Meet the Gear Testers: Allison Woods

When it comes to gear, tester Allison believes in open-mindedness and innovation - just don't forget about designing gear for the ladies.

Allison Woods

Outdoor Writer/Stagehand

Seattle, WA


Height: 5'9"

Size: Women's XL/14

Boot Size: 9

Unusual Sizing: long arms

My most memorable gear-testing story:
Taking a new pack out on a 5-day backpacking trip in Idaho's White Clouds. It was unbelievably uncomfortable. The owner of the company was pretty surprised when we met face-to-face later on and he found out how busty I am—this pack was very much designed for skinny (male) climber dudes. He's since added a women's pack to the line.

My "gear philosophy": When buying gear, buy gear for the way you're going to use it most. In other words, if you're a 3 season hiker, buy a 3 season tent. If you decide to try winter camping, borrow or rent a tent for those rare occasions. Also, don’t buy the wrong gear just because it's on sale.

My greatest outdoor achievement: I don't measure my time in the outdoors in terms of achievements. The freedom of mind, body, and spirit's all I need. I have hiked every mile (or very nearly so) of Mount Rainier National Park, but it was purely by accident!

How I got involved in gear testing: I started out as a tester for a local magazine, Washington Trails, before becoming the gear editor there. I joined the Backpacker team in 2011 when Kristin Hostetter approached me about doing work for online, where there were no female reviewers. Nowadays I write for print and online, depending on editorial needs.

What makes me a great gear tester: I think the key to being a great gear is twofold: first, bear no attachment to any piece of gear, because the next great thing might be right around the corner. Second, be open to innovation, even if it seems really weird at the time.

My coolest backpacking trip: That would be like asking a painter what their favorite color is. I can’t even narrow it down to my favorite mountain range.

My dream adventure: I'm pretty keen on checking out Patagonia for hiking. On a rainy Seattle day, you can sometimes find me thumbing through Peter Potterfield’s great book, "Classic Hikes of the World" for inspiration. I do go on 1-2 out of state hiking trips every year—there’s a lot within 1000 miles or so of here.

More about me: I have a blog that I post to occasionally,, and will tweet on the rare day as well, @AllisonLWoods.