Frameless vs Framed Rucksacks

When trying to find the right pack for your next adventure, there is one factor you must consider. Do you want a framed pack (either internal or external) or a frameless one? It’s easy to have a preference, and you just get one pack for a catch all program, but let’s get serious. When it comes to separate packs for different needs, there are pros and cons for both. Do you need a quick go-bag for the zombie apocalypse, or a rigid pack for that 12 mile hump you’re about to conquer? To make the most informed decision, it is important to understand the differences between each one.

I personally have used both types of packs, and I am a frameless type of person. I like to be able to put a lot of gear in my rucksack, and make the pack fit to the shape I am looking for. However, this is not the pack I use when doing heavy ruck marches. Being an Infantry Unit Leader, I quickly learned the importance of having a framed pack. I once tried to use a frameless pack to carry M240 ammo, and it didn’t work out well. In order to decide which bag will work best for you, you need to be aware of the different features each has to offer, and be aware of the gear that you will need in your current or future situation.

Framed Packs


  • The amount of weight you can carry goes up drastically, especially if used and packed correctly. With an external frame, you can adjust the weight distribution to whatever is optimal for you. For me, I prefer to carry the weight higher on my back to allow me to lean forward and march on. For others, they want it on their hips. Regardless of preference, the framed pack can accommodate desired weight distribution.
  • Additional attachments can be added to the frame. Although I hate having different items swinging on my pack, there are a substantial number of hikers in the world who say this is an advantage for them. You can hang water bottles, small pouches, and even sleeping bags.
  • There are a number of people who claim that the airflow is better with certain types of framed packs as well. With skelton designed frames in particular, the airflow between your back and the pack allows you to stay cooler.


  • With an internal frame pack, this may cause the pack to hug close to your body, which increases body heat.
  • The overall size can become a nuisance, especially old school packs with large bulky aluminum external frames. When loaded down with quite a bit of weight, I had a hard time getting the pack on, as well as storing it when getting from point to point. For instance, using a large framed pack in Fallujah was ideal in some cases, but when traveling down the MSR in a truck, getting the pack in and out of the vehicle was a huge pain. Not to mention the amount of room it took up.
  • With internal frames, itcan become more difficult to distribute weight, especially with a lighter frame that molds to your body.

Frameless Packs


  • Lightweight is the main asset. Without a frame, and the ability to conform to most shapes, this is the type of pack you want when you need to move fast.
  • They are usually less expensive, since less material is needed to create the pack. It is not uncommon to get a frameless pack for a good price that will last you for quite some time.


  • Not ideal for, and, quite frankly, unable to carry heavy loads. It can be done, but it is extremely uncomfortable when traveling long distances. Also, items and the weight within the pack tend to shift around. This causes your body to be pulled in a backward position, which causes discomfort to your back.
  • Minimal support for the load, especially if not packed correctly. If packed right, the weight can be distributed evenly and not cause issues for you during your ruck. However, this well-thought-out weight distribution tends to get messy over time, especially during longer marches where people unpack to get to certain items and end up not packing them back they way they originally had it.

Ultimately, preference is key. Depending on what you are looking for in a pack and what you want to accomplish, one of them will work best for your situation.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Jeffrey Sabins

Jeff is an experienced operations manager with a background serving in the USMC as a infantry unit leader. His education includes a Certificate in Fitness and Nutrition, Bachelor of Arts in Terrorism Intelligence, and is currently working through his Masters in Organizational Leadership. He currently writes articles, short stories, product reviews, and assists companies with curriculum management and CPI processes.
Jeffrey Sabins

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