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REI Adds Comfort and Ease for Beginner Backpackers: Trailmade 60 Pack Review

REI’s Trailmade collection aims to usher new blood and more figures into the outdoors. Despite the odd cost-considerate compromises, the collection’s main pack hauls with comfort above its weight class, in a package that isn’t only 'budget' for diehard hikers.

We tested the Trailmade Pack for months; (Photo/Ian Graber Stiehl)
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As a melanated mile rat built more like a college running back a year after retirement than the prototypical backpacker, I’m well aware — most of the diversity I see on trail is the color and build of an aspen tree. And often, those hikers are clad in gear that costs more paper than a whole birch forest.

From its partnership with Outdoor Afro and the newer Trailmade collection, REI has been making moves to bring new blood to the outdoors. However, a quality backpack is arguably among the most crucial and biggest-ticket items to move beginners from multi-mile to multiday trips on the trail.

Fortunately, REI’s Trailmade 60 pack offers a well-rounded package for carrying new trekkers from hikes measured in hours, to ones measured in mile days, at a price point that won’t only seem “budget” for dyed-in-the-wool trail rats. That is, if it can clear the orbit of some of its stiffest competition — including its more famous sibling.

In short: The Trailmade 60 mostly hits the mark it aims for — with a comfortable hip belt, ergonomic frame, and some considerate extra features, with the occasional loose thread and odd omission.

REI Trailmade 60 Pack


  • MSRP $169
  • Volume 60 L
  • Weight Regular: 3.4 lbs. / Extended: 3.7 lbs.
  • Fabric Recycled nylon; unspecified denier
  • Frame Perimeter spring steel frame
  • Men's torso length 17-21 in.
  • Women’s torso length 15-19 in.
  • Hip belt ranges Regular: 32-42 in. / Extended: 42-58 in.


  • Comfortable hip belt
  • Wide range of sizes
  • Easy torso adjustment
  • Good introductory pack
  • Included instructions
  • Easy on the budget
  • Dual-side gear loops
  • Low-angled water bottle pockets


  • Relatively small front pocket
  • No top or bottom gear loops
  • Unsupportive shoulder straps
  • Non-removable lid
  • No rainfly
  • No side mesh pockets

REI Trailmade 60 Pack Review

The Concept

Testing the pack while hiking through a canyon; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

Backpacking and camping have arguably the fewest barriers to entry. Even so, for many, they still aren’t that approachable. So, it’s little wonder that — especially in a community so often full of elitist gear snobs — beginners’ budget backpacking gear catches a bad rap.

Budget doesn’t mean bad, shoddy, or lacking the features that matter to you. It simply means you need to understand a pack’s prerogatives — and where it compromises to hit the priorities.

In the Trailmade’s case, it clearly prioritizes an ergonomic frame, comfortable padding, size inclusivity, and a price tag that is the same for every size in both men’s and women’s editions.

Those pros do come at the cost of some durability and suspension-related concerns, as well as a few odd omissions given the number of features the pack does include.

Whether you consider the vibrant color scheme a pro or con will depend on personal taste, though the blue option certainly does say “approachable” — loudly enough to be heard by a search and rescue from a quarter a mile away … through fog.

Simply put, the Trailmade 60 is meant to be someone’s first pack, but not necessarily their last.

The Carry

The Trailmade’s hip belt, the feature that arguably impacts carry comfort the most, hits the nail on the head: It isn’t the most rigidly supportive, or adjustable.

However, at its price point, I wouldn’t expect a beginner’s traditional pack to have such a feature. Nor, for that matter, would I expect the hip belt to strike such a nice balance between cushion, mobility, support, and (with two rather generous pockets) storage. But it does, with one of the most comfortable hip belts of any budget pack I’ve tested.

In a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the Trailmade opts for a central webbing style torso adjustment system — simple, cheap, works. Although, for a pack aiming to fit everyone, the option of only adjusting torso length by one-inch increments is a slight knock.

The Comfort

Where REI did take a risk is in the back padding, opting for dual ridges running down the center, with heavy curves and cushion. The company clearly understands the extent to which the comfort (or pain) in someone’s lower back at the end of a long day might make or break their desire to go from thru-the-nighters to thru-hikers.

View of the rear  padding of the REI Trailmade 60 pack
Carrying extra supplies, especially water and hydration, when hiking with a pup by my side; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

With all the lush padding, the Trailmade offers middle-of-the-pack ventilation. However, after 30 miles, I found the spine-hugging curves rather comfortable.

Between a large contact area and rigid curves, my back felt comfortable, even as the pack started climbing north of 45 pounds — into weights that slightly bowed the perimeter steel frame. The pronounced curvature, especially in the lower back, won’t be for everyone. But that’s hardly a problem for a pack that can be fitted and test-driven in any REI store.

The weak point in the suspension system is easily the shoulder straps. The padding is comfortable, but without any sort of reinforcing webbing or rigidity, they feel too floppy.

The padded area of the straps is also a bit short and tapers too quickly. As someone with a wide chest and back that eat up real estate on the straps’ padded section, I found this left the adjustment buckle digging lightly, but annoyingly, into my sides.

Internal Organization

View of the packing instructions inside the REI Trailmade 60 pack
(Photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

Open the top of the pack, and the first thing you will notice is the non-removable lid. This hamstrings the ability of any overpacking newbie to stash stuff between the lid and the top of the pack, but this is understandable on a budget pack.

The second thing you’ll notice are directions on packing and fitting printed on the inside of the pack’s lid — complete with a QR code for further info. For beginners, this is a slick feature sure to flatten out the learning curve of using a new pack.

The inside of the pack is as straightforward as they come: a tall 60L tube with a massive hydration reservoir pocket, access to the frame (should you want to adjust it), and a cinch top with a too-long pull cord.

External Storage

Author carrying the REI Trailmade 60 on a trail
(Photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

The external storage is where things get interesting. The back features two low-angled water bottle pockets, similar to REI’s more popular Flash 55 pack. They can accommodate a 1.5L Smart Water bottle, and offer some of the easiest access of any budget pack. However, unlike the Flash 55, which runs just $30 more, the pack offers no mesh side pockets, despite ample space for them.

Instead, external storage falls to two compression straps on either side and a moderately sized, front shove-it pocket. The front pocket is solid instead of mesh — trading drying utility for a touch of extra gear protection. Likewise, retention relies on a single buckle that runs over the top of the pack and two pieces of webbing on either side.

Given the tendency of the top buckle to snake back between the lid and main compartment when tightened, it can be easy to forget to rebuckle. Additionally, I have concerns about the long-term durability of the front pocket’s side webbing. A stretch mesh pocket likely would have offered more solid gear retention and a little extra utility, but the pocket will still swallow a rain jacket and a few quick-stow items.

The pack goes out of its way to include a burly zip to the sleeping bag compartment, and bilateral top and bottom daisy chain loops for attaching elastic gear loops to either side. To a tester with a pet peeve for one-side gear loops, this feels like a thoughtful feature.

However, this makes it odd that the pack omits usable gear loops on the top and bottom of the pack. The sleeping bag compartment is covered by compression straps big enough to lash a bed roll or dry bag. Still, beginners are often susceptible to overpacking.

I’d like to see a few more loops for external storage — and (another pet peeve) an included rainfly.

REI Trailmade vs. the Competition

“Budget” is a pretty stacked category for serious backpacking packs these days. I already mentioned the Flash 55, which at $199 (and with 5 L less storage) admittedly targets more beginner/intermediate backpackers. But it’s useful to stack the Trailmade against a few other packs in the category, to give context on what it does well, and what it could do better — especially as a pack aiming specifically at bringing new blood and body types into the outdoors.

Granite Gear

Granite Gear might be most well-known for its Crown3 and Blaze 60 packs, but you can find the older Crown2, with massive side and front pockets and a widely adjustable hip belt, for around $100. However, the Crown2 aims more at ultralight aspirations, with no torso adjustment and a frame that taps out around 35 pounds, markedly less than the Trailmade’s 45-50-pound upper limit.

When on sale, Granite Gear’s Perimeter 50 pack also enters the conversation. With its significant hip belt, and torso length and width adjustments, it hits the size inclusivity angle squarely. And in my opinion, it offers slightly better comfort. But the lower volume and smaller, more distributed pockets require a more experienced hand at packing.


A longtime budget favorite of mine, the Decathlon MT100 pack comes in 50L and 70L sizes ($99 and $119, respectively), with the easiest torso adjustment system on the market.

Slaving the shoulder straps to the torso adjustment system allows you to toss the pack on and fit it precisely with the pull of one strap. With a top- or bottom-opening, front-access zipper, it boasts the best gear accessibility of any budget pack I know. But the pack favors oddly unilateral pockets, with a low-angled water bottle and mesh pocket on only one side.

It also misses that 55-65L sweet spot. Not being able to adjust the shoulder straps without changing the torso length can be annoying for some as well.

Then, there’s the Flash 55. At $199, it would likely only seem like a budget pick for intermediate trailgoers. Still, the only place the Trailmade beats it is in hip belt range and volume. So, where does the Trailmade excel?

REI Trailmade 60 Pack: My Verdict

(Photo/Ian Graber Stiehl)

Simplicity. The Trailmade 60 is a traditional pack that will fit damn near everyone well enough. More importantly, it will carry the sort of weight new backpackers should be carrying, comfortably. The shoulder straps could be better, but the waist belt is a dream and will set a high bar for someone’s next pack. This pack will take a decent beating, but it isn’t buy-it-for-life.

The Trailmade is a unique mix of thoughtfully placed and oddly absent features with respect to storage. I’ve decided that’s fine. If this is your first pack, you might want to be wary of strapping too much crap on the outside of your pack anyway. Down the road, once your packing and weight distribution are dialed in, a Flash 55 might suit you better.

Finally, it’s lightweight but not too lightweight — like rolltop ultralight packs. If this is your first pack, eat some miles before worrying about paying the premium for ultralight gear.


This is the pack to help you or a loved one go from zero camping to overnighters to over-the-weekers, and decide if the long trails are for you. If so, see if it’s worth it to buy something else off of GearJunkie’s list of Best Backpacks down the line.

I loved wearing and testing this pack. But I know it could be a better fit for someone else. In my case, I’m gifting it to someone who’s had trouble finding a pack that fits correctly, and whose camp outings tend more toward the Burning Man style when the stresses of work permit a getaway.

In other words, precisely the candidate REI had in mind when it designed the Trailmade 60. Happy Holidays, Brenda. You’re ready for the trail!

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