There are a lot of reasons why we buy the gear we buy. Generally speaking I’ve always believed that we should buy a product based on simple criteria: How well will it work? How functional is it? How long will it last? How well is it made, and usually how much does it cost? If a piece of gear strikes a cord in all of these areas, and hey if it turns out I can get it in a color that I want, well even better. But in the end I find myself firmly in the function over form camp. I’d rather have a piece of gear that will work well, last, and will generally make a trip as comfortable as possible over something that looks good and functions poorly.

Which is why it struck me as odd when I recently was reading a readers question in Backpacker Magazine, wondering why there has been a shift away from external frame backpacks to internal frame backpacks, that the answer pretty simply came back as, “because they are sexier, and who doesn’t what sexier gear?” Part of me had to ponder that for a few minutes before the absurdity of the answer struck me. Not that the answer itself was absurd (for the most part I have nothing but respect for writers at Backpacker) but at the idea that in reality we may have a market that is driven to making a product that is actually less useful to the vast majority of hikers, because the consumer wants something that looks sexier? That is the part that left me a bit confused.

Why an External Frame?
Outside of the basics of fit, feel and load carrying capabilities of a pack, there is of course the age old question of whether an internal or external pack is a better option for us. If you search the web you’ll get hundreds of answers to that question, but here are the basics as I would present them.

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