Are there old and forgotten technologies that can be more useful to us?
January 1, 2020 1:16 PM   Subscribe

 


I'm a huge fan of ext. frames. Int had to win me over. It took 15 years for the internal frame bag to morph from a haul sack to something halfway comfortable.

I'd still use one on through-hikes, especially out east. Colorado 13, 14 k peaks, probly not.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:02 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


The old, low tech ways of boosting human capabilities could have lots of practical application today particularly in creating assistive devices for the disabled. Whenever I see a creative solution to help someone with a disability do a task, it's often achieved with technology that was available 50 or more years ago. It's just that so much focus is put on developing the newest, most technical way of doing something -- and then selling it to make a profit -- that the low cost, low tech solutions are forgotten.
posted by thorny at 2:25 PM on January 1 [6 favorites]


I am still using my very first backpack- a Kelty Super Tioga. It works very well and has lasted decades. I particularly like that it’s not touching my back, so I get some airflow there. It does not have easy water bottle pockets, so I have to put pockets on the belt strap. I’ll use it until I can’t hike any more.
posted by kerf at 2:46 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


I have an LL Bean external frame that I've had since I was perhaps 10 years old that I still use. It's HUGE! It's so big that I've learned over the years not to pack it full because it will top out over 100lbs with just normal camping gear if I get too enthusiastic. I've tried internal frame packs, but I do like the airflow I get with the external frame.

Remember those old lawn chairs that were aluminum tubing with maybe 2" wide strips of woven nylon strapping for the back and seat? The lighter versions of those weigh about 1.5 lbs. With an external frame pack and a couple of bungie cords, you just strap one of those on the outside of the pack and then anytime, anywhere, you take off the pack and undo bungies and you have a place to sit! No having to hunt for a log or a rock, it's right there with you. And the weight cost is minimal enough that it doesn't make sense NOT to carry one.
posted by hippybear at 2:56 PM on January 1 [6 favorites]


Kelty Super Tioga

The '58 Les Paul, '62 Strat, '73 Dodge 1/2 ton, P-51 Mustang...the pinnacle of the technology.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:06 PM on January 1 [5 favorites]


The unanswered question I have after reading all this: Why isn't anyone making any carbon-fiber cyberpunk nanotube external-frame backpacks? So many of these articles are about the dichotomy of "heavy" external packs from the '70s vs. "light" super-high-tech modern internal packs.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:27 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


That's a good question in many ways to me:

An external frame is meant to be super riged and stable. Dunno if those materials do 'rigid' well.

An internal frame intentionally compromises that for flexibility, where the bag conforms to your body's movement in scenarios that need agility and balance.

Just a guess.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:01 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


KUIU and Mystery Ranch are examples of modern external frame backpacks.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:11 PM on January 1


And talk about 'old' relevant technologies - Nepalese and Pakistani Himalayan porters still use a tump line. No arm straps. And *huge* loads that no Westerner could handle even with the most modern bag.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:14 PM on January 1 [5 favorites]


I too still have the LL Bean external frame that I got at 15. I don't do backpacking much anymore, and I do have an internal frame that I can use for overnighters, but that external frame is a workhorse for stream ecology field work, regularly toting a marine battery that probably weighs 40 lbs. Unlike when I was 15, I have to get someone to help me put it on and take it off, but I can't think of an easier way to carry big awkward field gear through wetlands.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:23 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


I was going to chime in about tumplines, which I learned about from a pair of outdoorsy, old-school elementary school teachers (and which I also kind of figured everyone else had forgotten). When I was ten or so, I would often carry a duffel bag in imitation of this style.

I bought an internal frame backpack recently, and don't think I'm in the market for an external frame bag, but I am looking forward to digging into these links!
posted by invokeuse at 5:45 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]




Awesome post. I too had a Kelty Super Tioga and man that thing was bombproof but noisy with all those pins and retaining rings.
posted by peeedro at 6:07 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Why isn't anyone making any carbon-fiber cyberpunk nanotube external-frame backpacks? So many of these articles are about the dichotomy of "heavy" external packs from the '70s vs. "light" super-high-tech modern internal packs.

I'm not super up to speed with the market but I feel the same way. External frame packs are my jam. They handle heavier loads better and more comfortably than internal frames and are less sensitive to loading methodology. Internal frame, or even frameless packs, are fine when you are ultralight packing, day hiking, or climbing (where keeping the weight close to your torso has obvious balance benefits) but it was really hard for me to switch away from an actual US military external frame pack for backpacking/hiking. An Osprey pack with a really comfortable (heat treated to fit my own hips if I recall correctly) waist belt finally changed that nearly 10 years ago but, honestly, if there was a beefy external frame pack that didn't weigh a ton of pounds empty then, aside from fashion/curb appeal factor, I don't see why it wouldn't work wonders for a lot of people.

Hell, I even forgot to mention that they're so much more breathable and back sweat, doubly so when hiking in high humidity and high heat situations, is a real killer for internal frame packs.

Thanks for the post. *dives into rabbit hole head first in hopes of learning something*
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:27 PM on January 1 [7 favorites]


In my 20s, with a real job, I bopped into the Seattle REI to replace my dad’s Army external frame backpack which had never quite fit me, ow. All these new modern bendy packs! I waited until one of the experienced clerks was free and told him my lavish budget.

He had me trot up and down the stairs a couple times and sent me home with a somewhat darker green external frame backpack. Which fit, which was all I needed. I spent the extra budget on socks and the backpack remains comfortable and repairable.

I still wonder what’s external-frame-ish about my back. Clerk was too laconic to say.

Like hydropsyche, I have used it for fieldwork. Rocks, hammers, whatever. Funniest outing was with a full clinking load of little glass bottles for soil gas sampling in a park in Santa Cruz - don’t know what passersby thought I was carrying but they did not like it at all.
posted by clew at 8:07 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


I've got a cheap aluminum external frame pack but my lack of a waist makes it's pretty uncomfortable to use. Is there a trick I can use or is this just a tool that won't work for me?


'73 Dodge 1/2 ton

'72 was the first year for the new body style. Though not available in a club cab until 73 it was the last year for a, IMO, superior divorced transfer case. It was also the last year you could get a Fargo pickup in Canada (Fargo persisted in the international market). 440 wasn't available till 74. SO YMMV on exactly which year is the best.
posted by Mitheral at 8:24 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


(I was mostly accounting for the club cab and v8 and reliability. It is vanishingly unlikely that I know more about cars. I bow to your expertise.) 🙂
posted by j_curiouser at 10:40 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be about RSS or IRC or something similar.
posted by acb at 4:54 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


In my experience (admittedly a long time ago) the external frame ALICE rucksack was better than whatever "experimental" internal frame backpack we tried in terms of packing and carrying a military radio. (think AN-PRC-77, or PRC-104). But I don't think any kind of backpack makes carrying 50+ pounds of stuff around "comfortable" just more or less tolerable. Of course, rucking around the woods in the military is not quite the same as backpacking. Not saying one is tougher or easier, just that in the military you have fewer choices about what to pack and what to carry it in.
posted by coppertop at 5:27 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I've got a cheap aluminum external frame pack but my lack of a waist makes it's pretty uncomfortable to use. Is there a trick I can use or is this just a tool that won't work for me?

You might be a candidate for trying out the Patagonia tumpline (or make one yourself, though the Patagonia one is only $19, practically free in Patagonia terms). Supposedly (and mentioned briefly in his blog post linked above) Chouinard liked using the tumpline in part because his hips are narrow, making packbelts uncomfortable. I haven't tried one, but his method of using it part time (mostly uphills) plus shoulder straps probably makes a lot of sense.

Internal-frame pack design has evolved and they have gotten a lot lighter, but in the days when every company was going for "bomb-proof" design, they weren't lighter than external frame packs. I've never used a good, modern external frame pack, so I can't really compare, but it wouldn't surprise me if the fashion eventually swings back to external frames or at least to hybrid models.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:24 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Kifaru also makes modern external frame packs. They use some modern materials, but they also make very tough packs, so they're not super-light. I hunt in an 80-liter waterproof pack that weighs about 5.5 lbs (about 1.5 lbs more than an equivalent Kuiu). Honestly though, once you've committed to including 8lbs+ of rifle in your hike in, and then adding 50lbs+ of meat on your way out, you've left the realm of ultra-light no matter what the marketers say.
posted by agentofselection at 1:44 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Why isn't anyone making any carbon-fiber cyberpunk nanotube external-frame backpacks?

The biggest market for backpacks in the US is not campers or hikers or any kind of nature-field-worker, but students. External frame backpacks are pointless for the majority of students, whose shape and size are going through rapid changes for most of their school time. Even when they've stopped growing, their actual backpack needs are often minor, and the combination of different sized students + different storage limitations + different hauling requirements, means there's no easy one-size-fits-all way to tap that market.

Outside of the student market, "people who need backpacks" are several only thinly related niche markets, additionally fragmented by a number of amateurs/dabblers who will start by saying "oh, I already have a backpack." Then there's the hassle of building a pack that both carries lots of gear, and has the right pockets/ lining/ weatherproofing for the hobby in question. What's best for hunters may not be best for climbers and hikers.

(I'd probably enjoy an external frame pack; I carry a lot of gear around in a bookbag. I'm not even going to bother looking; I'm 5'2" and I can't find standard backpacks in my size. I do well with the packs marketed to middle school kids - except that they fall apart after a few months of heavy use.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:25 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I'd probably enjoy an external frame pack; I carry a lot of gear around in a bookbag. I'm not even going to bother looking; I'm 5'2" and I can't find standard backpacks in my size.

I wonder if a vintage Swiss military external frame pack, a small one, might not fit the bill for you. I have one that I snagged for pretty cheap (not unlike This one here) that I intended to use for a similar purpose.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:37 PM on January 2


This thread got me considering tump lines...
posted by Cezar Golescu at 8:33 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


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