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Whether you are borrowing a pack from FOP or bringing your own, it is important to understand how they work. We have compiled the following information so that you can educate yourself on what to look for when buying or renting a backpack. A poorly fitting pack can be very uncomfortable. In addition, a properly fitting backpack is safer, because it will allow you to be more balanced and therefore more agile. So take the time to read this. It is PACKED with useful information. Enjoy!

Internal vs. External Frames:

Either an internal frame pack or an external frame pack will get you to your destination, and FOP rents both. Internal and external frames fit people differently. Often people find they prefer one over the other, so be sure to try on both types of packs and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. In the end, however, comfort is the most important aspect of pack selection. Make sure you are comfortable carrying your pack with weight in it.

Internal Frame Pack:An internal pack has a rigid support frame sheet with "stays" (2 rigid rods sometimes made of aluminum) that line the inside of the pack. You cannot see the frame or stays from the outside of the pack.

Internal frame packs come in many shapes, sizes, and levels of quality providing a tremendous variety of weight-bearing options. In general because they lack an external frame, they keep the load weight closer to the back, which makes the pack more stable in general and allows a backpacker to have more agility on difficult terrain. Internal frames are also usually sleeker, which helps on narrow trails. Many internal frame packs are also lighter because of their small frames.

Internal frame packs may be more expensive, so shop around if you decide on an internal frame pack. Because they hug the body so closely, if you decide on an internal frame pack, it is important to get a pack that is sized to fit you

External Frame Pack: An external frame pack has a frame attached directly to the outside of the pack.

External frame packs have several features that distinguish them from internal frame packs aside from the frame location. In general, they are easier to fit to your body because they can be easily adjusted at the hip belt and waist belt. This means if you are borrowing a pack from a friend, an external frame will be easier to adjust it to fit your body. External frames also carry the weight of your pack higher, allowing for a more upright stance while walking. The frame in these backpacks holds the pack away from your back, allowing air circulation through the back. In hot weather and while hiking, this circulation can be a welcome relief. External frame packs are slightly more cumbersome than internal frames due to the width of the external frame and the pack weight being held farther away from the body.Finally, in general, external frame packs are less expensive than equivalent internal frame packs.

Putting on and Adjusting a Pack

When borrowing a pack from FOP or a friend, or shopping for a pack, it's important to know how to adjust the pack to provide the best weight distribution. This will allow you to experience how the pack should feel on the trail.

When adjusting the straps on your pack, you are ideally looking to feel about 3/4 of the weight of the pack on your hips, and 1/4 or less of the weight on your shoulders. Your hips are made to support more weight, and having the weight centered around your hips will allow you more agility and control while backpacking. If you find yourself leaning forward too much while backpacking, it may be because you are compensating for too much weight pulling back on your shoulders.

To achieve this weight distribution, the first strap to clip together and adjust is the hip belt. The hip belt should sit directly over or slightly above the ends of your hip bone on the front of your body. Tighten this strap fully so you feel no weight on your shoulders. The next strap to adjust is your shoulder straps. Tighten these until the straps are snug against your shoulders, but do not over-tighten so that they take weight away from your hip belt. Many internal frame packs have other straps such as a sternum clip to hold the shoulder harnesses together and load adjuster straps that extend from the top of the pack down to the shoulder harness. Once the shoulder and hip straps are adjusted, these other straps can be adjusted.

When you take the pack off, follow the adjusting process in reverse to loosen the straps before you take the pack off. This adjusting process should be done every time you try the pack on. This will allow you to find the optimal fit each time you put the pack on. Also, while hiking, the pack may loosen slightly, so continue to adjust over the course of the day.

Sizing a Pack

Pack sizing is an involved process. Because it will be the means of transporting all your heavy gear, it is important to find one that will fit you properly. Here are aspects of packs you need to consider when choosing and sizing a backpack:

Pack Features