External Frame vs. Internal Frame Backpacks

Long and frequent has been the debate amongst hikers and campers regarding the use of internal or external frame backpacks. Many old timers insist that external frame packs are the way to go, mainly due to years of utilizing externals, and reluctance (like all of us), to change. The younger generation tends to gravitate toward the trendy internal frame packs. It seems that the new wave of hikers are as much concerned with form as they are with function.
In my experience, having owned and used both types of backpacks, I have compiled some recommendations based on experiences on (and off) the trail.

External Frame Backpacks
Pros– Generally less expensive, more compartments, pack doesn’t rest directly on back, increasing ventilation.
Cons– Usually more bulky than internal frame packs, can impede hiking, and storing in tent.

Internal Frame Backpacks
Pros– More streamline, more compact.
Cons–Can be expensive, few compartments, pack rest against the back.

In closing, in a normal hiking environment, (on trail), I clearly prefer an external frame pack. I find them more comfortable, affordable, and much easier to organize pack items. Internal frame packs make it difficult to retrieve items, as most items are stored in the same compartment. Internal frame packs do have their place, generally in off-trail adventures. External frame packs tend to get snagged on branches and such easily when off-trail.

Backpacks for Kids

Why would anyone buy backpacks for young children? Your toddler will feel important if she has her own backpack to take with her to Grandma’s house for an overnight visit. My two-year old twin nephews who were being potty trained, wanted “back backs” to carry their own lunches for a trip to the zoo.

I bought them Bob the Builder and Elmo When I took them for an overnight visit, they insisted on bringing their packs with big boy “drawers”. For kids two to five years old a backpack with their favorite cartoon, storybook, or movie character, makes a great birthday present. Fill them with a toy, storybook and a tee shirt with images of the character, and maybe add a bit of candy and a fast food gift certificate.

The child will love it. Put some books, and a few quiet toys in your daughter’s Dora The Explorer backpack to keep her occupied while waiting in the doctor’s office. Going on a long car trip? Let the kids choose some handheld games, books, pencil, paper, coloring book and crayons to amuse them selves in the car.

Backpacks for young children can help to ease the apprehension of going to nursery school, if they can feel like big kids because they save their very own school bag, like their big brothers and sister. You can use these kiddie backpacks to start teaching the kids how to properly wear and lift a backpack so that when they go to elementary school, they will already have good habits.

There are some really cute backpacks available for the little ones. You can get Winnie the Pooh, Barbie, Yu-Gi-Oh, Power Puff Girls, Sponge Bob, Finding Nemo , Blues Clues, and Hello Kitty to name just a few of the Character backpacks we have found. You can also get backpacks that look like lions, ladybugs, giraffes, cows, frogs, turtles, puppies, kittens, elephants and horses, the list goes on and on.

Maybe your son can bring his “lovey” to school in his backpack, but check with the nursery school first. Some don’t want book bags and some don’t allow “loveys”. It is usually 1st grade before the kids need book bags. Before buying a backpack check with the school., some schools require see through bags, which make it easier to spot contraband like weapons or drugs.

Mesh bags are more durable than the vinyl see- through backpacks, and not that much more expensive. Now is the time to teach your kids backpack safety. Do not permit them to take items like radios, CD players and hand-held games to school. Not only may they be confiscated by the school but they add unnecessary weight to the load your child has to carry every day.

Teach them the proper way to lift and carry a backpack. At this age your child probably doesn’t require a serious backpack with the extra padding and waist and chest straps. That wont be needed until maybe third grade. Young children pre-school to !st grade probably don’t need a backpack at all, but if they want one cute animal or character bags will serve them just fine. Consider backpacks for young children, as a learning experience for both of you.