Hiking Backpack Frame vs. No Frame: What Are The Main Differences?

Have you ever wondered, “Hiking backpack frame vs. no frame: What are the main differences?” The difference between them is not as small as it seems. Let’s explore!

Top Rated Best Budget Hiking Backpack Frame for the money

Top Rated Best Budget Hiking Backpack No Frame for the money

Hiking Backpack Frame vs. No Frame

When buying a backpack for hiking, one of the most important things you have to do is decide between a hiking backpack frame vs no frame.

Framed Hiking Backpack 

Frameless Hiking Backpack

  • Ventilation
  • Large Capacity
  • Keep Their Shape
  • Suspension Systems
  • Massive Range of Bags Available
  • Carry More Weight
  • Less
  • More Affordable
  • Smaller
  • Easy to Store
  • Simple Design
  • More Forgiving Fit
  • Heavier
  • Bulkier
  • More Expensive
  • More challenging to pack
  • Less Supportive

Hiking Backpack Frame and No Frame: Main Differences

Hiking Backpack Frame and No Frame are better for a specific purpose, which I will discuss further in the following sections.


1. Frameless Backpacks

  • Durable

Frameless packs feature fewer parts, meaning less chance that they are going to break.

A broken frame almost renders a framed pack useless, making it sit uncomfortably on your back. Moreover, a broken or bent frame can easily tear through your backpack’s fabric.

Without the frame, you can fold and bend your backpack without fear of breaking it. But remember that this does not make these backpacks indestructible.

  • More Affordable

It’s not always true, but frameless packs are typically cheaper than framed ones.

There are exceptions to that rule, usually the ultra-technical or ultra-light. But generally, if you prefer to get a cheaper model, a frameless pack is the way to go.

  • Ideal for Smaller Loads Up to 25lbs

Lightweight packs will work well with light loads. If you frequently load your pack with less than twenty-five lbs of gear, a frameless pack will give you the light and fast feel you are searching for.

But if you overload your frameless pack, you will most likely have an uncomfortable hiking trip. So just pack it light, and you will get maximum movement, and feel free to explore the hills without hauling too much.

  • Lightweight

If you prefer a fast-and-light advocate, you will know that every ounce counts. So one of the strengths of frameless backpacks is how much lighter they are.

With the lack of a frame in your backpack, you can go lighter without feeling much weight on your back. In this case, your pack is just the material, including a few hundred grams of fabric.

2. Framed Packs 

  • Keep Their Shape

A framed pack can maintain its shape even when overloaded. Additionally, you will not be pulled in various directions because your backpack is slightly sustained on one side.

  • Carry More Weight

It is one of the main differences between framed vs. frameless packs.

The frames might spread the weight more effectively around your back and distribute the proper weight through your shoulders and the hip belt. It lets you carry more weight without feeling you’re overloaded.

  • Carry More Volume

As these packs can carry more weight, they also enable you to carry more volume. If you are on a hike and need to take more than just your essential gear, a framed pack can offer more space to fill.

The design, size, and shape of a pack also significantly affect the volume it can carry and your physical limitations.

  • Ventilation

Framed backpacks will typically feature greater ventilation than frameless ones.

The frame will lift the main bulk of your pack a bit from your back, making space to wick away sweat and move around.

External frames also deliver the greatest ventilation since they typically make a visible space between your body and your pack.

In addition, the internal framed backpack will typically feature a foam panel against your back which makes airflow.

The frame can keep the pack rigid, so this system works more effectively than an unframed pack.

  • Comfort

The comfort and structure of frameless backpacks will depend on how you pack, so you must be careful so that nothing pokes into your back.

However, the structure of the framed backpack is already in place. So every time you put this pack on, you will get the same comfort level as you got when trying it in the store.


1. Frameless Backpacks

  • Lose Their Shape

A frameless pack can poke to your back and pull in different directions if poorly packed. Also, it will easily lose its shape. So, packing a bag properly is undoubtedly an art form.

  • Weight Is Not Distributed Effectively

Poor packaging can cause extra pressure on one shoulder, or hip, which will wear and rub as you hike and walk.

  • Less Ventilation

Without a back system or frame, a pack to sit flat against your back without room for airflow. If you carry a light enough pack, it doesn’t matter, but a long trip with a sweaty back might be far from comfortable.

  • Lower Capacity

A frameless backpack tends to come in more compact,  smaller sizes than its framed counterpart.

2. Framed Packs 

  • Cannot Fold

You usually can’t fold framed packs because of their structure.

However, it does not seem to be a problem for many people as they always keep backpacks on their backs during their journey.

  • Extra Cost

The frame is one of the technology forms in the backpack. So it can lead to an extra cost, albeit insignificant.

  • Extra Weight

There’s no denying that a frame will add some weight to a backpack.

An external framed pack is the heaviest selection, but an internal frame still adds significant weight to the pack.

Hiking Backpack Frame And No Frame: Final Thoughts

The frameless backpack is much more common for trekkers and hikers than travelers. The simple designs and weight saving are much more relevant to long-day trekking trips through the hills than traveling from hostel to hostel.

But with the increase of one-bag travel and airlines constantly restricting hand luggage allowance, it is only a matter of time before ultralight frameless infiltrates the travel scene.

Whichever you opt for, ensure you know the strengths and weaknesses of each. The frameless backpack has huge advantages but can take a while to get used to.

Meanwhile, the pack with a frame is easier to use and is more common but tends to take up a lot more space and weigh much more.


Below here is common questions and answers related to Hiking Backpack Frame And No Frame.

What is a Framed Backpack?

This pack type has a rigid structure built in. You can’t fold or compress it. Framed backpacks are typically large and often have a capacity of 40 to 90 liters.

Should a Hiking Backpack Have a Frame?

There is no exact answer to this question. It depends on your preferences and needs.

Are Framed Backpacks Better?

If you’re planning on a long hiking trip, a framed backpack may be the way to go.

Why Are Frameless Backpacks?

Frameless packs use less material and have no frame components, so they tend to cost less.

What Is the Advantage of External Frame Backpack?

External frame packs will sit farther away from your body, increasing ventilation and reducing the sweat factor against your back.

Does Anyone Still Use External Frame Backpacks?

External frame backpacks are a rare breed on the trails these days, but some hikers still use them.

What Is the Purpose of a Backpack Frame?

Backpacks with frames will distribute your gear weight across your body. They hold their shape even when empty, making them much more effortless to pack.

The frame can also serve as a way of protecting your gear from being squashed or crushed.

What Is the Standard Backpacking Frame Type?

There are two types of backpack frames: External and internal.

How Heavy Should My Backpack Be for Hiking?

A loaded backpacking pack shouldn’t weigh more than about 20% of your body weight.

Are Hyperlite packs frameless?

Some people think the Hyperlite packs are frameless. But the fact is that the Hyperlite Junction isn’t a frameless backpack.

Do I Really Need a Hiking Backpack?

No, you don’t need a special backpack for hiking. Any regular backpack will work well for your day hikes.

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