In a previous column, I covered two major companies, Kelty and JanSport, who will introduce retro-style, external-frame backpacks in 2011. The article pitched external-frame packs as throwbacks—bulky, exposed and skeletal products that were left behind two decades ago by anyone serious about carrying loads in the great outdoors.But the external-frame lives on, and it’s not just for the retro crowd. A new entry in the category, High Sierra’s External Frame pack series, include the classic exposed-frame look but with modern touches including hydration-reservoir sleeves and eco-minded PVC-free construction.One pack in the High Sierra line, the Foxhound 50, has a top-load main compartment, contoured straps, and a mesh panel to let air flow between your back and the pack load. There is a removable media pocket on the front to store a GPS unit or an iPhone. It costs $110.High Sierra is hardly the only company in the external game. In addition to their retro lines, Kelty and JanSport sell modern external-frame models. Other companies that sell externals include ALPS Mountaineering, Mountainsmith, Coleman, Texsport, Cabela’s, and Outdoor Products.ALPS, a small company in rural Missouri, offers two external models. The Red Rock, a 2,000-cubic-inch model, costs $89.99.Outdoor Products has a couple packs in the category, including the bargain Dragonfly External Frame Youth Pack. It costs as little as $39.99 on web retailers like Campmor.com and features a plastic-composite frame.Coleman’s Bozeman X 60 has water repellency and a slick, modern look with silicone-treated nylon in a diamond rip-stop pattern. It costs about $150. There is an adjustable torso pin-and-ring system for positioning the frame and pack on your back.The Scout model from Mountainsmith, made for youth, costs $109 and is marketed as offering a “supportive external frame that provides a comfortable backpacking experience for kids.” Its frame is made with 6061 aluminum and it has a “sleeping bag sling,” which looks like a small hammock hanging on the bottom of the pack.Why go external? Cheaper price is a good place to start. To be sure, you can find deals on internal-frame packs. But at retail, external-frame packs are often cheaper than comparably-sized internals.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.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.
LONDON – Several Caribbean athletes continued to look impressive in track and field events as the IAAF World Championships in Doha draw near.Taking their place on the winners’ podium at last weekend’s Muller Grand Prix Diamond League in Birmingham, England were Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Ubio on the women 200 meters, Jamaicans Omar McLeod in the men 110-meter hurdles, Danielle Williams in the women 110 meters hurdles. Yohan Blake in the men 100 meters and Akeem Bloom field in the men 400 meters.McLeod’s win was very significant as the defending 100m World Championship hurdler has been struggling to find his form this season. McLeod, who recently changed coaches and is now based in Florida under the guidance of coach Rana Reider won the event at the Birmingham event in 13.21 seconds to beat American Freddie Crittenden and China’s Xie Wenjun. After winning the race McLeod said he is determined to successfully defend his 100m hurdles championship in Doha.In her victory, Williams equaled the women 110m hurdles meet record 12.46 seconds in beating world record holder Kendra Harrison (12.66 seconds), with Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan third in 12.71 seconds.Blake, who was edged in the semis, won the 100m final in 10.7 secs in a blanket finish with the entire field separated by 100th of a second. He had the same time as second-placed Adam Gemili of England, while Pan American Games champion Michael Rodgers was third in 10.09 seconds.Bloomfield followed up his 400m win in London in July with another win in 45.04 seconds, comfortably ahead of the American Obi Igbokwe (45.53secs) and Great Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith (45.55secs).Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo extended her two-year unbeaten run in the 200m in a time of 22.24 seconds (0.4m/s) coming from well behind in the last 60 meters to leave British sprint queen Dina Asher-Smith in second place in 22.36 seconds, and Jamaican and Pan-Am Games record holder Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who came out of the blocks very slow, third in 22.50 seconds.