11 Tips for the Best Outdoor Gear Reviews
Have you ever read a gear review and been left wondering more about the product than when you started? It's frustrating! Luckily, there's something you can do: write a better review of your own outdoor gear.
When it comes time to review your own gear, you want to give answers, not questions, right?
Whether you're reviewing your 20-year-old backpack, the latest solid fuel stove, or any other outdoor equipment, clothing, or footwear, following these simple tips will ensure that your review answers more questions than it raises:
1. Use the Gear
Obvious, right? To know how well the gear fares, you need to get outside and use it in a variety of real-world situations, conditions, terrain, and activities for which it was designed. Repeat as often as necessary (and able).
So, if it's a backpacking tent, hit the trails numerous nights before you write that review. Rock climbing equipment, spend the summer at the crag, my friend. Alpine touring skis, join the local dawn patrol.
Sure, the kitchen and backyard are helpful for taking pictures and video and for testing features. But, do not write that review until you've thoroughly used and tested the product in the outdoors where it belongs.
2. Be Honest
Be fair, honest, objective, and open-minded about the product, your own experience, and any outdoor industry relationships. Be honest and transparent when you share a review; readers will better trust you and your review.
3. Have an Opinion
Ultimately, readers and would-be gear buyers want to know: Would you buy it again? Why or why not? Was this gear worth the price you paid? Answer these questions and you're golden.
4. Get to the Point
The best reviews are a reasonable length and get to the point quickly. So, discuss a product’s performance in appropriate detail, but don't fill the review with extraneous information. As Lewis Carroll wrote: "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
For a complete outdoor gear review, start with a succinct summary (what's the gist you'd tell a friend about this gear?), pros (its strengths), and cons (its weaknesses), before diving into the meat of the review with details, opinions, images, and any videos.
5. Say How Well it Performs
Once you've thoroughly used your gear you can tell how well it performs and how well it's made. Evaluate performance, features, and manufacturer claims. Keep in mind for what use and conditions the product was designed.
Assess fit, construction, durability, and ease of use. Tell how it has held up over time, to a variety of uses, and to the elements. How has it held up to bushwhacking, rock scrambling, that accidental drop off a cliff? How about to daily trail runs or weekly ski ascents?
Include original images and video. Share your pictures from the lake, crag, trail, and mountain. Take your gear out in the yard and demo its notable features in a video starring you.
Even a so-so review becomes more useful when you add original pictures or video. Readers want to see your personal experience, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
7. ...and Tell
Give details and specifics about the product's performance and features. Include images, comparisons, and your opinions. Cover the gear's strengths and its weaknesses (even that epic gear failure probably has something going for it, right?).
Then back up those assessments with details from your adventures.
There are times when it's best not to compare: date night, your mother-in-law's Thanksgiving dinner. But in a gear review it's helpful to share what other outdoor products you've used or considered. How does this one compare to the other climbing harnesses, snowshoes, trekking poles, trail runners? It's okay, even preferable, to name names and describe past gear relationships. Really.
9. Consider the Reader Your BFF
Forget what everyone else says, what would you tell your best backcountry buddy about your gear in one minute? What activities, terrain, conditions, and people is the gear best suited for (or not). Tell the reader—your buddy—about your own experience and opinion.
10. Tell About Yourself
Fit and comfort matter, but outdoor enthusiasts come in different styles, shapes, and persuasions. So give some context, and include pictures of you and the gear. Are you a petite, fast-packing, ultralight hiker? A tall, rock-climbing retiree? A first-time paddler? Whether you're a beginner, professional athlete, weekend backpacker, or veteran outdoor guide, fellow review readers want to hear from and about you.
11. Share the Adventures
Describe the conditions, terrain, and activities in which you've used the gear. Where, when, and how long have you used that sleeping bag, soft shell, or stove? Two decades in the Sierra? Two weeks in the Alps? For what activities? Whitewater paddling? New England rock climbing? Desert hiking? Backcountry skiing the Rockies?
Share your gear's adventures, so other readers can see how the gear performed under real-world conditions and activities.
Like outdoor enthusiasts, gear reviews come in a variety of styles. However, the very best outdoor gear reviews are full of details, images, and opinions that show how the gear performed in the field.
Share your best outdoor gear review, then get back outside for some new adventures (which you can tell about in your gear review updates).
Check out more outdoor gear review tips in Write a Killer Gear Review.
See the best-of-the-best Killer Reviews by fellow Trailspace community members.
What do you want reviewers to include in their online gear reviews? Add your own outdoor gear review tips below.