External-Frame Backpacks

For hot weather, externals can be a good option. With a frame propping the load away from your back, air flow is increased.

Some backpackers claim externals offer better support with heavy loads. The packs can sit high and tower up behind your head, offering a higher center of gravity for the load.

Mountainsmith Youth Scout

One thing is for sure: As a backpacker, with an external-frame pack you will stand out. The exposed-frame look is one of a bygone era in the backpacking world. Could these special packs make a comeback? Seems a few big companies are betting externals can.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.