2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – November 2010

Time-Tested Gear: Backpacks

You can't be a backpacker...without a backpack.

by: Alex Geller and Kristin Hostetter

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Main: Kelty Trekker 3900 Inset: Tioga (Courtesy Photo)
Main: Kelty Trekker 3900 Inset: Tioga (Courtesy Photo)

Expert Wisdom
1. Buying one do-it-all pack? Size up. Bring your gear to the store and look for a model that will handle your biggest trip, then make sure it has an effective compression system so you can shrink it down for overnights and big dayhikes, too.
2. Get the right torso length. Tall people can have short torsos (and vice versa), so measure your back (see how at and get a pack that fits.
3. Fine-tune load control. Learn to adjust hip, shoulder, and load-lifter straps to shift the weight up and down. Over the course of a long day, hips and shoulders will need some relief.
4. Line your pack with a trash compactor bag for cheap, effective waterproofing.
5. Pack your load symmetrically and with heavier items closer to your back for the best balance.
PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Stanie Boy
Jun 29, 2012

i'm a class of 2011er and did it all with my external frame i bought it for $9 at a yardsale.

just do it!

Apr 08, 2012

My X took off with my D3.
I really miss my D3.

May 26, 2011

I love my gregory baltoro 75. Its the best bag around for 2-10 day hikes in the back country. Gregory packs rule the trails!

May 26, 2011

Gregory makes the best backpacking bags around hands down! If you havnt used one, you would know.

Knotty Dread
Apr 21, 2011

I proudly own the Trekker 3900 external, it's a great pack. Yes, it's a bit heavy in comparison, but you gain the advantage of having the frame to improvise in an emergency for splints or stretchers or whatnot. It has a ton of assorted sized pockets, most are readily available without having to loosen the bag. It's just the right size to keep you honest and dismiss the luxuries, it fits only what you need with room to spare. And if you've ever hiked the Smokies in June, you'll know why back ventilation is key, this one does well, your lower back will be marshy but otherwise you'll feel the breeze. I personally don't care to be different or use older methods, they were thought of first for a reason. This bag is proven. Plus exercise is good, an extra few pounds makes you stronger overall, you're expected to feel spent when you reach the peak, not prancing up there airily with a bag made of tissue paper. Backpacking involves sweat and accomplishment, not blowing your children's tuition on flimsy gimmicks that save you 2 ounces. Maybe you should re-evaluate if you enjoy the experience of walking a ridge at dawn in solitude, versus how cool you look in your super puffy neon jacket. That said, aside from maybe waterproofing or adding zippered pockets in the waist band, it's quite suitable. And a steal for under $150. What's not to love?

Apr 19, 2011

I own severl internal frame packs and my go to gear eating pack is still my coleman peak 1 5400 ci.. hot weather and crazy heavy loads for my wife and little man. Eighteen years old and looks and feels new(some shoulder straps of corse) it's just a work horse. bottom line new and sexy is cool but go with what works for you..true story

shawn hill
Apr 05, 2011

5 lbs?!? Ouch. I'll stick with my Golite Pinnacle pack. Using my Golite pack I can add in my Kelty 20 down sleeping bag, a Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad and an Alite Butterfly chair and still weigh less than the Kelty Trekker pack empty! No thanks.

Tennessee Jim
Apr 04, 2011

Last fall, I switched back to my 1978 Jansport D3 & I STILL LOVE IT!!
I hike in 3-5 miles, set up camp and hunt a week. I rarely see other humans. Also, I'm lighter going in than coming out. The packframe offers me packing flexibility which has been lacking with internals.This spring, I've stuck to the D3 for all my backpacking and have been VERY HAPPY. Now if my body would just perform the way IT did in 1978....

Tom P.
Jan 26, 2011

Love the organizing options of External frames. The back ventilation is also great. Since I am not scrambling I do want an internal.

Rebecca Treat
Jan 11, 2011

5lb 9oz! I didn't know people still carried those!

old men rule
Jan 11, 2011

I used a 1972 kelty for 39 years great pack but at my age I need a much lighter pack so i got a REI XT saved 1.5 lbs and it is just as comfortable as my old Kelty. Go Lite!!! enjoy the hike

gone hiking
Jan 11, 2011

What we need is an ultralight external frame pack using titanium or carbon fiber tubing and lighter material like ultralight internals. My first pack was an external Jansport "Backpacker". After using several internals for 15 years since, I went back to the external and now that my load is much lighter, it is much more comfortable than it ever was. Certainly better than most internals and I love the organizational options.

Jan 11, 2011

Im lookingfor a good 3 day pack with a sleeping bag compartment that actually is large enough to hold my bag. I like pockets and lots of access. Maybe a rain cover. Any suggestions? None of these looked like my bag

Jan 11, 2011

The Kelty 3900 adjusts from 14-20" for the shorter torso. The 3950 adjusts from 16-22" for the longer torso. I've had my 6 year old 3950 pack toting 50 lb loads with little trouble. It's old school, but I stay on the trail most of the time.

Jan 11, 2011

I believe the Kelty 3900 is made for women or youths. But Backpacker really doesn't make this very clear. But that aside, I started backpacking when external framed packs was all that was available unless you went to a ruck sack or military surplus and blue jeans was part of your hiking attire.I don't currently own an external pack but am considering trying one on again, because with the internal framed packs close body hug method of carrying the pack, not enough air ciculates between the hiker's back and the pack. As my trail name implies I do perspire alot and the external pack is said to do a better job of keeping the hiker a bit cooler on those perspiration inspired treks.

Jan 11, 2011

I have three Dana Design packs, and they still look nearly new!! Great packs!

Outdoor Leader
Jan 11, 2011

Kelty has served Boy Scouts throughout the last 50 years. Externals, pack a lot, balance well and handle abuse. For any weeklong outing, take along a a small kit of replacement parts, i.e. (hitch pins, cotter pins, flex ties, buckles, duct tape).

Jan 11, 2011

I have had the Kelty for years now and have done enough elevation gain with 30-40lbs and can say I am glad I had this pack, Internal frame packs just dont function as well both in comfort and packing.

Jan 11, 2011

I'm still using my massive JanSport external frame pack from 1975--I believe it's called a K-2. With it, I can hike relatively upright for ten hours with a 45-pound. I wouldn't, however, trust it to baggage handlers.

Jan 11, 2011

Stuck in the 80's.

View all comments


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
PTB time is upon us, agree?
Posted On: Aug 23, 2014
Submitted By: Ben2World
The Political Arena
At what age did you come back....
Posted On: Aug 23, 2014
Submitted By: Ecocentric

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions