Frameless Packs – Fitting and Packing
I recently bought my first frameless backpack, the Mountain Laurel Design Prophet 48L.
I was always very hesitant to get a frameless pack since I have an autoimmune disease that affects my spine, pelvis, and hips. I thought I needed the frame of the backpack for support. However, the draw of saving 1 whole pound on my base weight was too good to pass up, so here I am.
Pack Choice and Fitting
When I tested out frameless packs I quickly learned that they can actually work very well for someone with back problems. That’s because they can mold better to your back and give a more custom fit. This will not work with everyone with back issues since everyone’s body is so different, but this worked for me. My best advice would be to go to a gear shop and try some packs on. Put some weight in them, walk around the store, and get a feel for what you like. Make sure to measure your back correctly and get a pack that is sized properly to the length of your back.
I decided on the Mountain Laurel Design (MLD) because they make ultralight packs around 1lb, for 220-250$. They also have Dyneema Carbon Fiber (DCF) versions for an added 55$ with better waterproofing and durability. They are so well made and have very responsive customer service as well. I added on a shoulder strap, mainly to hold my cell phone, and a hip pocket that is basically like a mini fanny pack where I keep snacks and tp.
How to Pack a Frameless Backpack
One of the most important considerations when moving to a frameless backpack is how you will pack it so that it maintains some sort of structure. Most people will tell you to use a loosely rolled foam sleeping pad so you can stuff your things in the middle and have that frame created by the pad, but I found a new way to pack.
- I start by putting my sleeping bag and tent in my backpack first, towards the small of my back. This works for me because I use a Dyneema tarp tent that’s soft and it doesn’t use tent poles. The sleeping bag and tent are soft but firm and the crevasse between them cradles my spine perfectly.
- Then I stuff my rolled-up sleeping pad away from my back which holds the sleeping bag and tent in place and helps create the form of the pack.
- Then I stuff extra clothes down in the crevices to firmly pack the bag from the bottom up.
- Towards the top, you’ll need to put your more frequently used items, food, layers. Try to keep the softer later towards the back of your head for comfort.
- Make sure not to put anything hard like your pot/fuel or electronics near your back, keep the softer stuff there. This has worked brilliantly for me.
When you are done packing up, a good test to observe the weight balance of your pack is to stand it on its end to see if it leans and falls in a certain direction. If it’s leaning or falling backward, it’s likely to pull you backward as you walk. This will make you off balance and create worse pain and chafing on your shoulders. As you can see my pack stands straight and is well balanced, although with water on the outside this can be an issue. I try to keep the water reservoirs inside to be better balanced, but it’s something to pay attention to.
Overall, I would fully recommend at least trying out a frameless pack to see if it’s for you. And don’t think you need a foam pad to make it work. It’s a great way to save a lot of weight and so you can be lighter and happier during the day while hiking – that’s what this whole thing is about anyway, right?
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