Gear Tester?

4:40 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Does anybody here belong to a gear testing group of any sort? I know that Backpacker takes applications for tester but they only get about 6 people per year. I was just wondering if there were any places out there where I could go to become a gear tester for: 1) I am a gear junkie, 2) I wouldn't mind the free stuff!

Any suggestions or information of any kind related would be great. I have done the in-home testing of various products and was just wondering if I could do it with any kind of gear!

D

7:13 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Very soon you will have the opportunity to apply to do it for Trailspace. We'll be rolling out a beta version of a Gear Review Corps this summer, then expanding it as we work out the kinks.

You'll have to be unaffiliated with any outdoor companies (no reps, no salespeople, etc...), have the time and commitment to thoroughly test gear, and be able to communicate the pros and cons of different gear in a clear, fair manner.

Anyone thinking they'd like to be considered for this program down the road, should write at least three thorough gear reviews of gear they already own and have used extensively. The review does not need to be of a 5-star winner or a 1-star loser. It needs to be a good review with information and details that accurately reflect the gear being tested.

Tips for writing a killer review ยป

7:20 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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That sounds pretty good!

D

8:57 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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... I have done the in-home testing of various products...

If you think about it, EVERYONE has done the "at home" product testing thing - Every time you buy and use something, whether it works or not, you are testing it. And, get this, in real life conditions. Not laboratories or special situations, or for a specific period of time, or just to get free stuff. That's the kind of testing Trailspace.come needs for the Gear Reviews section.

Now, everyone go through your gear stash, find those favorite things (and not so favorite things) and write a Killer Review!

9:29 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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f klock

I think you missed my point. I actually enjoy trying out and/or testing new products, regardless of what they may be and giving people a real, true review. I participate in the "in-home" testing trials for some companies because I like the idea that the products/items are getting real life testing, not just testing via some machine setup. Many of the products I have received I still use (even after the "review" period) and others I have donated to charity. Being able to keep an item is just an additional benefit to testing. That's the kind of testing I do and enjoy doing.

D

11:14 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Sounds like a cool gig to do Alicia. I am looking forward to yours here at Trailspace.


My new Compaq Laptop back with my Trailspace sticker in the midst of my hiking patches andmy parents and me!

3:23 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I am very interested in this. I know a couple of guys with backpackgeartest.org, but I much prefer to post here.

6:15 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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i'm interested too. But with lower cost equipment. my intrest lies with the beginer just starting out on a low budget.

6:41 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I am not too picky about testing possibilities so long as I don't have to try out some new "Anti-Bear Spray" or an "After Poison Ivy/oak Lotion"!! I know that these are real world and useful products, but I try my best to avoid either situation!

D

6:43 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm glad to hear everyone's interest. I'm curious about a few points, whether you're interested in gear testing or reading reviews by our testers:

What do you think makes a great gear review? A bad review?

Any pet peeves about current gear reviews, on this site or elsewhere?

A wish list of how you'd like gear reviews better handled?

What makes a review useful to you?

Any thoughts are welcome.

8:31 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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first of all many reviews have no pictures or discription. if someone does a review on gear like this, it should be discribed. pictured, and what the reviewers expetations are for that gear.

Pet peeves? Whare do I start? The 6'4" guy buying a 6' tent and giving it a poor review. Or the lady that would like to stand up in a 3'6" area? The person that buys a bivy and states that there is no room? Yes folks those reviews are there....and many, "I like it" reviews.

How can reviews be handled better........hum... Let me just say that "We are a family of five, and love this tent". Might be a worthy review to someone. Everyone thinks diferantly so those reviews are in someway as important as the reviews that go into detail.

I'like real world reviews. Lots of details.

9:23 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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A description of construction, climate used in, and size of reviewer helps.For example, I can and do use some womans sleeping bags because they tend to be lighter and I am not a big guy, so I fit well. I could say this sleeping bag is roomy, but a guy my height and 20 pounds heavier may find it too restricting. I cant judge if a product will be useful to me without knowing things like that. How much mesh is in a tent? How much does something actually weigh (not what the manufacturer says it weighs). These are important parts of a review. Then the persons honest opinion is to be taken into account in light of these factors.

1:34 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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What I look for in a Review:

>Detailed >Thorough >Objective

>Criteria by which the reviewer is rating the product

>Parameters of Testing >Physical Conditions it was subjected to

>Physical parameters and needs of the tester (height, weight, gender, dissabilities, etc)

>Expectations assumed for the product

>An explained list of Pros and Cons

I think a review can accomplish ll of these things in a number of ways, and doesn't necessarily need to be extremely "clinical" or dry in communication. I just think that a review isn't very helpful if it fails to communicate all of those things clearly and concisely one way or another.

6:23 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Well said Gonzan. Great Criteria for the anatomy of a review. Trailspace does have physical parameters listed under the description section of a reviewer's profile. This keeps the reviews manageable in length but still makes physical info. available to a reader who found the review valuable but wants to dig deeper. Some may not always want to disclose weight information on every review:)

I don't think that a reviewer needs to re-hash the descriptions quoted by Trailspace from online vendors when a reader selects a reviewed item. Those do a pretty good job as it is. What is useful is to report if the item is as described and assess the quality/durability of craftmanship.

6:54 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I am putting my name in the hat as a candidate for the Gear Review Corps! Excited to hear more about this in the near future.

9:27 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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...Many of the products I have received I still use (even after the "review" period) and others I have donated to charity. Being able to keep an item is just an additional benefit to testing....

Many products supplied for review must be returned after the review.

9:59 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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What I look for in a Review:

>Detailed >Thorough >Objective

>Criteria by which the reviewer is rating the product

>Parameters of Testing >Physical Conditions it was subjected to

>Physical parameters and needs of the tester (height, weight, gender, dissabilities, etc)

>Expectations assumed for the product

>An explained list of Pros and Cons

I think a review can accomplish ll of these things in a number of ways, and doesn't necessarily need to be extremely "clinical" or dry in communication. I just think that a review isn't very helpful if it fails to communicate all of those things clearly and concisely one way or another.

These are the same points that I think make a good gear review, along with decent writing.

10:10 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Some excellent points have been made, I read a lot of reviews myself.

Okay.....since you asked about pet peeves Alicia.

My number one pet peeve for backpacking gear reviews goes like this:

"I just got this tent last week and I must say it is the best tent I have ever had. This thing is the bomb, great construction, there's no way it will leak.........."

I'm sorry, but that is not a gear review, that is emotion.

There are several items I am getting ready to review, I tend to wait until I have just about abused a piece of gear to death before I form a solid opinion, maybe that's because I like gear that lasts.

There is nothing wrong with an initial gear review if you have used the item a few times, even then you kinda know how it performs vs. the manufacturers claims or different brands of similar gear. I'm cool with that, but the item should have been used on a real backpacking trip.

BTW......I'll test the bear spray, does it work like DEET? I mean how long does it stay on you? All night would be great.

7:16 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Well Trout, I think we will leave the anti-bear spray for testing to you! Actually, I think that would be a good item to try. I have only been hiking for a little over a year and a half now, and I have had 4 near-bear experiences on the trail...one actually tumbled out of a tree about 50 feet ahead of me in just outside of Cades Cove, TN! Fortunately for me, it was not interested and went the other way after I made a bunch of loud and ridiculous noises!

As for pet peeves, I really have to agree with Mike on this one. I have read too many reviews where the person either purchased an ill-fitting piece of gear or the wrong piece of gear for the task at hand, and then they go on to rate the product poorly because they used it incorrectly or did not know how to properly use the item in the first place. For one that off-sets the "star" rating of an item and it is extra garbage to sift through while doing research. Secondly, I don't usually get much good or bad information about the product itself, rather I read/hear somebody's rant about how it "stunk".

I personally like to read/hear about a personal experience with the gear being reviewed and how it handled the situation, listing all conditions that were applicable at the time. Whether it was worth the price paid is also a nice touch, and including the price could be a part of the final verdict since not everyone can go out and buy the top-shelf stuff all the time.

I find comparisons to similar/related items to be very useful, since typically I read reviews of products to narrow down between a list of ideas of what I am looking for.

I know that sometimes I even find it hard to be totally subjective in a review, but as Trout said, leaving the emotion out will make for a better and typically more thorough review.

I will even admit....I have bought several items solely with the intent to try them out and review them...for instance, I bought a GSI Dualist cookset that I was only slighty interested in but heard a lot of hype and wanted to try it out for a few miles and give it a review. Again though, I am what you would call a gear junkie and have fun trying new and cool [to me] things!

D

7:44 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for starting this thread D&G,

I will keep all this in mind as I review several pieces of gear in the next few weeks. Most of it I have used for a couple years now and have a pretty good idea of how well it works and what the pros & cons are.

I would be very interested in testing gear for Trailspace. I have been slowly moving towards doing some videos on backpacking & gear. Not so much from the standpoint of me being an expert, but just for fun and to give others a chance to see what it is like where I go.

I am planning a trip to Linville Gorge NC this fall and I will shoot a lot of video on that trip and edit it together, hopefully I'll end up with something worth watching. I really like to watch videos from other peoples trips, especially when they show their gear at work on an actual trip.

8:26 p.m. on May 26, 2010 (EDT)
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You're welcome! I myself am by NO MEANS an expert, just an enthusiast and hope that any of my experience with any particular item might help someone to choose a piece of gear for their arsenal.

I didn't really think that this topic would be at all popular [not that it is the "hottest" around] but I am glad to get input from people [here] on what makes a good review and what can ruin one. Furthermore, as I have said earlier, I enjoy trying new gear....just do....so I thought it might be interesting to ask about such a program since I have found them for outdoor gear somewhat limited. I am glad you like it Trout.

DJ

4:45 a.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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I used to do gear testing for ALPS Mountaineering, a local company from Missouri. They make packs, tents, bags, bag pads, and chairs.

On their website is a link to a form you can fill out to apply to test their gear.

I got a ALPS Denali pack, 4500cu in for half price, and all I had to do was write two reviews and take some pictures of it out in the backcountry.

6:13 p.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Trouthunter and D&G, we are all basically experts. We know what we like and we are the only ones expert on how a piece of gear fits our needs. A good review gives positive and negative aspects of gear, but as far as rating it as good or bad, it all opinion. And that makes us all experts.

7:43 a.m. on May 28, 2010 (EDT)
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I have to admit falling prey to this one: I get frustrated with gear reviews that focus on wonk and esoterica more than how the gear works. I'm not so much concerned that "this years model incorporates dynamically enhanced, pre-blessed carbon fibers," as much as I am with how well the gear endures. I also really get a kick out of reviews that point out novel uses for gear, especially ones that the manufacturer didn't intend!

8:20 p.m. on May 29, 2010 (EDT)
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I personally have never understood the term "New and improved". Is it new or is it an old item that is improved? It can't really be both. I guess $5 words and made up/"new" materials (GSI's "Halulite"...which turns out to be light weight anodized aluminum, but it sounds cool....) always draw somewhat of a crowd.

DJ

10:50 a.m. on June 1, 2010 (EDT)
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I absolutely love it when someone gives a one or two line review of a product that clearly shows they didn't even look at the specifications of the product defore pressing the "buy" button. They Usually go something like this:

"What a piece of CRAP! This cookset is TINY! how is anyone supposed to cook a meal for multiple people when the pans are so small?? I am returning it right away."

(Product: Personal Backpacking Cookset- Diameter: 5 inches, Height: 4 Inches)

10:39 a.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I have to agree with some of the comments here. I don't post often and I do use the gear reviews here quite extensively, and have even reviewed 2 items that I've used quite heavily, but sometimes the reviews listed do not help me at all. I don't want to see a review that just re-states Campmor's description of the item. I want to know that you got the item I'm looking at and put it quite the test, and after use of the item can see where there may be a potential for problems down the road, if any. I do a lot of different activities with my son, we also do a lot of boy scout activities, and vacations typically involve tents with myself, my wife and 4 kids. We use and abuse stuff, it's just the way it is. I want average Joe who has really used the item to tell me if that the item I'm looking at might not be good for the types of things I've used it for.

I recently did a review of the Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp, and it got pretty poor reviews, but it held up fine for me. I've used it camping mostly, but recently took it caving and it saw a lot of bangs, bumps, submerged in water that was between 30-35 degrees, constant 40 degree temperature in the cave, the humidity when we got out of the cave, and then just tossing it in a daypack and leaving until that night. That's the type of review I want to see. I want to see someone really putting that gear to the test.

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