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  • Writer's pictureSuperior Wilderness

Internal Frame vs. Frameless?

Updated: Jan 9, 2019

Choosing a pack is a big decision, and there are a bunch of different variables to consider. Weight, size, materials, features, and of course brand (SWD duh!). One of the biggest choices you have to make is between going with an internal frame or a frameless pack. Stuck in that decision? Here are some simple ideas to consider.



1. Removing materials and design elements invariably results in a lighter pack. By going with a frameless pack, the aluminum stays “stay” at home, and you save some weight in the process. Bottom line. Frameless packs are always going to be your lightest option.

2. Frameless packs are more minimalist in their design. Fewer features mean fewer things that can go wrong/rip/over complicate. That doesn’t necessarily mean that frameless packs inherently have a longer lifecycle, but their simplicity does mean a lower chance of something breaking or malfunctioning.

3. Frameless packs are often cheaper than their framed counterparts. Just like most things, additional parts mean additional ca$h.

4. Frameless packs can more easily jive with the shape of your back. Because the rigidity of a frameless pack is determined by your own internal organization of your gear, you are able to position your gear (and arrange a supportive back structure) in a way that works well for you. Foam pads are a great (and comfortable) structuring piece.

Things to consider:

Frameless packs require intentionality. Since frameless packs aren’t designed to carry the same weight loads as internally framed packs, they necessitate selectiveness and discernment in your packing. Going frameless becomes difficult if you are carrying weights over 20lbs (there is always healthy variability/conversation around this number), and you should only go frameless if you have the accompanying lightweight gear to make it a comfortable and practical decision. Your backpack should be one of the last (if not the last) items you buy, and you should think critically about the weight and packability of your other items prior to making your decision. Overpacking a frameless pack can result in discomfort in the short term and injury in the long term, and it can also result in a shorter lifecycle for your pack.

Internal Frame:


1. Internal frame packs maintain the majority of their shape regardless of how much (or what type) gear is loaded. This fosters a simpler and more traditional loading and unloading process. Distributing weight intelligently is still very important, but internal frame packs do make the process more consistent.

2. Internal frame packs can also handle more gear and heavier weights. Looking for the ability to carry loads over 20lbs? An internal frame will make those weights more possible and more comfortable.

Things to consider:

If you anticipate carrying loads of 20lbs+, you should consider going with an internal frame pack. They are versatile, comfortable, and more approachable than frameless packs. If your goal isn’t to make a completely UL or SUL set up, an extra 4oz (the weight of the internal frame) is relatively insignificant.


Still have questions about which is right for you? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

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