Best Internal Frame Backpack

To determine the best internal frame backpack we looked at the following features: size, capacity, comfort, carry-on compatibility, and additional storage. Waterproof protection is important for outdoor activities. You’ll want to make sure the backpack is the right length for your back or offers torso adjustments while also providing enough storage capacity for your items. Padded shoulder and hip straps and a padded back are important for comfort. While additional storage can help you stay organized and prepared. And for those who want this bag to double for air travel, carry-on compatibility will be important.

After considering all of the above, we nominated the Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack as our Top Pick. We felt it was the best internal frame backpack for traveling because it’s one of the shortest lengths that’s compatible with airline restrictions but also features an adjustable torso length and a commendable 55-liter capacity. Keep reading to learn more about the rest of our top picks.

Top 7 Best Internal Frame Backpacks

 #1  TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

Award: TOP PICK

WHY WE LIKE IT: The best internal frame backpack for traveling whether on foot or more importantly, in the friendly skies thanks to its TSA friendly 15 to 19.5-inch adjustable torso length.

Pros
  • Best for short trips
  • Adjustable torso length
  • Carry-on friendly design
Cons
  • Inconsistent customer service

Whether you’re just getting into backpacking or you’ve been eyeing an internal frame backpack as an alternative to a traditional carry-on bag, we’ve nominated the Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack as our Top Pick. Out of all the options in our guide, we think this is the best internal frame backpack for traveling. That’s because this features an adjustable torso length that allows you to customize the bag from 15 to 19.5 inches which are well within most major airlines’ carry-on luggage requirements.

However, if you want to use this backpack for its intended purpose, we think this backpack is ideal for multi-day backpacking trips. You’ll like that this pack has a 55-liter capacity and only weighs 4.5 pounds. You’ll also appreciate the breathability of this pack thanks to the open-cell foam lumbar pad and the molded channels for improved airflow. And this pack offers plenty of storage with a sleeping bag compartment, plenty of external pockets, and additional bungee storage on the exterior. Plus the integrated rainfly helps to keep your gear dry when it’s raining and tucks away when not in use. Pack it along with the best rooftop tents when camping.

 #2  AmazonBasics Internal Frame Hiking Backpack

Award: HONORABLE MENTION

WHY WE LIKE IT: A solid internal frame backpack with roomy expandable capacity and a water repellent exterior makes this perfect for rough and tumble outdoor fans who know that they’ll encounter moisture.

Pros
  • Large expandable 75L capacity
  • Water repellent exterior coating
  • Rainfly included
Cons
  • Too long for carry-on

If you’re the type who always needs to bring one more item, then you’ll appreciate our Honorable Mention pick. The AmazonBasics Internal Frame Hiking Backpack is a great option for those who feel like they’re always running out of storage. This pack has a 70-liter capacity that can be expanded to 75 liters thanks to an extension collar to accommodate those last-minute items you need before you hit the trail. Plus you’ll appreciate the adjustable straps, lumbar support, and thick padded shoulder straps for a comfortable fit.

We like that this pack features multiple compartments to keep your belongings organized. And you’ll like that there are plenty of external pockets to tuck smaller items out of sight while keeping them nearby when you need them. The durable polyester exterior is treated with a water repellent exterior coating along with a water-resistant rainfly and a waterproof cover for heavier rainfall. Note that this backpack is 26 inches long so it’s not suitable as a carry-on bag. Pack the best uv flashlight and your other camping gear in this with confidence.

 #3  MOUNTAINTOP 70L/75L Internal Frame Hiking Backpack

Award: BEST FOR HIKING

WHY WE LIKE IT: An expandable storage, external sleeping bag storage, and included hydration compartment that can hold a three-liter bladder makes this one of the best hiking backpacks for multi-day outdoor trips.

Pros
  • Excellent expanding capacity
  • Best for sleeping bags
  • Accommodates 3L hydration pack
Cons
  • Hip belt not ideal for shorter people

If you’re planning to head off on a weekend camping or hiking trip, you want a backpack that can carry more gear so you’re not left in the middle of anywhere short on supplies and necessities. We think the Mountaintop 70L/75L Internal Frame Hiking Backpack is the best multi-day backpack in our guide and is one of the best hiking backpacks as well. Specifically, we like that you have a range of choices for where you want to store your sleeping bag. While you could opt to store it in the internal sleeping bag compartment, you can also store it outside of the backpack and use the external straps to hold it securely in place.

You’ll appreciate that this pack also features expandable storage from 70 to 75 liters thanks to the top collar (a common feature across internal frame backpacks), and also comes with a hydration compartment that can hold bladders up to three liters. This pack also only weighs 4.4 pounds, making it a great lightweight option. And as is common, it’s also made from water-resistant polyester, comes with a rainfly, and has plenty of external storage as well. You’ll like the padded lumbar support and shoulder straps for a more comfortable fit. Don’t forget to bring the best backpacking stove with you.

 #4  TOPSKY Sports Waterproof Internal Frame Backpack

Award: BEST QUALITY

WHY WE LIKE IT: A rugged option that offers expandable storage, an adjustable torso design, plenty of external hanging storage, and safety features — making this the best mountaineering backpack.

Pros
  • Best Mountaineering
  • Expands to 80L capacity
  • Adjustable height S/M/L in back
Cons
  • Expensive

If you’re planning on taking a long trip through the outdoors, you’re going to need an Expedition Pack. we’ve selected TopSky Sports’ Waterproof Internal Frame Backpack as our Best Quality because it offers the largest capacity of any of the packs in our guide and is full of intuitive features that make this a smart choice. We think it’s the best mountaineering backpack because you get 70 liters of storage space that expands to 80 liters when you use the extension collar.

You’ll also appreciate that there’s an adjustable torso system that lets you customize the lumbar support and carrying system based on your height between the small, medium, and large sizes. As is common you’ll get a separate sleeping bag compartment, water and tear-resistant exterior and sturdy lumbar support, a hydration bladder compartment, and plenty of external storage loops. But what sets this apart from the competition is that this pack also includes a safety whistle. Speaking of safety, when in the outdoors, bring the best water purification tablets for camping with you.

 #5  WASING 55L Internal Frame Backpack

Award: BEST BUDGET

WHY WE LIKE IT: A simple expandable capacity internal frame backpack with breathable airflow channels, included rain cover, and a water-resistant exterior makes this the best rucksack for day trips.

Pros
  • Best Mountaineering
  • Expands to 80L capacity
  • 50 + 5L capacity
Cons
  • No height adjustment

Whether you’re an occasional day trip outdoor enthusiast or you’re just looking for something affordable, our Best Budget recommendation is a good place to start your search. The Wasing 55L Internal Frame Backpack is a great option for budget shoppers. We like that this affordable option offers a decent amount of space that makes it the best rucksack for day trips. You’ll appreciate that this is another expandable option that comes with 50 liters of preset space and then expands an additional five liters thanks to the extension collar.

Should you get caught in the rain, you’ll like that this is a water-resistant pack but that it also comes with a rain cover that stows easily in the bottom zipper. The sternum strap also features an emergency whistle to help prioritize your safety. And the well-padded shoulder straps and hip belt help you to maintain comfort and offers airflow. You’ll also like that this pack weighs just under three pounds. However, at just over 27 inches tall, this isn’t ideal for a carry-on. The best headlamp is another great piece of gear.

 #6  High Sierra Appalachian 75 Internal Frame Backpack

Award: BEST ADJUSTABLE HEIGHT

WHY WE LIKE IT: A solid internal frame backpack with a generous 75-liter capacity, moisture-wicking material, and adjustable torso makes this one of the best backpacking backpacks.

Pros
  • Best for customized fit
  • Fits 15 – 20” torsos
  • Moisture-wicking mesh design on straps, back, & hips
Cons
  • Expensive
  • No expandable storage

One of the most important factors to consider when you’re shopping for an internal backpack frame is whether or not you can adjust the torso for a more comfortable fit. We think the High Sierra Appalachian 75 Internal Frame Backpack is the perfect option for people focused on adjustability. Of all the packs in our guide, this one offers the largest adjustment range of five inches from 15 to 20 inches making it one of the best backpacking backpacks.

While this pack doesn’t offer expandable storage, a 75-liter capacity is very roomy and ideal for longer outdoor trips. This pack weighs 5.8 pounds, making it fairly lightweight. But it also comes with a drop-bottom sleeping bag compartment and plenty of external storage pockets and loops. You’ll also like that the back features an ergo-fit shoulder harness, hex-vent mesh and high-density foam padding for a comfortable fit.

 #7  Mardingtop 65+10L/65L Molle Hiking Internal Frame Backpack

Award: BEST TACTICAL

WHY WE LIKE IT: A an expandable storage tactical backpack made from sturdy water-resistant 600D polyester that’s perfect for training missions and the best internal frame hunting backpack.

Pros
  • Great for multi day trips
  • 65+10L capacity
  • Carry-on approved
Cons
  • Thin padding

Whether you’re picking an internal frame backpack as a carry-on or for outdoor trips, you want something that’s going to hold up over time. The Mardingtop 65+10L/65L Molle Hiking Internal Frame Backpack is made from sturdy 600D polyester for a water and tear-resistant finish that’s meant to last. This pack is also an expandable option — starting with 65 liters of space that can expand to 75 thanks to an extension collar. We think it’s the best internal frame hunting backpack in our guide.

You’ll like that this pack also features molle webbing so that you can attach additional necessities to the pack’s exterior. There are also two massive detachable side pockets for easy access to essentials. As is common, there’s a drop-down sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the bag. You’ll appreciate the torso-length adjustment that lets you customize the pack between three sizes (small, medium, and large). The S-shaped shoulder straps are padded for improved comfort too. This pack also comes with a rain cover to protect it from intense rains.

How We Decided

There are two main reasons people buy an internal frame backpack, air travel, and outdoor excursions. So, to create our guide, we looked at the following important features — size, capacity, comfort, carry-on compatibility, and additional storage.

You’ll note in our guide that we’ve featured a range of sizes with the smallest capacity being 55 liters and the largest 80 liters. If you prefer a smaller pack, opt for our Best Budget that comes in at 55 liters. But if you want an Expedition Pack, our Best Quality is a smart option because it provides 80 liters of space. Also, note that many of the packs in our guide are expandable — which is ideal if you like to add last-minute items before you head off on your next adventure. If this is important, check out our Honorable Mention, #3, Best Quality, and #7 recommendations.

Depending on how you plan on using your backpack, you’ll want to keep size in mind. For people also shopping for carry-on compatibility you’ll want to check the length of the bag. In our guide, we highlighted the options that could double as carry-on bags (Top Pick, Best Budget, and #7). Also, consider whether the torso is adjustable as this will help you to find the perfect fit. In our guide, the only non-adjustable options were our #3 and Best Budget nominations.

All of the backpacks in our guide highlighted padded shoulder and hip straps as well as a breathable lumbar design. Likewise, all of the models came with additional external storage. Your choices can vary from D-Loops, external pockets (all bags had external pockets), and molle webbing.

Best Internal Frame Backpack Buyer’s Guide

The Most Important Factors to Consider

  1. Size
    When we talk about size for an internal frame backpack, there are a few key aspects that you need to consider. First, is the backpack compatible with your physical structure? A good internal frame backpack should rest comfortably between your neck and your hip bones. In other words, it shouldn’t be any longer than your torso. Taller people should keep this in mind as most internal frame backpacks range between 15 to 20 inches.
  2. Frame
    You’ll want to look for a frame that is sturdy yet lightweight. Consider that you’ll be carrying a variety of gear on your back, you don’t want the frame to weigh you down. Look for lightweight yet durable materials such as aluminum or alloy. But the frame should also be shaped so that it follows the curve of your back — making for a more comfortable and stable fit. X-frames are a popular choice because they provide multidimensional suspension and improved stability.
  3. Capacity
    Once you’ve determined which length is best for you, you need to think about capacity. And this is going to depend on how you plan on using your backpack. If you’re planning a day trip hike then you won’t need the largest capacity internal frame backpack on the market. Something thinner will be just fine. In contrast, a weekend camping trip or a long term expedition would require greater capacity as presumably, you’ll be carrying more gear with you. The three main capacity options for internal frame backpacks are Daypacks (20 to 40 liters), Multi-Day Packs (40 to 80 liters), and Expedition Packs (80+ liters). But also consider the internal or external pockets or attached straps that give you an increased capacity to hold water bottles, camp rolls, or other essentials.
  4. Comfort
    While internal frame backpacks are considered lighter than other backpack options, there’s still the chance that you’ll be carrying it on your back for long periods. So you’ll want good padding on the straps or hip belts so that you don’t experience early fatigue. Be sure that the straps can be adjusted and that they’re wide enough that they won’t dig uncomfortably into your shoulders. And hip belts should also be adjustable. Likewise, a backpack with a mesh system or ventilation channels is important so that heat doesn’t get trapped between the pack and your back.

Internal Frame Backpack FAQs

What are internal frame backpacks?

Picking between an internal frame backpack versus no frame backpack comes down to your activity and needs. As the name implies, an internal frame backpack is one that features one to two stays made of either aluminum or alloy that help to create a rigid frame. The stays are located against the back of the pack. However, these are also slimmer backpacks that are ideal for outdoor activities as well as for traveling.

Can you carry-on an internal frame backpack?

This will depend on the size of the internal frame backpack that you picked. However, you should always check with your airline to confirm their carry-on luggage restrictions.

What is the best internal frame backpack?

This is going to depend on which features are most important to you. Do you want a backpack that can also be used as a carry on? Or would you prefer expandable storage? In our guide, we nominated the Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack as our Top Pick because it has 55 liters of space and could also double as a carry-on bag.

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Dorian Smith-Garcia

Dorian Smith-Garcia is a bridal and beauty expert/influencer and the creative director behind The Anti Bridezilla. She is a diverse writer across beauty, fashion, travel, consumer goods, and tech. She also writes for Inverse, Glowsly, and The Drive along with a variety of other publications. When Dorian's not writing she's collecting stamps in her passport, learning new languages, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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