Internal Vs. External Frame on Hunting Backpacks: Tips to Help you choose one for your type of hunting

The days when hunting backpacks were all with external frames, are gone. With most packs today having an internal frame, one can only wonder, “why even look for a backpack with an external frame when most are internal?”

Well, you can never say for sure which type of backpack will work for you best. And just because most hunting backpacks come with internal frames doesn’t mean that you won’t find a model with the external frame as the best choice for you. In the end, when you’re looking for a hunting backpack, you don’t need the best model out there. It would help if you had the pack that works for you the best, and that backpack may very well be one with an external frame (go figure!)

What you need to know is that both external and internal frame backpacks have good and not-so-good parts. Taking a closer look at both categories is essential for figuring out which backpack will serve you best when hunting; some trial and error may still occur until you run into your “golden one.”

As all experienced hunters, we will be meticulous in comparing many things like comfort, weight distribution, and even price. You have the final call, but we can give you the pointers.

Capacity and weight distribution

Weight distribution is probably the most crucial difference between internal and external frame backpacks. Even if most internal frame backpacks today provide impressive weight distribution, not many of these packs can even come close to the external frame models.

Weight distribution is a challenging aspect to analyze. It’s only the most experienced backpackers that can tell the difference between a pack with poor weight distribution and fantastic weight distribution. If you like to carry everything you need for your backpack hunting, an external frame backpack will be the ideal choice.

Superior weight distribution for the external frame packs is probably the main reason these backpacks still exist.

The external frame is essential not only for the weight distribution but also for functionality. The capacity for stowing your items doesn’t even matter for external frame backpacks; not like it matters for internal frame models, anyway. With external frame packs, you can always use the outer frame to carry cumbersome items, as many as you need (almost). You may also attach more gear to the backpack’s frame and not get worried about losing the weight distribution.

All of these benefits tend to fade away simply because the internal frame backpacks dominate the market; they come with technologies and features to handle whatever task you throw at them.

If we only look at the capacity and weight distribution, internal frames won’t surpass the external frame models. You are limited to the inner compartments with the inner frame backpacks. Yes, prestigious models will also have external attachment points or compression straps to enhance your storing options. But you will have to pay for this kind of backpack and even risk not having the same weight distribution as you would with the external frame counterparts.

Comfort and breathability

One of the many things you learn when you carry a backpack, no matter if it’s for hunting or something else, is that several factors will make it comfortable/uncomfortable. Proper weight distribution will make a pack feel comfortable, but there are so many other things that will make you feel light and pain-free when carrying that hunting backpack. The breathability of the back panel is one of those factors. It’s easy: the more breathable the whole back panel is, the less sweaty you will become throughout the hunt. A breathable back panel also means a lower risk for chafing and better comfort altogether.

For external frame backpacks, you don’t need to be an experienced backpacker to notice the additional space between the body and the backpack- it ensures efficient ventilation. Typically, there’s plenty of space between the hip belt and the bag’s bottom as a big part of your back doesn’t even touch the backpack.

A breathable back panel is typical in internal backpacks, but we’re talking about the best options. The inner frame backpack should come with plenty of breathable mesh on the back, but also on the shoulder straps and hip belt (it’s not only your back that can get sweaty!). Spaced foam inserts on the back panel are features to look for because they can improve ventilation.

All in all, you will find plenty of internal frame backpacks for hunting that is breathable and durable too. The good part of having so many options for an inner frame backpack is that finding one that is breathable and comfortable for you isn’t complicated.

Body fit and adjustability

If you haven’t carry nor even seen an external frame backpack so far, you may wonder if these packs are adjustable at all. With modern technologies, most of the external backpacks have flexible frames and adjustable harness positions. It’s not very bad, but it’s not even close to the sort of fit and comfort you can achieve with internal frame backpacks.

Best internal frame backpacks allow adjustment for the harness, from the position down to the height you want for the waist belt. Numerous features will let you obtain the snug and comfortable fit that helps you carry heavy loads for hours without back pain or any pain.

We also have to highlight that you don’t really need the perfect fit for the external frame backpack. The primary purpose of adjusting everything in the pack system is to obtain superior weight distribution so that you may effortlessly carry your load for hours. With external frame backpacks, you don’t need adjustments because the outer frame does that from the beginning; it adjusts the back system so that you feel comfortable on long-haul days.

Costs and overall value

Since the market gives so many options for internal frame backpacks, it’s understandable why you can find very reliable models for an excellent price. You can find dependable hunting backpacks for as low as $50. Midrange and affordable hunting gear brands make mainly internal frame backpacks.

It’s not the same for external frame packs; these backpacks are relatively uncommon today, and prices in double digits are even rarer.

As for overall value, it’s not a matter of black and white. You can find great internal frame backpacks for less than $50, but they can be great strictly for your type of hunting, level of experience, and even standards for quality. If you’re picky, not even the most expensive backpack, internal or external, will float your boat.


The craftsmanship, the materials and technologies used for the bag, and what challenges your pack goes through will affect the hunting pack’s durability.

Sure enough, backpacks with double/triple stitching, reinforcement in high-stress points, made with waterproof materials have a better chance at taking challenging hunts for many years. We cannot say that internal frame packs are more durable than external frame models or the other way around; there are way too many factors affecting the backpack’s lifespan. For example, washing your pack with hot water in the washing machine will affect the structure and treatments for waterproofness, rending your backpack almost useless after six months of use.

We can say for sure that manufacturers are focusing on internal frame backpacks, so they strive to find and make the most durable and comfortable backpacks ever. Excellent internal frame backpacks will last for decades, no matter the challenges you’ll put them through.


Nine times out of ten, you should never choose your hunting backpack for the looks; on the contrary, it’s the last thing to pay attention to when buying. Having said that, we also have to admit that the external frame backpacks draw attention wherever they go. The old-school and retro vibe the outer frame backpacks rock make one feel unique and as adventurous as Indiana Jones.

Fun fact? Many people, younger people especially, have never even seen an external frame backpack so imagine their reaction when they see you with one as you come back home carrying your meat.

If you’re enough of a hunter, you may not hunt for the attention; that’s not what makes you go backpacking through the rain for hours. Therefore, the looks of your backpacks will make no difference at all.

What’s our verdict?

Just like with everything else, it’s a matter of personal choice, needs, and particularities. We can only suggest which type of backpack will work for some situations, but you decide which works best.

If you’re new at backpack hunting or have been hiking before, an internal frame backpack for your hunts makes a good choice, especially if you don’t want to spend more than a couple of days outdoor. You cannot complain about not having options; as a matter of fact, you have so many options that you will need a good set of tips and aspects to consider when selecting your backpack.

Should you plan some long hunts, for more than five days, when you need to carry a lot of gear, food, slee[ping bag and so on, an external frame backpack will make a better choice. These backpacks will ensure the weight distribution you need for the heavy loads. Plus, you can attach more gear to the frame.

Regardless of the final choice, be meticulous and write down whatever you plan on throwing in your backpack. As you can see, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to backpack hunting!

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!