That’s us in as few words as possible.
However, we’re not a “few words” kind of organization, and you’re probably wondering what our definition of “backpackers” is. Are we hobos? Are we world-class adventurers? Are we people with the unique and pervasive superpower to pack things in a variety of bags, strap them to our backs, and walk upright no matter the weight?
Sometimes, yes, and most definitely. Put a big B on our chest, give us moisture wicking spandex, and shine the brightest star in the night sky if you want a Backpacker to come a-hiking.
At its most basic, we define backpackers as people that have a deep love for nature, travel, and the exploration of the unknown. That’s us, and that’s most likely you.
Our mission here is to provide the collective field of backpackers with a straightforward resource for outdoor gear and how to guides, which we do through our Recommended Gear and Outdoor Guide sections. You can read that, and a lot more more below. Feel free to jump to any of our sections, or read the whole darn thing.
While “for backpackers, by backpackers” is the foundation of our being, it doesn’t provide a very clear snapshot of who’s writing these words, and what sort of experience we all have.
We are dedicated members of the outdoor world that know a sweet piece of kit when we see one and can survive in the wilderness or abroad. Enthusiasts means we do it for fun; experts mean some of us do it for work. Some of our reviewers are experts in certain aspects of the wild, but nobody here is Lewis, Clark, or Muir. Not yet, anyway.
Most of us have spent too many late nights analyzing spreadsheets to make an ultimate purchase. We are appreciators of gear, like wine connoisseurs, but dirtier. We are obsessed with gear, we know what feels perfect, what needs improvement, and what is downright stupid.
Call us hippies, but we don’t believe in a bunch of negativity. That’s why we only talk about and highlight gear we absolutely love. We believe that as thoughtful consumers and readers you get pounded with enough drudgery. Here, you’ll find stoke, and how gear can help to keep that fire roaring.
Backpackers.com is one born of a backpacking world in that we’re located in a few places: San Francisco, Cape Town, and Ventura. The website is led by our trusty Editor-in-Chief, Daniel Zweier, and our gear reviewers are multi-talented folk with a variety of passions (and occasionally day-jobs) living in Southern and Northern California.
We are primarily a gear recommendation website. Our recommendations come with a review, but our goal is to provide you, the backpackers of the world, with straightforward choices. Also, we’d like to review every piece of gear under the sun, but we won’t, and we can’t.
We won’t because most backpackers don’t need every piece of gear under the sun. They need the basics, the best of those basics, and a few nifty add-ons.
We can’t because we’re starting small, and we’re bootstrapped. Startup is the name of the game, and that’s what we are. Don’t let the epic domain name fool you — this is a tiny team trying to make it in the crowded backpacking marketplace. The name certainly helps, though.
You might think we’re crazy. That gear reviews and recommendations are so popular and complete there couldn’t room for any more.
In one way, you’re right. There are sites performing insane reviews under the harshest conditions imaginable, providing you with a host of options and more information than NASA’s launch instructions.
In another way, there is room. We are offering a different perspective on gear reviews that is summed up in three main points:
Our goal with this approach is to give you confidence in your gear choice, which means you can get into the wild with ease and stoke. Every recommendation will be a delight to read, a combination of wild travelogue and clear-headed, humor-filled analysis.
Our gear recommendations consist of:
Gear type, brand, size, weight, material, weather resistance, warranty, gender, magical abilities, worth in gold bars, the volume of John Muir’s laugh at its ridiculousness, and how many babies or small dogs could fit inside, on, or around. (Because you need to know!)
Each review will contain a large number of words. The words will be written to form coherent sentences, which in turn will appear as paragraphs, and those paragraphs will impart information that will, in all honesty, make you see the world in an entirely new light. Or just make you smile. Whatever. These words will be assembled in such a way as to tell a story. Every outdoor adventure is a tale, and each piece of gear we review is an integral member of that tale.
We’re not stupid. You’ve got another browser tab open right now and a video is playing, or paused, or about to start. Moving images make the human brain freak out with unbridled need, so we’ve decided to feed your needy brain. Our videos aren’t long; they’re to the point. You’ll meet us through our videos, see us, get a sense of our character. You’ll also see the gear in action — the noise it makes when touched, how sexy it looks, etc.
A good picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, we plan to give that many words and a ton of excellent pictures. Our pictures will showcase the gear in its natural element, eliciting a great understanding of how it works, and inspiring in you a great desire to get out there. Also, share our images. Social media them. Shout them from the rooftops. Then send us your own.
Beyond the basic elements of what goes into each recommendation we have created a further distinction among our gear recommendations. This is best described by the simple question asked on the home page:
What type of Backpacker are you?
We are lucky to live in a world where “backpacker” has different meanings for everyone. The hobo, the hiker, and the city-walker can all raise their hands in the class of backpacking.
In order to navigate this for you most effectively we’ve created unique Backpacker Types, and recommend gear specifically for those Backpacker Types.
Here are our Backpacker Types:
We don’t think this covers everyone under the all-mighty backpacking sun. It’s just where we’re starting, because these five types are our favorite, and the ones we most typically fall under.
When you see a Backpacker Type badge, like the Day Hiker, on a piece of gear, you can rest easy in knowing it will perform excellently for that activity. Some pieces of gear have more than one Backpacker Type — nobody needs to buy all new stuff for each type of backpacking.
You can use our Backpacker Type badges as a filter on the website. You access the filter by clicking on the button at the very top of the screen:
When you select a badge you will only see recommended gear and outdoor guides for that Backpacker Type. You can always see the Backpacker Type you have selected by the visual badge at the top, and you can change them with a click.
If you want to see every piece of recommended gear or all the outdoor guides without a specific Backpacker Type selected, make sure to clear the filter in the top navigation. Got it? We sure hope so!
One more differentiating factor. Keeping it simple can sometimes be quite complicated, right?
Every piece of recommended gear will be tagged with a Backpacker Type, and with a Pick. The Picks serve two important (and magical) functions:
You’ll find three Class Picks on our site:
These three distinct choices should give the you, whatever Backpacker Type you fall under, a healthy mix of options and simplicity. Want the most expensive thing with bells and whistles? Go with the Premium Pick. Want the standard piece of kit most people have, use, and love? Go with Classic Pick. Pinching pennies? The Budget Pick is your best friend.
While endless choices and comparisons work for some people, we believe that it can get overwhelming and create more confusion than necessary. What kind of toilet paper do you buy? Do you enjoy choosing from 37 options with six different sizes? We would prefer less options, especially if each of those options is guaranteed to be excellent.
That’s our mentality here. Each Pick will be the best piece of gear in that price bracket, and we won’t recommend anything else.
This is the trickiest bit of the whole gear review and recommendation game. How do we choose the gear we’re going to recommend? How does anyone, really? There are more gear manufacturers than vegetables on this planet, and most of them put forth products that are worthy of use.
For the most part sites choose to review gear based on general popular opinion, reputation of a manufacturer, or if a gear manufacturer ships them a piece of gear and they have the capacity to review it.
Our method will be a concentrated version of popular opinion that focuses solely on excellent manufacturers. We read copious reviews and usage reports from every other gear website around; we read user reviews left by online customers; we troll forums; and we walk through stores and speak to knowledgable employees about the gear. Then, after developing shortlists of the best gear for our Backpacker Types, we acquire what we believe to be the best of them, and send a reviewer out with the gear. If it makes the grade, we recommend it. If it doesn’t, we go back to the drawing board.
Have you heard the phrase that nothing new can be thought of, written, or done? Everything is a riff on everything else. We firmly believe that. What we’re offering is a solid recommendation, a perspective, and a simplicity that is lacking in the current marketplace.
We’ve done all the leg-work so you don’t have to, which lets you get outside more often. You’re welcome.
No. Not in any way. We don’t have the budget to purchase gobs of gear, so we do ask for it nicely. Manufacturers do not sway our picks, they do not send us money, and they offer no incentives whatsoever. Finally, our policy is to return the gear after testing.
Good point. Sheep can be led to slaughter, and the lemmings did all jump off a cliff (as far as we’re concerned). If you have gripes with popular opinion in the backpacking gear world, let us know in comments or via email. Then write to the gear manufacturer, because we’re pretty sure they think their gear rocks, and we can’t change their gear. Then post your opinion on forums. See what kind of response you get (from everyone). If you’ve made a valid point for other types of gear, or why a piece of gear is unworthy, we’ll look into it.
We also re-examine each category of gear every year for new entries on the market, or if products have changed. The gear is awarded and recommended by year, so when new “bests” hit the market we will take that into consideration.
When it comes to actually reviewing gear, every site has a different method. Some spend years with the gear, cradling it into a time-warped grave, then cough up a review. Some put it through the wringer for a few months and pen a few thousand words. Others asses the gear in store and their homes, then tell you what they thought.
Our approach is to test the gear in the standard conditions a standard backpacker would face. Remember that our aim is to give you, the average backpacker, an honest opinion — one that you would also come to after using the gear.
Doing this means taking each piece of gear on the trip it was built for and using it in the context of its primary purpose. This can be a night in the wild for some pieces of a gear, or epic day trips for others. It can mean using the gear on the metro during rush hour, or how it holds up on an airplane. In every context we’ll put the gear through the paces it was made for and see how it does. Sure, we’ll pull extra hard and slam a few rocks against everything to make sure it holds up.
Then we’ll write our review and post it for your reading pleasure.
Someone or something has to pay our writers, video creators, web designers, and photographers. We make money through affiliate links. This is the most common practice in the industry, and works well for all parties involved.
On every gear recommendation you’ll see links that allow you to purchase said piece of gear from a variety of websites. When you click on one of those links and purchase the gear, we get a commission. It doesn’t cost you an extra cent, and can add up to a good chunk of change on our end. You’ll also be supporting the retailer you buy from, and the company that produced the gear.
This model makes it so that we thrive when our community is strong, which is precisely what we’re trying to build.
That was a long-winded portion of Recommended Gear, so we’ll be brief about our Outdoor Guides. In essence, they are what you think they are: helpful, informative blocks of text written with wit to make sure you’re prepared for the wild and all things backpacking.
Each new category of gear we review will have an Outdoor Guide, so be sure to read that before selecting a piece of gear you’re unfamiliar with. We’ll also have Outdoor Guides on buying gear, manufacturers and retailers, and other aspects of the backpacking world, like survival, train hopping, and luging, just because.
All our Outdoor Guides are made for Backpacker Types as well, and you’ll find different Guides for different types as you browse the site.
Now that you know our deepest and darkest secrets, it’s probably time to check out the website. If you don’t like something, love something, or just want to greet us in a digital manner, head to the Contact page.
As we’ve said, we’re a small team whose primary goal is to give you, dear backpacker, a simple and honest take on gear that will get you out there.