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Where'd You Get That Gear? Identifying Incentivized Reviews

In addition to knowing how a piece of gear has been used, we at Trailspace think knowing how a reviewer got that gear is important too. We want it to be clear when you read a Trailspace review where the reviewer acquired the goods—an online retailer, a great uncle's garage, the local outdoor store, a brand rep. 

In addition to product details, pros and cons, and images, evaluating the reviewer themself is key to evaluating their review’s value and trustworthiness. Who is this person, and should I trust them when they say the sleeping bag is warm at 20 degrees? How experienced are they using a four-season tent above treeline? Do they work for the brand?

The volume of free gear that outdoor brands send out via influencer networks and other channels is increasing rapidly and widely. At the same time, knowing a reviewer's outdoor and gear experience, review history, and any potential biases is becoming increasingly important for our readers (check out this discussion thread on trust).

So, we recently added an "Incentivized Reviewer" badge to better identify members who receive free products from brands or their representatives in exchange for a review. 

Transparency and honesty are essential to trust (and top our Review Rules!). These issues aren't new, but they're expanding. For years we've required individuals disclose in reviews where they got the gear, and any affiliations with outdoor brands in their profile, relevant reviews, and forum posts. The "Incentivized Reviewer" badge joins other user badges you may have already noticed by members' names, such as "Retailer," "Brand Rep," and "Media," as well as earned badges, like "Top 10 Reviewer."

Identifying incentivized reviews and reviewers is just one more development in our ongoing efforts to bring you honest, fair outdoor gear reviews you can trust. It's a work in progress.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to standardize how incentivized review info is presented and how those reviews and reviewers are treated on the site in rankings and ratings. We'll also be listening to your thoughts. We want the Trailspace community to continue to be a trusted resource for researching new gear and apparel to get outside. And that means knowing where you got that gear.


I think your efforts will be well-rewarded. Thanks for trying to keep things real. I'm a retailer and gear tester/designer and appreciate knowing who is "compensated" for their review via free gear or whatever.

I worked as a professional in the ski industry for about 20 years as a National Ski Patrol member, a Professional Ski Patrol member, and as a ski instructor. We received a lot of "pro form" gear but were never asked to write reviews as that was before the time of internet and social media. The companies wanted their brand "out there" being used by those that the skiing public held in high regard. 

I read every review I can find on any piece of gear that I am contemplating purchasing. If there are a lot or reviews I tend to read the "one and two star" reviews first to get a feel for what might go wrong. That said, most of the gear I own, use, and review really doesn't have a lot of cons or I wouldn't hang on to it and review it. 

I celebrate Trailspace's revised reviewer policy.

Recently, on another backpacking site, I was accused of being an "incentivized" reviewer because I was very enthusiastic about a stove reviewed here. Nothing could be further from the truth. The accuser actually implied that Trailspace reviews were just advertising and that Trailspace was the "incentivizer".

With this policy you keep Trailspace well above such accusations. 

Eric B.

Thanks for the comments. It's helpful to get feedback on what we're doing, and also on issues we should be considering and addressing.

I think most people want the same basic thing—useful reviews they can trust. That means the more info and transparency the better. Increasing the prominence of disclosure (where'd they get the gear?) and a reviewer's experience (how much they've used the gear) are important components of that.

These are our Review Rules. They may get some minor updating during this process, but the general principles remain the same: be honest, be yourself, be transparent, don't be a spammer or scammer.

Also, to clarify, we don't allow any sponsored content in reviews. We routinely follow up on any reviews and reviewers of which we're suspicious and take actions as necessary.

Nor can advertisers affect the prominence or visibility of their brands' reviews on the site. Nor do we remove negative reviews. And, yes, I have been asked, many times, to do all of these things.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. We'll keep on listening and improving.

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