Four or five years ago, Dana Design tried to revive the external-frame concept with its Longbed and related packs. This retrofit incorporated flexible rods into the external frame, for a pack that was less rigid than other models. I thought it fabulous, as did a lot of other folks. Alas, Dana discontinued these packs last year. I picked up a Dana Terraframea Longbed frame with a Terraplane packfor $99 from Northern Mountain Supply. Lugged it up Mount Rainier in July and loved it. For the first time in years, my fractured collarbone didn't ache from a pack load.
Still, with technology marching forward, you might take a look at one of several new packs. In the external-frame category, Kelty makes an updated classic called the 50th Anniversary Pack ($240; www.kelty.com), extremely highly rated by reviewers. In internal-frame packs, Gregory's Shasta ($249; www.gregorypacks.com) is a classic pack, really well designed, comfortable, and big. And of course, the Terraplane remains a superb pack if I'm going to play favorites.