Back to discussing equipment choices I made for my Appalachian Trail hike; today, the backpack.
I don’t think internal frame backpacks were even being sold when I was shopping around. External frames were the only choice. There were other “boy scout” type rucksacks you’d find at an Army/Navy store, but those didn’t have the large capacity to carry all the gear required for long distance trips. Mine was a blue Kelty Tioga pack. No bells or whistles; simply a durable external frame, generous top-loading mouth and a “new” feature – a zippered back panel so I could retrieve items without unloading the entire pack. Best of all, a quick-release buckle on the hip belt. This allowed me to quickly shed the pack in emergencies. The belt also hugged my hip bones nicely and made for a stable, comfortable “ride.” I loved it.
Loading the backpack took some finessing over the months I spent on the trail. The recommendation was to have the heaviest items lower in the pack and positioned near the spine, with lighter items on top. This seemed to stabilize the load and I never recall being pulled back or thrown off-balance.
Internal frame packs were coming in strong, with Gregory Packs being a popular early star. I eventually ended up with a “clone” internal frame manufactured by R.E.I. and was satisfied with it for some time. It was the first choice pack for my adventures on the Long Trail and return A.T. hikes. Yet, over the years, I find I am yearning to get back in harness with an external frame back. If I bought a pack today I am sure I’d pick an external frame model. Nostalgia? Perhaps. But I suspect the feeling of cool air between me and the load I carry has as much to do with it as anything.