Reviews You Can Rely On

About GearLab

About GearLab
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
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Friday March 13, 2015

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 GearLab.

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

We believe the world's best gear reviews are based on objective, independent testing of each and every product, with ratings, awards, and expert insights that help you select the right products for your specific needs, budget, and interests.

We describe our work as "Reviews You Can Rely On" because of our commitment to creating independent, objective, side-by-side comparative reviews based on extensive hands-on test results.

Here's how we do it:
  1. We select the top products in each category.
  1. We buy all the products we review ourselves, at retail just like you, to help assure complete objectivity and independence in our ratings. We will not accept free evaluation units or paid endorsement from manufacturers.
  1. Our Product Testing Teams put the products through detailed side-by-side testing plans, both in the lab and in the field, and carefully assess performance, ease of use, and reliability.
  1. We rank the products, explain why, and give awards to the best.
  1. After our testing and reviews are finished, we keep many products to keep as a calibration set for future reviews (and sell the rest).

How We Make Money

GearLab is a free service that is entirely reader-supported. We select and review products objectively and independently. We only make money when you click on our affiliate links and buy products we've reviewed, which helps support our testing work.

If you click on a retailer's link on our site and make any purchase, the retailer will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks for your support of our work!

Independent Product Selection

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

No Ads, No Freebies, No Promotion

We refuse to accept any manufacturer's free evaluation units, and we do not accept any paid endorsements. Our focus is strictly on creating content for the benefit of our readers, and we align our business model to focus on our reader's interests.

a comparison of 13 four-season tents, lined up for testing. in the...
A comparison of 13 four-season tents, lined up for testing. In the last 10 years, we've tested more than 200 tents, putting each through extensive testing to evaluate performance side-by-side relative to competing tents.
Credit: Max Neale

A Deep Commitment to 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.

We put every product through thoughtful testing plans that bring out key performance differences. We do a lot of hands-on real-world field tests, designed by experts, where we use products under challenging conditions to see how they hold up to the competition. We then combine field testing with in-house lab testing that provides measured data we can use to inform comparison and performance ratings. Our testers are experts in their areas: avid backpackers, campers, skiers, bikers, surfers, hikers, trail runners, climbers, and mountaineers. 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.

Our Awards

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. All our Top Pick awards have a specific "for something" as part of the award, which describes the specific application we feel the product is especially well suited 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.

Creating Honest Test-based Reviews is Hard Work

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 take the time to test products extensively and objectively compare and contrast competing products. 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.

If you appreciate our commitment to objective, independent testing, please let your friends know about GearLab, and help us grow and fund expanding our free service.

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 GearLab the world's best source of information for outdoor enthusiasts like you.

Chris McNamara
Founder and CEO


P.S. You might enjoy our sister sites:
  • TechGearLab — our consumer electronics product GearLab review site which applies the same in-depth testing approach we use to tech products.
  • BabyGearLab — is our GearLab site focused on pregnancy and the first years. It shares our commitment to side-by-side comparison reviews, and use the same underlying technology platform.

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

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

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