As for the gear, a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, some kind of small stove, kitchen supplies, and water treatment means are the basic must-have items of any outdoorsman. Many would claim those require a pretty large investment. Yet, for your first trip, you can simply borrow or rent all the necessary equipment to save some money. When it comes to clothing, follow the principle of multiple layers that will save you the need to take unnecessary clothing items that will “eat up” space in your pack. Comfortable underwear, hiking pants, T-shirts, a sun hat, some sort of rainwear and insulation clothes are what you will need for sure.
Think about foodstuff. The best recommendation here will be to avoid canned foods and those that require long cooking. Go for foods that are nutritious and will not overload your backpack. Dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, granola, and protein bars, as well as just-add-water meals like quick porridges, powdered soups, and mashed potatoes, are your best friends.
Prepare for your trip. Hiking is a kind of sport, so, it needs some sort of training and preparation to be ready both physically and mentally. Do some endurance training on a stationary bike or climber stairs to get your body and muscles prepared for heavy loads and set yourself into a positive mood to overcome all possible obstacles and beat the path you’ve planned.
Pack Fast and Pack Smart
Once, you’ve picked up all the essentials for your hike, it’s time to pack your bag and that might another challenge for a first-time backpacker. It is not only about managing to squeeze all you need into a single backpack but also about efficient load distribution and your comfort when carrying a bag. If you want to skip trial and error packing and pack the perfect backpack from the very beginning, check our helpful recommendations below:
Since external frame backpacks are top-loaded models, the whole packing process can be divided into three main zones including the bottom, core, and the top, plus accessory pockets and lashing points.
Use the bottom compartment for the items you are least likely to need when on trail such as a sleeping bag, a pair of spare boots or a sleeping pad.
The core is the best space for heavy and dense items like a stove, water reservoir, cooking kit, and basic food stock.
The top of the pack is meant for the items you might need access to when on the trail. These are protective and warm clothing, a first aid kit, and some toilet essentials.
Accessory pockets are specifically designed for the items you need to have at hand such as a bottle of water, compass, flashlight, map, a bug spray or some snacks to fuel up with energy while on the go. Meanwhile, lashing straps work great for bulky and oversized items like tent poles, a sleeping bag, camping chair, etc.
When packing, roll clothes instead of folding. This way, you will fit more into a smaller space. Wrap bulky and heavy gear into soft items to prevent shifting.
Finally, it is preferable to make a trial packing that will help you detect the stuff you can do without or do not need at all.