Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

By Chris McNamara - Tuesday December 18, 2012
Q: What is the purpose of OutdoorGearLab? Why did you start it?
A: The OutdoorGearLab mission is to create world’s best outdoor gear reviews. Learn more in our About OutdoorGearLab page.

Q: Do companies pay you to review their gear?
A: No, we never receive money from companies for reviewing their gear.

Q: So how to you make money?
A: Right now we get (a little) revenue from:
  • Advertising that runs on the site, most typically Google ads
  • Links to online retailer sites with today's pricing on the gear being reviewed found at each products Price Comparison page. Please use this feature if you are going to buy some outdoor gear to save money and help fund this site!

Q: How do you get the gear?
A: We either buy the gear in retail stores or online just like you do. In some cases companies loan us gear for testing. However, we won't accept gear from manufacturers who try to influence our review editors, and we only review products we have selected ourselves as one of the top products in a category. So far, out of 640+ reviews, companies have loaned us gear for about 150 of the reviews.

Q: How do you choose what to review?
A: We look at hundreds of products to determine the top contenders in each category. To narrow down to the final set of products we compare side-by-side we rely on several factors. First, we consider the collective recommendations and experience of our Review Editors. Next we conduct research: looking very closely at user-reviews on products, collecting feedback from retail store personnel, and talking to industry experts.

Q: How many products do you compare in a side-by-side review?
Click to enlarge
The top camping stove contenders from left: GasOne, Coleman Duel Fuel, Coleman PerfectFlow, Camp Chef Everest, Stansport Outfitters, Camp Chef Pro 60. Lid of the Coleman Grill Stove is in the bottom right corner.
Credit: Chris McNamara

A: It varies by category. On average, we test the top 10 products in a side-by-side comparison review. However in some cases we may compare as few as three top contenders, and sometimes more than twenty are compared. In our recent men's rock climbing review we compared 23 shoes side-by-side.

Q: What is your review process?
A: 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. We use and abuse each product to see how it holds up to its competition. Finally, we rank the products, explain why, and give awards to the best.

Q: What is your motivation to give an objective review?
A: We want to build a reputation as the most objective review site in the outdoor world. That is why is every review we clearly post our dislikes with the product. We both want you know what the shortfalls of a product are and we hope to provide constructive criticism for companies to make their products better. In less than a year we have heard from multiple companies that have embraced feedback from our reviews in their future designs.

Q: Who tests the gear and where?
A: 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 Review Editors 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. See the bios of our Review Editors

Q: How can I be notified when new reviews are posted?
A: New reviews are posted weekly. We provide a number of ways to subscribe to new review updates. Sign up for our email newsletter, the OutdoorGearLab News. Or, you can sign up for our RSS feed to get regular posts on your favorite news reader. If you Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter you will be notified when new reviews are posted. We will only notify you when there is something new and cool to check out.

Q: Who does your web design?
A: RJ Spurrier developed the web site. David Safanda Design Solutions designed our logo and award icons.

Q: What computer, photo and video equipment do you use for your reviews?
A: Each reviewer has a slightly different set up. Chris McNamara often takes with an iPhone 4. Seriously. But we when we want better quality, we use the Nikon P300. Our good friend and pro photographer Corey Rich recommended it. It is small, has a wide angle lens and takes awesome photos.

For video, we use the Canon Vixia HF R20. It is one of the least expensive high-quality HD camcorders with a microphone terminal. We then plug in a Azden WM-Pro Wireless Mic. Have a wireless mic is key to having decent sound quality. We edit all the videos in iMovie on an Apple MacBook Pro with an external G Drive (Firewire 800 model)

Q. What other websites are you involved with?
OutdoorGearLab was originally formed as the climbing gear review section of SuperTopo a climbing guidebook publisher and popular rock climbing website. Chris McNamara, founder of OutdoorGearLab, is also the founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a non-profit dedicated to replacing dangerous climbing bolts.

In addition, we like to put in a plug for our favorite South Lake Tahoe vacation rental homes, which are owned by our founder Chris McNamara. They offer two big vacation rental homes in South Lake Tahoe, and have helped support this site.

You might also enjoy visiting our sister site, BabyGearLab, which reviews baby products using a similar side-by-side comparison review process and technology that you'll find here.

Q. How can I contact you?
A. You can reach us most easily by using our feedback form to send us an email. Full contact information including postal mail and phone is available on our Contact page.
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