×
SIGN-UP AND SCORE THE LATEST NEWS ON THE WORLD'S BEST CARRY
Carryology delivered. Your inbox. every two weeks.
Only the best stuff (and giveaways!), we promise.

General

External Frame Backpacks – Applying the Old Ways to the New Journeys (Part 1)

by , July 20, 2015

Markus Kittner, top footwear designer and all-round design enthusiast, has kindly permitted us to repost his article “External Frame Backpacks – Applying the Old Ways to the New Journeys”. Enjoy Part 1 below as we delve into this fascinating sphere of backpack history…

Learning from the past is important and I sometimes think about this from a design perspective. Can we learn from old traditional designs or techniques and apply them to modern design? Is all primitive design and technology inferior? I believe that at the very least learning about old ways can provide us with food for thought, a comparison to our new directions and if necessary can inform any necessary adjustments to our course and design thinking.

External frame backpacks are interesting not only because of their more versatile modularity, but also because the structural component of the pack is clearly visible and offers a great opportunity to any designer wanting to explore structural innovation. Designing compelling structural elements from diverse materials such as wood, aluminium, or even carbon fiber is something I think most designers live to do. Every designer and their creativity draws from all forms of knowledge and inspiration, from the core to the fringes. From a footwear design perspective the compelling design of a soft shoe upper that is interchangeable from a structural sole could one day also be inspired from an external frame backpack. A potential design improvement on function, versatility and environmental impact.

What follows is a short insight into some of the history of External Frame Backpacks. A reminder that although the external frame backpack was superseded by the internal frame almost 30 years ago, it is still a very functional piece of equipment and has an ancient history to prove it. Its long history is also a very compelling reason to explore new ways to make it relevant again in today’s outdoor market. Although it’s unknown how long humans have been carrying packs on their backs, the first external frame backpack dates at least as far back as Őtzi, a shepherd who walked the Italo-Austrian Alps 5300 years ago. When we consider products over 100 years old to be antiques, it’s incredible to think that the external frame backpack has existed for over 53 centuries.

External frame backpacks

External frame backpacks

External frame backpacks

Via www.speerschleuder.de Since Őtzi load carrying frame structures have been documented in most of the world. In the fjords and isolated Norwegian valleys they were known as ‘Hjuringsmeis’; the ones below date back to the early 1800’s.

External frame backpacks

External frame backpacks

This Norwegian external frame backpack is called ‘Sekk med Meis’ and dates back to 1880.

External frame backpacks

Via www.digitaltmuseum.no

The Russian traditional external frame pack is called “Ponyaga” or поняги and was originally used by the Tungusic and Nivkh people from the far eastern Russian regions of Eastern Siberia and Khabarovsk Krai; the examples below are from Irkutsk.

External frame backpacks

Via The Siberian – http://по-сибирски.рф

Also from far eastern Russia is this primitive backpack design called a “Flyer” or рогулек.

External frame backpack

External frame backpacks

Via skitalets “Flyers” or рогульки are triangular or wishbone-shaped frames.

The photos below are of Korean and Chinese coolies also known as rogulschikami рогульщиками in 1915 Vladivostok.

External frame backpacks

External frame backpacks

Via dkphoto Then there is this similar Korean frame design called a 지게.

External frame backpacks

External frame backpack

Via Daum

In the Alps traditional load carrying frame structures were known as Kraxe and were also made from wood.

External frame backpacks

Alpine porters were known as Kraxentrager and would carry their laden Kraxen through the Alps, like their Sherpa and Balti counterparts continue to do in the Himalayas today.

External frame backpacks

Some images of Alpine Kraxentragers and Kraxen.

External frame backpack

External frame backpack

External frame backpack

External frame backpack

To the east in Polish and Slovak Tatra mountains the Nosicz profession which operates the mountain shelters is still known to carry loads of up to 200kg on similar wooden frames called nosiłek.

External frame backpack

External frame backpack

Via Ambra and Chem Laco Kulanga a record-holding Nosicz with a record 207.5 kg load.

External frame backpack

Via vysoketatry and Czubaka MTB

And in France and Germany similar structures were also used around the 1800’s.

External frame backpacks

Via Wood Trekker: A Brief History of the Modern Backpack (Comments Section)

Frame structures were also used by the First Nations people to carry loads across the American continent. But very little is written about them even though they are said to have inspired the design of one of the early commercial external frame packs, the Trapper Nelson backpack.

External frame backpack

Via Tomahawk on Bushcraft USA

Maybe they also looked similar to this woven pack from the Waimir Atroari in Brazil.

External frame backpack

Or like this Packframe Canoe Chair.

External frame backpack

External frame backpacks

Via hunter63

A design very similar to this Ojiwa frame from Bear Island in Eastern Canada, purchased in 1903.

External frame backpack

Via American Museum of Natural History

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Subscribe

Carryology delivered. Your inbox. every two weeks. Only the best stuff, we promise.