Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Welcome REI Co-op Members!
We're glad you're here. If you can't access the Co-op Members section of the community,
click here for instructions on how to join the section that's just for you.

Panel-Loading Packs vs Top-Loading Packs

Hi There!

I am currently an industrial design student seeking advice on front-load packs vs. top-load packs. (for backpacking trips)

To me, it seems like front-load packs are much more efficient for accessibility/ease of packing, but top loading packs are more popular and widely available.

My question is what are the pros and cons of front vs. top-loading packs?

Also when would you use one vs. the other? (Or is it a matter of preference?)

I appreciate any help you can offer for my research pursuits!

Thank you,

Kelly A.

1 Reply

It is mostly preference but you might prefer a pure top loading pack in wet conditions and for transporting specialized bulkier gear for activities like climbing where opening side panels might cause a disastrous gear loss.

Front loading packs are generally top loading packs with additional opening panels. They are more convenient to organize stuff and find things.  But...they have more zippers and dodads that can leak and fail. They have more stitch lines that can leak unless sealed.  Zippers, stitch lines, sealant and pockets add weight so they tend to be heavier for the same capacity.

A pure top loading pack can be made lighter, be more reliable and less leaky.  You just have to unload everything to find what you need. 

Many people like multi-pocket front opening packs for the organization they provide.  Other, generally more experienced people might prefer a pure top loading pack because they have their gear dialed to be efficient, always organize it in the same way and like the simplicity, the robustness and the weight savings.