Internal frame or external frame?

A question that I have wrestled with since I started backpacking. I have always favored internal frame backpacks as they have historically been lighter and more comfortable than their exoskeletal framed counterparts.

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a mountaineering adventure to help my brother in-law with his antlered Whitetail archery hunt in the Santa Rita mountain range. It was on this trip that I was pleasantly surprised by the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander.

 Unboxing the enormous package that arrived at my front door was a little daunting at first, the pack is HUGE in stature and did not come with any form of instructions. Adjusting the pack to fit my body was a period of trial and error but the amount of adjustments possible using the cotter and clovis pin secured straps and frame is nothing short of impressive.

The backpack came with the 5250 cubic inch bag as well as the frame and a minimalist style attachment with a pocket and strap system to secure a rifle and several other storage pockets. At $199.99 MSRP, this bag fits well into the price range for those who are looking to adventure on a budget.

ALPS Commander Pack
Review of ALPS Commander-Frame pack

On this very same trip a year ago, I used an internal frame style backpack that weighed in approximately three pounds less than the OutdoorZ Commander. Picking the pack up, the weight feels very balanced and worth the sacrifice of the added weight. Packing much of the same gear from last year for the this trip in a new pack left me feeling as though I had forgotten something simply because this pack offers so much space. The zippers feel sturdy, they are over sized and have a nylon loop pull string. The stitching looks secure, it’s double stitched along the seams of the bag and I couldn’t find any that were separated or loose. The rip-stop style material is very lightweight but does not feel like a sacrifice in toughness or quality. The bag material also has enough give to absorb sharp corners of items packed within without tearing or showing signs of wear.

The pack served me well all the way up the mountain. On one occasion, I had to ask my brother in-law to rotate a cotter pin that was digging into my shoulder, reversing the cotter pin at the next opportunity eliminated that as an issue. Shy of this, I found zero issues with the comfort level of this backpack. Several times while picking the pack up, I heard a noise that made me think that a pin had torn the fabric, I was never able to locate a spot where they had even rubbed. I read about issues with the weather proofing of the OutdoorZ Commander, this pack passed that test for me with flying colors. Through rain, sleet and hail, all the contents within remained dry and ready for use.

Sunday rolled around and it was time to hike out of the mountains without any deer meat on our backs. I was particularly excited for him to tag out as I wanted to test the folding rack of the pack, alas, no dice. I ended up using that bottom rack to hold my sleeping bag, blanket and a tarp which left even more room in the bag itself. This backpack is a hunters dream. The modular design and abundance of lashing points leaves you wanting nothing more.At the bottom of the mountain, I load my backpack into the bed of the truck and discover a tear in the pack below the zipper on the bottom storage area of the bag.  The tear is slight and not detrimental to the use of the backpack. This is where ALPS as a company shines. I contact the company the following day via email and receive a reply from Brittany, a customer service rep, that same day.  Upon explaining the situation to Brittany she immediately asks for my mailing address and notifies me that the new one is on the way. It is definitely worth noting that I also inquired about purchasing a replacement tent pole (I own an ALPS Mountaineering tent). A little more than a year ago, in an encounter with a bear, my tent had a pole broken and the mosquito mesh torn. Brittany explained that the tent pole would be on the way and even offered a replacement for the body of the tent.


    Nylon Ripstop fabric
    Rifle holder
    Top loading
    Pockets: two side accessory hinged pockets, main, front, spotting scope pocket
    Spindrift collar with draw cord
    Hydration pocket and port
    Frame and lashing straps included with pack bag
    Hold-open frame
    Lower door access – #10 zippers
    Internal horizontal divider
    Webbing loops for lashing
    Size: 5250 cu. in.
    Pack Bag Weight: 2 lbs. 3 oz.
    Total Weight w/Frame: 7 lbs. 5 oz.
    Torso Range: 17″ to 23″
    Fabric: Nylon Ripstop
    Waist Belts: Standard Fits Waist 26″ to 40″ / X-Large Fits 40″+

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Overall, my experience left me very impressed with the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander and ALPS as a company. The pack hits a price point that puts it in the budget range while offering the same if not MORE than the big name brands. I have already recommended this backpack to others and look forward to strapping it on again for another adventure.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Bill Farmer

Bill Farmer is a 12 year law enforcement veteran He is a defensive tactics, tactical driving and active shooter instructor. Bill has worked in school resource, violent crimes, plain clothes and patrol assignments. Bill is an avid outdoorsman, backpacker, hunter and shooter.

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