Pangolins with Packs

We are three friends who love traveling, adventures, and backpacks.

Matt and Geoff are based in New York City and HL is based in the San Francisco bay area. We realized that so much of our conversations revolved around cool new backpacks and what we were looking for in a perfect backpack. So starting a backpack-review blog seemed like a natural progression. We were already talking with each other about our views on different backpacks anyways – might as well do it on a public forum to share our views with anyone else who may have the same questions.

Outside of reviewing bags, we also love traveling to new places, attempting to learn new skills (like photography), and enjoying the outdoors whether it’s skiing and snowboarding or trail running.

What kind of bags do you review?

We review backpacks of all kinds, but also focus more on crowdfunded backpacks or backpacks from younger companies. These bags tend to have more unique features and new innovations that the big name brands don’t jump on right away. People are also less familiar with them and thus there is a need for reviews.

We formally started reviewing backpacks in July 2017 and have published 20 comprehensive reviews since then. But we still have a lot of backpacks on hand that we are actively trying out plus another dozen that we have already ordered and will be receiving over the next couple months. Informally, we’ve been doing this since childhood. “Check out this awesome new Ninja Turtles backpack!” (6 y/o Geoff to 6 y/o HL, probably).

We have received bags, such as review units or prototypes from companies before and we appreciate those chances to get our hands on some backpacks. Otherwise, we finance all the backpacks ourselves. If any company is looking for in-depth user reviews on their backpacks, we’re always happy to try it out. We try to stay up-to-date on new backpacks by following trends on social media and Kickstarter. Sometimes our readers will also drop us a comment on a new bag that they think we should check out.

How do you review the bags?

Since there are three of us, we try to follow a general process to provide some consistency. For all our reviews, we always test out the backpack extensively in the context for which it was intended. If it’s an EDC backpack, we will use it everyday going to work/school/wherever for at least a few weeks until we feel like we have gotten a good sense of all small intricacies of the bag. If it’s a backpack for short overnight travelling, we will use it on trips multiple times to make sure we get to know the bag well.

In each review, we give our reactions to all of the features of the bag, describe our experience in using it, and also rate it on 7 key metrics: Utility (functionality), Organization, Construction (durability), Aesthetics, Comfort, Life-integration (how easy/difficult it is to use), and X-factor (sort of a ‘coolness’ and uniqueness factor). No single attribute is the most important. Organization may be more important for a travel backpack while comfort might be more important for a hiking bag. But we make sure not to only focus on the positive features, and will also point out negatives while making note of small nuances of using the bag. However, since there are three of us, we each still maintain our personal views on the backpacks and have our own writing-styles and tastes as well.

Because we insist on field testing all of our bags extensively, the reviews can take a long time to put together: anywhere from a couple weeks to months if we aren’t able to find the right situation to use it often.

What are your favorite bags?

So far, the backpacks we gave the highest ratings to are the Boundary Prima and the Minaal Daily. Both are everyday bags that have a lot of unique features while still being well-built, comfortable and easy to use. The Boundary Prima has one of Geoff’s favorite features – the fidlock magnetic buckles. They’re SO easy and SO smooth to use. You can read about it on our site 🙂

Since we’re constantly reviewing backpacks and have a backlog of bags to get through, we often choose which bag to use based on what we still haven’t reviewed yet.

In terms of what we always carry… we’re pretty simple

  • Matt – thin bifold wallet, KeySmart keychain/holder, smartphone, lip balm.
  • Geoff – a slim minimal wallet (just a card holder really), smartphone, a KeySmart, leatherman, and watch. If travelling, will also have a mini-pen and small field notes notebook.
  • HL – a bifold BATMAN wallet, smartphone, keychain with and pocket knife and multitool attached.

How do people use your reviews?

Our hope is that readers use the reviews to help them in their own search for backpacks, whether it’s by helping them decide on a bag they were on the fence about, giving an idea of what features are good for various scenarios, or just learning new things about backpacks. We haven’t had any negative reactions to our reviews yet, but have gotten messages about how much readers love our style of extensively reviewing bags, as well as requests for bags to look into.

Featured Pangolins with Packs Reviews

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Timbuk2 Robin

Review posted 21 June 2018 by Hain-Lee Hsueh - Read full review

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Tom Bihn Synapse

Review posted 14 May 2018 by Geoff C - Read full review

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Dakine Heli

Review posted 23 January 2018 by Geoff C - Read full review

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Patagonia Ironwood

Review posted 5 December 2017 by Matt Chan - Read full review

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Timbuk2 Command

Review posted 28 November 2017 by Geoff C - Read full review

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Deuter ACT

Review posted 6 November 2017 by Geoff C - Read full review

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Cotopaxi Allpa

Review posted 2 October 2017 by Hain-Lee Hsueh - Read full review

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Mystery Ranch Urban Assault

Review posted 11 September 2017 by Geoff C - Read full review

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Aer Fit Pack

Review posted 15 August 2017 by Matt Chan - Read full review

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