When is the right time for a review?

12:47 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
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Just a question for my fellow outdoor enthusiasts and reviewers.


When do you feel is the right time to post a review? A few weeks? Months? A year even?

I tend to be fairly reserved and want to give things a good try before I judge them, either too harshly or with too much enthusiasm. Most of what I have reviewed has seen good use, and even though I enjoy writing reviews, I tend to wait a while before doing so..... the downside of that approach is that items that are new to the market dont have many adequate reviews, and many of the items I end up reviewing are now out of date can no longer be purchased at most places!


At the moment I am "sitting" on the following things just waiting for the right time to review, but I just dont think I am ready yet! (weird huh?) Eureka Taron 3, Petzl Charlet Snowalker axe, TNF Point Five goretex pro and Apex Bionic jackets, MH LoDown vest, LED Lenser H7 and P5e torches, Lightwave Wildtrek 60 rucksack, Merrell Proterra shoes, Hillsound trail crampons, and the list goes on and on...


Am I being too conservative? What is your approach?

2:19 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
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Personally, I like to continually use new gear for a couple of months before submitting a review.  Using a piece of gear multiple times allows me to really see how well a product works.

The beauty about Trailspace is that you can always come back to an old review and update it with new findings - I actually have to update a couple of my past reviews to provide long-term use analysis and findings.

Among the gear you have listed on the last paragraph, which ones have you consistently used and are you ready to share your thoughts on some of them?

2:39 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
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I think - so long as it's been used, period - it's fair to post a review. 

Provided that you're honest and transparent about the amount/type of use, it's always better to have some information than none at all.

Surely, you wouldn't want to approximate or hypothesize about an item's performance. Someone whose safety was depending on their gear could overestimate/misjudge its performance because of it.

Like you said, without intial reports, how else are we going to find out about new gear or up-and-coming cottage manufacturers, etcetera? And how would it be possible to publish timely reviews that were still relevant to the current year's gear? Save being a professional gear tester, it's unlikely anyone's able to accomplish so much in so little time.

However, like Angus mentioned, folks can update their reviews when new findings and information become available.

I reviewed a Mountainsmith pack last fall I used for a few months. Thought I saw greener pastures and bought a GoLite. Cursed the switch (to say the very least), and took until last week to hunt down my old pack and buy it again. I'll definitely be returning to my first review and updating it with my new/changed impressions. 

In short?

Honesty is the best policy.

2:56 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
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I'd echo both Mangus and Eric. Depending on the complexity of the item, I'll give it a good use over 1-3 months, enough to get an idea of the performance, then review it. Then, periodic updates as needed.

4:10 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
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I seem to run from two to twenty years of hard use with an item before I write about it.

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And if you wait that long, the item is probably out of production by then so nobody can complain about the review!  :)

But really, I'd say a full season of hard use. For example, gotta know what a tent does in hard rain, cold and wet that may encourage condensation, high wind, that sorta thing.

Uh, but then if you get all of that in a single week long trip and the tent does miserably, then why not write about it? No need to be an anchorite and seal yerself inside the thing fer a decade....

Bottom line, I reckon it boils down to how much experience you have with an item. And the simpler the item the faster you can get to know it well.

But I do hate reviews that say stuff like " I haven't had it out in the rain yet so I don't really know how waterproof it is...."

7:20 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
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It sounds like the responses so far are echoing a similar sentiment.  The bottom line seems to be "give it a good test that have useful results".  I agree with that.

Personally I don't think that gear needs a whole season of use to warrant a review.  I don't carry a whole lot of gear to begin with, so the little gear that I have gets my attention within even a few trips.  There are some things that I've had for a while that I never use and so you'll not likely see a review about them.  For example, I carry a pair of rain pants from Luke's Ultralight that I have only used once.  Man, I was glad I had them and I think they worked flawlessly.  However, I've only used them once so I really don't think I have a lot of constructive information to share...

Now that I've written it, there is the answer right there.  If I feel like I have learned enough from the gear that I can share something useful, then it's time for a review in my book.

That was easy.

7:41 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
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Some people use gear more often that others, and sometimes it takes a while to experience the right conditions, like tents and thunderstorms.

I think once you have a good idea of how the gear performs in differing situations you can review it.

This might be a few weeks or a year, just depends on how often and under what conditions you use the gear. Also has a lot to do with how much experience you have with similar gear.

And like Etdbob says I hate it when people review gear they just got in the mail.

2:40 p.m. on March 18, 2014 (EDT)
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With clothes and other gear that has such a fast generation cycle I think its especially hard to balance the need to thoroughly test something but to also review it before it becomes "last year's model" and no longer available. 

I've had quite a few things I have reviewed end up being discontinued or changed so much that my review isn't as helpful to the potential buyer as I had hoped.  

Once again though, saying exactly what you did in your review and updating the review later is always a great option.  

11:36 p.m. on March 18, 2014 (EDT)
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I totally agree with trout hunter on this..How often are you useing the things in your kit.. You need to understand your equiptment. It's a lifeline and thats how I look at it..I don't want to read a review by someone that just took it on 1 weekend trip...Sorry thats not enough time to get alot of information that can be helpful...

 

11:52 p.m. on March 18, 2014 (EDT)
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Not even Review Corps members always have the time or opportunity to run every gear item through all the possible circumstances when they've got a publishing deadline to meet in a limited amount of time. 

Speaking from experience still gives the reader an accurate review and I don't see the harm in it, because something new is learned, at the end of the day.

Making guesses or assumptions on the performance is when a reviewer can meander into dangerous territory.

I'd like to revisit a point made a long time back, too, and place value in the eyes and the opinion of a beginner not only new to a particular piece of equipment, but new to a system entirely. It comes without the bias or expectation someone with previous experience has, and sometimes sheds an entirely new light on something that otherwise goes unnoticed or taken for granted. 

And, sure, the noob won't ever know as much as the lifetime outdoorsman, but it's in combining those two viewpoints you can begin to form an opinion on a product. I buy a lot of gear from REI, and read the reviews posted to their site. More often than not, my initial opinion is formed by reading the one-star and five-star reviews, and seeing what those have in common with the middle ground. 

1:47 a.m. on March 19, 2014 (EDT)
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I don't publish many reviews. I admit to wanting to take gear through a good deal of use to assess performance over time and in difficult conditions. Sometimes, I test gear outside of intended use to determine its real limits.

While I find that tests based on initial reviews can be helpful, I think reviews based on a series of difficult tests is most effective.

2:57 p.m. on March 19, 2014 (EDT)
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Eric Labanauskas said:

Not even Review Corps members always have the time or opportunity to run every gear item through all the possible circumstances when they've got a publishing deadline to meet in a limited amount of time.

 Before accepting any gear for review, RC members have to agree that they can test the gear within the required parameters. The review deadline is often pushed back to allow for proper testing. You'll rarely see a RC review that hasn't seen multiple trips/testing and some have been out for several months.

Every piece of gear is different. A meal can be reviewed after you've eaten it once. Shoes & hiking socks need to be worn and worn and worn to prove their worth. So gear you can evaluate at home and say, "nope, not going out with that piece of junk."

I currently have a list of 19 items I'm working on reviews. Two items I've been using for a year. Most items I've had for 2-6 months. I'm wearing one pair of boots that gets a 10 second video clip each time I use them.

You can expect a flurry of reviews from me after the current give away is over (and review postings go slow again). And then a second flurry after my April week-long trip.

3:33 a.m. on March 20, 2014 (EDT)
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If you want to see what I would consider the Gold Standard of reviews, read Bill's review of the Soto stove he recently posted. Granted, not everyone has the interest, time or expertise to test gear like Bill does, but when you read a review like his, you quickly figure out that it takes some effort to do it right.

I don't post many gear reviews because frankly, most of my gear isn't even made anymore, so what's the point of that and I don't get out enough to give anything new a real test.

I can tell you that my latest acquisition, a Marmot Bastione ski jacket I found brand new at a second hand shop for a ridiculously low price is a winner. It kept me toasty warm battling those 50F temps while out walking around the neighborhood here in Marina del Rey this winter. Hehehe.

11:14 a.m. on April 3, 2014 (EDT)
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If you cannot give any testimony to how the gear performed with regard to how the manufacture CLAIMS it will perform...the review is not that helpful. IT works for entering contests to win gear for reviewing, but does not assist the consumer in making a buying choice. Using a piece of gear once or twice and then saying THIS WILL TREAT ME WELL FOR YEARS TO COME is simply fluff. Not helpful. Truth is, you have no idea if the piece will last for years after use like that. My personal faves...NOT:

"I feel this is well built." (No explanation of use that supports it. Just a feeling off a use or two.)

"I LOVE THIS IT IS GREAT" (again, nothing to tell why other than it was great.)

I have seen more and more of these hyperbole type reviews. So when Is a good time to post a review? When you can tell us how it performed, in specific conditions, over at least SOME time. Not in the living room. (light)the back yard for one night (tent), Not crampons on a sunny, dry, no ice day. Am I guilty of any of this in my reviews? YES, I HAVE BEEN! That was before we were assisted with tools that should help prevent the urge to just post something anything about your cool new piece of stuff. I have evolved as others will too. But unfortunately, with all the real great prizes, people seem to be posting volumes of fluff like, nothingness reviews at the cost of quality. And their friends vote them up. Just sayin.

 

12:32 a.m. on April 4, 2014 (EDT)
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I'm new to the site and have been trying to read as many reviews as I can to get a sense for what a good review and what a bad review looks like (not necessarily a good vs. bad product). Inevitably, I've read a number of reviews from those who have posted in this forum.

This forum is just what I needed as a beginner, as it didn't initially dawn on me that some, or maybe even many, of the reviews I've been reading may come with very little experience with the product. Reading the review carefully for an explanation of how long the product has been in use is key. This forum has served not only as a heads up for me as a reader, but also as encouragement as a reviewer to not review until I have truly tested the product. 

8:39 a.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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We recognize that different members of the community are in different places in their "review journey" and that we all can learn and improve. I've learned a lot from members of the community and hope my reviews have gotten better over time!

In response to giftogab's comment:

If you cannot give any testimony to how the gear performed with regard to how the manufacture CLAIMS it will perform...the review is not that helpful. IT works for entering contests to win gear for reviewing, but does not assist the consumer in making a buying choice.

I should say that our Contest Rules specify that:

  • Off-topic reviews will be disqualified.
  • Incomplete reviews and reviews less than 150 words may be disqualified at our discretion.

We do occasionally see reviews for products that don't fit our focus, or brief reviews that we don't consider "complete." Alicia or I often take the time to reach out to the author and refer them to Alicia's post in the Review Tips and Tricks Forum.

Though I sometimes see reviews that could use a little work, I am still amazed that people take the time to submit reviews to help others find the right gear.

November 22, 2014
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