Why Choose a Frameless Backpack?

1.  Simplicity: Frameless packs generally have simpler designs. Fewer zippers, fewer compartments, fewer straps, no stays – less that can break, rip, or go wrong.

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2.  Fit: With frameless backpacks, it’s the load itself that provides the structure. With an unrolled or folded sleeping mat  (either CCF or inflatable) acting as a makeshift framesheet, ideally, a frameless pack should mold to the contours of your back. In order for that to happen, particular attention must be paid to the manner in which your pack is filled. A moderate or heavy load packed indiscriminately into a frameless model, will be a lot more uncomfortable than it would be in a more forgiving internal or external frame backpack.

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3.  Weight and Durability:  Because of their simpler design and lack of framesheet or stays, frameless packs are lighter than other models. Generally speaking, they tip the scales at 0.6 kg (21 oz) or less. That said, over the years I have found that the weight saving doesn’t come at the cost of durability. A case in point was the first two Mountain Laurel Design Burn packs that I used between 2009 and 2018. Each pack lasted at least 9,000 trail miles (14,484 km). The one caveat to this is if you regularly overload them, in which case the stitching tends to fail quicker than framed backpacks; particularly around the shoulder strap area.

Sometimes you just have to go big, and one of the largest loads I’ve carried in the MLD Burn was during an approximately 240 mile (386 km), seven-day stretch between East Glacier and Helena, MT, on the Continental Divide Trail in August 2012.

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4.  Size:  People who buy backpacks with large carrying capacities (e.g. 65 litres or more) generally find ways to fill them. You have all that space, it would be a shame to see it go to waste, no? An inherent advantage of frameless packs is that they are relatively small. They are not made to haul loads over 10 kg (22 lbs) for extended periods of time. This limitation forces the hiker to pare down their backpacking kit from the outset. With a frameless pack, the focus needs to be on carrying the necessities, with superfluous luxuries either left at home or kept to a bare minimum (Note: Generally speaking, if your base weight is less than 4.4 kg/10 lb, you don’t need any more than 50 L capacity in order to fit 5 to 7 days of food plus a few litres of water).

5. Cost: Fewer materials and simpler designs mean that frameless models are usually cheaper than their internal and external framed equivalents.

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