External frames have often been considered the “traditional load horse” of outdoor packs. They have become less popular over the past few years as the internal frame has found a much more prevalent place within the outdoor retail market. Finding an outdoorsman who prefers the external can be difficult, but I found a believer.
To describe Stuart is not to describe anything conventional. As an active individual in the outdoor education world, he shared with me his experiences and familiarities with the Kelty Trekker 65 external frame.
What made you initially attracted to this particular pack?
I’ve always used internal frame packs, and I honestly wanted to try out something different. I’ve heard great things about the external frame as a dependable and indestructible mule, and I wanted to test what I had heard.
Do you consider the pack’s overall durability exceptional? Briefly depict the activity that takes place while you are using your pack.
Yes. This thing is pretty incredible with regards to durability. It is made for mass consumption by entry-level backpackers, and this shows in the build quality.
I used this pack this summer on several week-long backpacking trips, as well as a few weekend trips. I purchased it before this summer with these particular trips in mind.
Some external frames have been known to have balancing issues. Do you find that the Kelty Trekker 65 has any problems relating to balance or weight distribution?
Not really. It took me a few trips to get used to the possibilities with regards to pack adjustment that I had with an external frame, but once I figured out the differences between the pack and the internals that I had owned, it was pretty straightforward.
How does the external frame benefit you and your types of outdoor activity?
I just have enjoyed the ruggedness of the pack itself. With the external frame, I really feel like I can just pick it up and use it – no worries about environment or where I am going.
Describe the fit, load, and capacity of the pack.
It fits well, but as mentioned, it took me a couple times wearing it to adjust it to my liking. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I am used to internal frame packs and their adjustment schemes. To be honest, I like how this frame adjusts better than my internals in the past.
This thing can carry some weight. I carried some pretty silly (read: heavy) things in it this summer, partially just because I knew I could get away with it.
The capacity is nice for what I was doing. I have pretty small gear, and it all fit well. I actually stopped using a stuff sack for my sleeping bag (because I might be lazy), but was still able to fit my sleeping bag, some sleep clothes and my tent body in the sleeping bag compartment. On the week-long trips that I made, I used some inventive outside strapping to fit the additional gear, but it really wasn’t too much of a strain. With the external frame, I felt like I could get away with some more inventive/unorthodox methods of packing my pack just because there was more potential on the outside of the pack.
What makes this pack distinctive or better than previous backpacks that you have owned?
The inside of the pack is much more rectangular and formed than with the internals that I have used. It worked pretty well for what I was carrying, and if anything, I actually enjoyed the change in shape better. Just overall, it was a lot of fun experimenting with the different features of the pack, such as the more rigid frame, the outside-the-pack opportunities, and different shape of the interior.
Do you think anyone could be comfortable in an external frame? Do you see any advantages or is it simply based on the backpacker’s preference?
Oh, I’m not really sure. I could imagine that some people would not enjoy it as much as I do. I’m not sure if that’s a function of the pack itself or of the person wearing the pack.
I think anyone who is interested should try an external. It is a good way to explore other options in backpacking. I also have this fear in the back of my head that internals became popular just because they look cooler, which in some way there were “sexier” gear. I don’t think that the time of the external is over; I think that they still bring some advantages to the game.
What are the best selling points of the Kelty Trekker 65?
A huge one that I haven’t mentioned yet is the price. They are very reasonably priced, especially considering the rest of the market. It worked well for me as an experienced backpacker, but I have seen plenty of people new to the game use it and love the pack.
I enjoyed the shape, as mentioned. The fact that it stays rigid as I pack it makes my life very easy in the mornings and the evenings.
The pack also breathes incredibly well on my back, because the external frame holds the pack away from my body. Essentially, it is just the straps and some mesh on the lower back.
Any last comments on the Trekker 65?
I enjoyed my transition to external frame backpacks. I think I will stay here for a while. I’ve been eying up an ultralite external that I would use for weekend trips to compliment the Trekker 65 that I would use for longer trips.
I think that if you are new to the game, or if you have only used internals, or if you are nostalgic for backpacking days gone by, give the Trekker 65 a try. At least go get it fit to you and walk around the store in it. It is old school looking, but it may surprise you.
After you finish this dialogue, maybe you as the reader and adventurer will get fitted for an external frame. If you have any further questions about the pack, feel free to comment and I will relay the questions directly to Stuart for an answer.
Until we meet again,
Photography credit: Stuart’s backpacking buddies were kind enough to share some of their images with me from their adventures this summer. Mike Bideau is responsible for the portrait of Stuart featured at the top of the article. Nathan Glover is responsible for the landscape photography.