About OutdoorGearLab

   
  
By Chris McNamara - Wednesday July 16, 2014
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OutdoorGearlab testing puts a priority on field testing -- comparing products side-by-side -- in real use conditions that vary from rain and snowstorm to blistering heat.
Credit: Michael Feldman
Have you ever wanted to buy an outdoor product and been stumped about which product is best? Or, worse, bought a product only to learn later that you didn't buy the right one for your needs? I have, and that is why I started OutdoorGearLab.

The OutdoorGearLab mission is simple: to create world's best outdoor gear reviews.

Our secret sauce is side-by-side comparative reviews.

Here's how it works:
  1. We select the top products in each category.
  1. We buy the products we review ourselves, at retail just like you, to help assure complete objectivity and independence in our ratings.
  1. Our Gear Testers put the products through detailed side-by-side tests, both in the lab and in the field, and score each product across a range of weighted categories.
  1. We rank the products, explain why, and give awards to the best.

Our review process starts with selection: we look at hundreds of products to determine the top contenders in each category. We then buy the top contenders for detailed hands-on testing.

To provide a fair basis for scoring, we develop a set of objective lab tests for each category that will help us quantify important differences between competing products.

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Our initial round of testing in 2010-2011 included 13 four season tents, pictured above. We expanded the review in 2013 to include 10 more models for a total of 23.
Credit: Max Neale
In addition, we put each product through a set of real world field tests where we use and abuse each product to see how it holds up to its competition. Our Gear Lab testing environments are the great mountains of America: the High Sierra, the Cascades, the peaks of Alaska, and the Rocky Mountain. Our testers are avid climbers, skiers, bikers, surfers, hikers, trail runners, and backpackers. Each of them has an eye for detail and an obsession to find the best. Many of our testers are professional outdoor guides who bring years of hands-on experience and backcountry wisdom to our reviews.

In the end, our mission is to help you find the best product for your situation, keeping in mind that each person's needs are unique. To achieve that goal we publish the scores of each product relative to its competition, both overall and across important attributes for each category. That means you can find the one that best meets your individual needs.

You'll find that our Editors' Choice award goes to those products we believe are the very best overall, and you'll learn why we selected them by reading our detailed reviews.

Our Best Buy award goes to quality products that offer the most bang-for-the-buck.

Our Top Pick award goes to those products that stand out for specific applications, and our review will explain the details of why and what for.

Our reviews should provide the information you need to select the right gear for your budget and needs, enabling you to buy with confidence.

Our review process takes a lot more work than the typical gear reviews you find online. But we strongly believe that the best gear reviews are those that objectively compare and contrast. When we read reviews, it's not enough just to know if the reviewer liked or disliked the product. We want to know how it stacks up against all the other top products out there, and why one product may be better than another. It's the rigorous style of comparing and contrasting though objective tests pioneered by Consumer Reports magazine that we aim to bring to the outdoor community.

So check out our reviews and let me know if we are living up to our goals. If you have more questions please check out our Frequently Asked Questions or email us. I'd love to hear from you, and especially encourage feedback that can help us improve. You can help us make OutdoorGearLab the world's best source of information for outdoor enthusiasts like you.

Chris McNamara
Founder and CEO
OutdoorGearLab.com

P.S. If you are a rock climber, check out our climbing site, SuperTopo. OutdoorGearLab was originally formed as the gear review section on SuperTopo, which provides climbing guidebooks and web information to the rock climbing community.

P.P.S. If you have a baby, you'll enjoy our sister site, BabyGearLab, which reviews baby products. While I'm not personally involved with BabyGearLab, both sites share a similar commitment to side-by-side comparison reviews, and use the same underlying technology platform.
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara's life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris' sanity. He's climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, "Why?" Outside Magazine has called Chris one of "the world's finest aid climbers." He's the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts.

Chris is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA, and Rowell Legacy Committee. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or ChrisMcNamara.com. He also runs a Lake Tahoe Vacation Rental.
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