Backpack Selection FAQ's
What information is required in selecting a backpack?
- The type of backpack required for your purpose.
- The recommended size, or more correctly the length and the
resulting capacity of that choice.
- The difference in materials, features and purpose of each
- The purpose of the personal customisation, or fitting of
- How to maintain the contoured Internal Staves.
- The correct loading procedure for your backpack.
- How to reposition or shift the load while the backpack is
- How to make all the available adjustments attributed to
- The multiple positioning of the Daypack on Travel Backpacks.
- How to maintain, clean, repair, and care for your backpack.
- The warranty and support availability for your backpack.
- The optional accessories and replacement parts available
for your backpack.
Internal Frame or External Frame
What is the difference between frameless and framed backpacks?
Frameless Backpacks are:
- The least expensive.
- Lighter and less bulky.
- Too small for anything but the shortest trips.
- Unable to comfortably support large heavy loads.
External Frame Backpacks are:
- Said to be easier to pack, extra exterior pockets make packing
- Cooler with the external frame suspending the backpack away
from your back.
- Great heavy load carriers on easy to moderate terrain and
designed mainly for hiking on open trails.
- Stated as transfering more weight to the hips than Internal
- Wider, heavier, sometimes taller and bulkier than similarly
sized Internal Frame Backpacks.
- When fully packed, have a relatively high centre of gravity,
making balancing difficult on rough trails, more difficult terrain,
or in activities like skiing or climbing.
Internal Frame Backpacks are:
- Cool to wear, a well-designed internal backpack provides
good back ventilation with minimum contact against the body.
- Designed to fit your body snugly and hold your load in close
to your natural centre of gravity.
- More comfortable and better at distributing the weight evenly
than External Frame backpacks.
- More streamlined than External Frame backpacks, allowing
for more freedom of movement and easier passage through tight
- Easier to balance than External Frame backpacks. When fitted
correctly, an Internal Framed Backpack feels more like you are
wearing the backpack, performing better when off trail, skiing,
- More difficult to pack as these have fewer pockets and load
distribution is critical to backpack performance.
- There is a definite trend towards Internal Framed Backpacks
and this is due to the improved functionality and better performance
of these backpacks.
Internal Frame Backpacks when of good design and custom fitted
correctly will outperform External Fame Backpacks for comfort and
functionality. The main factor for purchasing an External Fame Backpack
over an Internal Frame Backpack would be to carry large heavy loads
over even terrain. Although there is some doubt that Internal Framed
Backpacks provide adequate back ventilation, it is important to
remember that like External Frame Backpacks, good Internal Frame
Backpacks are only in contact with the lower back, upper shoulders,
and the chest.
Should an Internal Frame Backpack be personally and professionally
All Internal Framed Backpack should be personally and professionally
fitted, that includes having the Internal Staves contoured to your
back regardless of brand, with explicit instruction provided on
the use of each adjustment. These Internal Staves must be removed
from the backpack and contoured to your back correctly, and not
just simply bent in the backpack until the staves are "roughly"
the correct shape. Be wary of information stating that the Internal
Staves will mould to your back in time, as this is absolutely not
true. If faced with this statement, have a demonstration of removing
and bending the staves as this should demonstrate the inaccuracy
of the statement "It will mould to your back in time". If of course
these Internal Staves are soft enough to be bent easily, then the
Internal Staves will not maintain the correct contoured shape and
provide no load support. Be very wary of correct size of backpack
and correct fit to prevent back injuries due to an ill-fitting or
incorrect size of backpack.
Panel Loading or Top Loading
What is the difference between Panel loading and Top Loading
Panel loading backpacks:
- Have a large suitcase style opening making it easy to load
and access the contents.
- Have adequate compression straps to prevent load movement
and protect zippers.
- Have #10 size zippers in main panel loading compartments
so the risk of failure is very small.
- Have more zippers that could potentially be damaged.
- More prone to water entry through zips and extra stitching.
- Should always have zip cowls covering all zippers to prevent
Top loading backpacks:
- Are fail-safe since these don’t reply on zippers.
- Are more water resistant with fewer zippers and less stitching.
- Can be difficult to access, particularly when the gear you
want is at the bottom.
- In some cases can be extended upward allowing as much as
15L of extended packing.
What is Extended Loading?
Most top loading backpacks close with a drawstring and have an
extra extension that allows the pack to be overstuffed. All backpacks
with an extended loading facility provide a backpack lid that can
be extended to cover the top of the extended load. These extendable
backpack lids are usually secured to the backpack with two or three
extra adjustable webbing straps. An example of when you might overstuff
a pack is at the beginning of a long trip when you have lots of
What backpack size do I require?
Length is most important when choosing a backpack, and it is
your Torso Length that determines this selection. There are as a
rule five standard lengths of backpacks or more accurately five
lengths of Internal Staves used on the global market: White Mountain™
uses four of these available Internal Stave lengths and specify
each length to be as follows; Extra Small at 50 cm, Small at 55
cm, Medium at 60 cm and Large at 65 cm. Each of these lengths of
staves varies by brand at approximately +/- 2 cm and all credible
backpack manufacturers or wholesalers will supply the recommended
back Torso Length for each backpack. Each backpack Internal Stave
length usually accommodates a +/-5 cm variance of the optimum Torso
Length. The length of backpack is therefore determined by your Torso
Length which narrows your personal choice of backpack capacity.
What capacity of travel, hike or hybrid backpack is required?
The maximum capacity of backpack you are able to purchase and
fit correctly will depend on your Torso Length, which then determines
the total backpack capacity. White Mountain™ would suggest
purchasing the largest backpack capacity available for your Torso
Length, as the really good thing about Internal Frame Backpacks
are the compression straps provided when you don’t need all that
extra space. White Mountain™ also suggests the best guideline
for choosing backpack size is the longest trip you would take while
relying on the backpack to carry all your supplies. This would depend
on the type of equipment carried and individual requirements.
We can provide an approximate estimate as follows:
- Day Trips: under 40lt - 2,440 cu in.
- Overnight Trips: 45lt to 55lt - 2,750 cu in to 3,360 cu
inches. Overnight, Long Days, Climbing, or Skiing backpack where
there is little room for anything other than the very essentials.
- Week End Trips: 55lt to 65lt - 3,360 cu in to 3,970 cu inches.
Overnight, 2 - 3 days, larger Skiing or Climbing backpack allowing
enough room for the basics, a tent, sleeping bag, stove, food
and essential clothing and footwear.
- Longer Trips: 65lt to 80lt - 3,660 cu in to 4,880 cu inches.
4 - 7 days allowing for the additional food and clothing.
- Extended Longer Trips: 80lt to 95lt - 4,880 cu in to 5,800
cu inches.7 days or more.
How do I load my backpack?
Information should be provided on loading your back pack, which
in a custom fitted includes instructions on shifting the weight
from the shoulders to the lower back, or from the lower back to
the shoulders. If your backpack supplier is not able to offer genuine
advice and custom fit the backpack correctly while demonstrating
a clear understanding of backpack functionality, SHOP ELSEWHERE!
When testing a weighted backpack the backpack should be correctly
loaded, loading the backpack incorrectly would give the wearer a
completely incorrect assessment of their chosen backpack.
Is the backpack durable?
A good backpack will last for many years. Check for durable materials,
good straight well finished stitching, bar tacking or reinforced
stitching in high stress areas, doubled stitched seams and zippers,
quality zippers, quality buckles, reinforced Harness Shoulder Straps
and reinforced webbing anchors or handles on travel packs. Enquire
about the reputation of the manufacturer you’re considering.
What Guarantee should I expect with a backpack purchase?
White Mountain™ provide an excellent guarantee. From the
date of purchase White Mountain™ products come with a Lifetime
Guarantee against material and manufacturing faults. As can be expected
damages caused by fair wear and tear, abuse or misuse are not covered
by this guarantee. Please note that this Guarantee specifies the
useful life of the pack.
Once you’ve answered the above questions and you begin to look
at and try on specific recommended backpacks the next priorities
What do I look for after selecting a backpack?
- After fitting is the harness system comfortable?
- Does the backpack follow the contour of your back?
- Is the backpack of the correct length?
correctly the Internal Stave is of the correct length
- Does the backpack feel comfortable on your back?
- Does it pinch, bind or restrict your freedom of movement?
- Can you look up without hitting the backpack with your head?
- Can you squat down without cutting off the circulation to
- Are all the organizational features you need available?
Places to put the sleeping bag and foam mat, pockets for often
used items, daisy chains or other facilities to lash things
to the backpack, external compression straps to secure the
load, and on a hike or hybrid backpack an extended loading
facility. On a travel backpack, a harness cover,
carry handles and a shoulder strap , an internal
compression system for panel loading backpacks, and lockable
- Are the materials durable, fabric, zips, buckles and webbing?
White Mountain™ has done a great deal of research into
Internal Stave curvature for each of the four available frame lengths.
All backpacks come pre-fitted and provided your choice of backpack
is of the correct length, it will be a near perfect contour to your
back, this includes online backpack purchases.