See all the frameless backpacks on the market at the lightweight backpacks list.
The frameless backpack is one of the better ideas to come out of lightweight hiking, and is also one of the few lightweight innovations that is off limits to most conventional hikers. But tweaking the contents of your backpack can make you eligible for a frameless backpack too.
Frameless Backpacks 101When you were in school and you carried your books and your lunch around, did you have a frame in your backpack? Probably not. And yet in most hiking backpacks the frame is a default. In some it's not even removable. You've got a frame and you're going to like it. So why have a frame at all? The answer is weight. With sixty or seventy pounds stuffed in and hanging off of your backpack, a frame is a necessity. With that much weight and no frame the backpack starts to get lumpy and shifts around on you while you're wearing it, and doesn't keep its shape so well. It becomes an aggravation.
The trick then is to lighten your backpack so that you're practicing lightweight backpacking. Most frameless backpacks can handle about thirty pounds before they start to suffer from being too heavy, so you want to aim for a baseweight (everything you're going to carry minus the food and water) of fifteen or even ten pounds to be on the safe side.
I wont spend much time on the how of lightening your backpack because this whole website is about having a lighter backpack. I would suggest you take a look around, particularly at the gear lists (up top under gear lists on the menu) to get some ideas on how to lighten your backpack's contents. If you're still stuck for ideas after that try the sample lightweight backpacking gear list.
The great thing about lightening your backpack is that when you've finally gotten the contents of your backpack light enough to switch over to a frameless backpack you do that and your weight drops by another pound or more. That's because those frames are heavy, sometimes very heavy, and the difference in weight between a frameless backpack and a frame backpack can sometimes be shocking. Check out the lightweight backpacks list to compare for yourself.
Popular Frameless BackpacksA glance at the lightweight backpacks list will reveal just how many frameless backpacks there are on the market, but here are a few of the more popular ones...
- ULA Equipment CDT - ULA is well known in the lightweight backpacking community for a reason. They're almost exclusively a backpack manufacturer and they do what they do well. The CDT is frameless and one of their smaller backpacks, but if you don't have much to carry there's ample room.
- GoLite Jam - The GoLite Jam has been around for awhile in several different versions. This new version is a little heavier than its predecessors but the pack has history and its stuck around as long as it has because it's a frameless backpack worth having.
- Terra Nova Equipment Laser 35 - A unique design from a quality UK manufacturer not as well known in the Americas. The Laser 35 is a front loading backpack, which gives you quick, easy access to everything you're carrying.
- Gossamer Gear G4 Ultralight - Gossamer Gear is a much respected lightweight backpacking manufacturer and their backpacks are a big part of that. They make a few frameless backpacks, and the G4 is one of them. With a design that goes all the way back to 1998, you can rest assured that it has been well tested.
- Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus - The Prophet won the Backpacker Magazine award for Readers Choice of Best Ultralight Backpack in 2011. So you can be sure that it's one of the better frameless backpacks you'll come across.