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How we test and evaluate backpacking gear

Reading online reviews is a tricky practice these days, because most people are just trying to give you the bare minimum information so that you’ll buy a product. While we do participate in affiliate programs with various companies and products, we only review items that we actually own or have expertise in using. 

When we review or evaluate backpacking gear, there are two things that we give primary importance to:

  1. Learning what it actually feels like to use the product in the real world, for its intended purpose
  2. Evaluating specifications, price, and other factors based on real-world experience, not arbitrary comparison. 

We use it, so we know what it’ll be like when you use it.

Backpacking, camping, and hiking are experiences more than anything else. That means the equipment you buy is a huge part of that experience. It has a feel, a texture, and an impact that can be felt every single time you use it. Because of this, we focus on the actual experience of using the product when we review it.

Sure, price matters a lot, but only when it’s evaluated in context of the way it changes your backpacking, camping, or hiking experience. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean you’re going to have a good time! So, when we buy new gear, we want to use it, use it again, and use it one more time, so we can give you the most lived-in and accurate review possible. 

If it’s a camping chair, we sit in it. A lot. We record how sweaty our butts get and whether or not it makes our backs hurt after falling asleep by a fire. 

If it’s a tent, we use it. We go camping. We see how easy it is to set it up. We give it a close inspection both before and after a trip to see how well it holds up to proper use. 

Long story short, we test backpacking gear by actually using it, because it’s made to be used!

What we look at when testing gear

We create a 25-point evaluation rubric for each piece of gear we review. Each rubric is based on user experience, because what good is it to give a high rating to a tent that sucks to use? We want to make sure that every piece of gear we give our approval to is actually going to make your camping, backpacking, or hiking experience better.