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To Write the Best Backpack Reviews Answer 3 Questions

Our community members have published more than 3,900 reviews of outdoor backpacks on Trailspace, covering the minimalist and streamlined to the beefy with bells-and-whistles.

But whether it's a winter expedition hauler, a climbing rucksack for summit pushes, or a hydration pack for trail runs, the most informative backpack reviews answer three core questions.

1. Does it Fit?

Whether heading out for a day or a week, fit and comfort matter. How does your backpack adjust to loads and feel on your body?

Individual fit matters with much outdoor gear, but especially with backpacks. Describe how well the packs and its various parts fit your body, including your torso, hips, waist, chest, and shoulders.

For reference, share some specific details (and pictures) about your body type, measurements, and torso length.

While nothing beats trying on a loaded pack in person, review readers will appreciate a frame of reference for your description of the fit.

Sizing & Design

Packs come in various styles, models, and sizes—like people, thankfully. For what size range, body type, activities, and outdoor style is your pack specifically designed? Does it come in multiple torso and/or hip belt sizes? Is it intended for women, children, short or long torsos, dogs? 

Tell how your measurements compare to the manufacturer's size charts. Which size pack (and any parts) did you choose? Did an experienced salesperson help fit you? Did the pack fit as expected? Where? Why or why not?


Even great fitting packs can need periodic adjusting. Can you tweak and adjust the pack's fit (would you even want to)? Consider the pack's framesheet, stays, and any adjustable straps, including the hipbelt and its stabilizer straps, and shoulder and sternum straps. Can the hipbelt be custom molded?

Tell how well the pack adjusts to carrying different loads within its carrying capacity. How about for different users? Do you, your partner, or kid ever switch packs? How do your experiences compare?

2. Is it Comfortable?


Whether you're carrying 50 pounds or five on your back, comfort matters. Describe the overall comfort and experience of wearing this backpack on various hikes, climbs, skis, or trail runs. How comfortable are its frame (if there is one) and other parts when carrying different loads and during different activities? And, how comfy is at the end of a long day, week, month, or year outdoors? 

Any chafing, annoying squeaking, rubbing? Consider the pack's hip belt, stabilizer straps, shoulder straps, load lifters, sternum straps, back panel, and any frame components like stays or a framesheet. 

Ride & Suspension

Describe how well the pack distributes and carries different loads within its carrying capacity. Does it remain comfortable within the manufacturer's recommended carrying capacity? Have you pushed it beyond its limits? What happened?

How does the pack perform during its intended uses, loads, and activities? Does it feel stable on- and off-trail? Uphill and down? On varying terrain? During different activities, such as hiking, climbing, skiing, or running?


If appropriate, consider the pack's ventilation. Is there a trampoline mesh system or other feature to keep it off your back? How well does the pack vent and allow for airflow? Do you suffer from a sweaty back or keep cool on the go?

3. Does it Hold Your Gear?

How well does gear fit inside and outside your pack?

Ultimately it comes down to this:

How well does the backpack carry and hold your outdoor gear?

How do gear loads for different adventures — climbing weekend, backpacking with the kids, winter snowshoe trek, ultralight overnight, hut-to-hut ski — fit in and on the pack? 

Can you get a bear canister in that weekend pack? Can your compressed sleeping bag fit in the intended compartment? Do your powder boards fit in the ski straps? Which water bottles fit in the outer pockets?

Be specific and share pictures and/or video.

Size & Capacity

Does the pack's advertised volume seem accurate? How do the interior and exterior capacities compare? Does the pack fit a reasonable amount and type of gear for its advertised size and use? 


Some people love pockets and organizers, others want a simple rucksack. Describe the pack's organization and structure, and your own packing style. 

Are you able to stow your necessary equipment and clothing securely internally and externally? Are there any special organizational features—sleeping bag compartment, hydration compatibility or pockets, shovel pockets, ice axe loops, trekking pole holders, ski and/or board carry, compression straps, attachment points?

How well do they work? Would your prefer more, less, or different storage options? Why?


At the beginning and end of the day and while on the move, you'll want to access specific gear. Describe how easy it is to pack and unpack your gear in the field.

How well do different access points work: side zips, front zips, front panels? How easy and intuitive is it to access water, snacks, a hard shell, and other items in the backcountry? Can you get what you need when you need it, within reason?

When buying a backpack, people want to know how it will fit, feel, and hold their gear. Give those details, and you'll help other hikers, backpackers, climbers, skiers, trail runners, and paddlers find the right pack for their next backcountry adventures.


Check out 11 Tips for the Best Outdoor Gear Reviews for more advice on sharing reviews full of details, images, and opinions that best show how your equipment performed in the field—whether on the river, in the mountains, at the crag, or beyond. 

Then write your own gear review and share it on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, or other social media, so others can learn from your gear experience.


I like it.  If I win the chance to test a pack I'll definitely reference this article.

Good stuff Alicia, thanks for firing this out. 

Great advise Alicia...maybe I can improve my recent review with these very helpful tips :)

Thanks, all.

Everything I've learned comes from reading all of your thousands of reviews for the past decade-plus, and seeing the best of your efforts. Thanks for showing us how it's best done.


Nice job Alicia! Can I suggest a fourth point, albeit to some extent well covered in your 3 questions. 

Are the materials and construction appropriate for your intended use?

I'm thinking that for example folks who will be travelling in more off-trail areas would do well to by packs made of fabrics with a slightly higher denier and denser weave-heavier to be sure, but way more abrasion resistant. Another example would be to consider the typical weather for the area where most trips are conducted; fabrics made with air-texturized yarns while having a nice feel, tend to pick up a lot of moisture over time and become spongey as opposed to flat filament yarns that have a much smoother finish. 

Just a bit of food for thought on an otherwise excellent piece!


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