Reviews You Can Rely On

The GearLab Product Testing Team

The GearLab Product Testing Team
OutdoorGearLab Review Editors
Credit: Chris McNamara
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Thursday February 1, 2018

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.

Chris McNamara, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

chris mcnamara
Chris McNamara
Author of the three best selling guidebooks to rock climbing in Yosemite National Park and eight other climbing guidebooks, Chris is the founder of OutdoorGearLab and serves as Editor-in-Chief. Outside Magazine has called Chris one of the world's finest aid climbers. He's the winner of the Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 10,000 dangerous anchor bolts. Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris's life on earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris's sanity. He has climbed El Capitan more than 80 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. As a BASE jumper, he claimed a slice of the "Golden Age of Wingsuit BASE first descents" by finding and jumping 10-plus significant new exits in the United States and Baffin Island. More info at and Chris Mac's YouTube Channel. In his spare time, Chris also manages two South Lake Tahoe vacation rental homes (7 bedroom/18 guests, and 5 bedroom/12 guests). View Chris's Trip Reports.

Jessica Lempe, Content Manager & Editor

jessica lempe
Jessica Lempe
After graduating from the University of Tampa with a degree in sociology, she discovered rock climbing and moved to beautiful Colorado. She spent many seasons in Yosemite Valley, where she traveled in the winter and has landed in South Lake Tahoe. She loves all things Italian and Greek, traveling, red wine, dark chocolate, rock climbing, kiteboarding, cooking, baking, reading, and studying for her masters.

Penney Garrett, Content Manager & Editor

the apex flex did keep the wind and cold out decently, but with...
The Apex Flex did keep the wind and cold out decently, but with improperly executed features and a less-than-ideal fit it ended up toward the bottom of our review.
Credit: Penney Garrett
Penney is a seasoned traveler and rock climber who loves yoga, hiking, backpacking, and camping in high altitude rocky locations. Currently, she resides in South Lake Tahoe and is in love with being nestled between mountains and water. Besides contributing to OutdoorGearLab, she is an accomplished Paleo chef, certified nutritionist, and clinical herbalist. When she's not climbing rocks or geeking out about wine, she loves to use her botany training to identify wild plants, collecting them for medicine or some sort of delicious concoction. Other passions range from home brewing to painting, and she's always planning the next adventure in the great outdoors.

Ross Robinson, Content Manager & Editor

ross robinson, atop sri pada (adama's peak) in sri lanka.
Ross Robinson, atop Sri Pada (Adama's Peak) in Sri Lanka.
Credit: Ross Robinson
Hailing from a small town in Indiana, Ross loves spending his time surrounded by a few good friends in the great outdoors, especially hiking, climbing, and camping. He also enjoys keeping things fresh by traveling as much as possible. He's lived a few years in Germany (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?) and taught science for four years in Thailand. On weekends and school breaks, he explored and rock climbed in countries like Laos, Vietnam, and China. He recently returned stateside from living a year in Peru, where he spent his time hiking the Andes and learning Spanish. Now living on the western side of the Sierras, Ross continues to enjoy all things outdoors.

Valentine Cullen, Marketing Manager

valentine cullen
Valentine Cullen
Valentine Cullen has been hiking and climbing in the Northern California forests and boogie boarding the bone-chilling and shark-infested waters of the rugged Pacific coast for over 30 years. Valentine has a degree in Creative Writing but also loves computer science. For seven years she ran her own photograph restoration and digital archiving business while raising her only daughter. Her favorite activities include anything that has to do with being submerged in water, (be it warm or freezing) hiking, climbing, bouldering, exploring, boogie boarding, standup paddleboarding, taking photographs of anything beautiful or interesting and just chilling at home cooking, making jewelry or working on random craft projects.

Lauren DeLaunay, Review Editor & Selection Guru

Since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lauren has been on the never-ending road trip. She's equally at home in the high peaks of the Rockies as Utah's red desert but knows that nothing is better than a granite hand crack and therefore currently calls Yosemite home. When not putting her International Relations degree to use in The New York Times Crossword puzzle, she can be found climbing, skiing, trail running, or binge-listening to NPR in her '97 Safari named Bozarth.

Sara Ann Aranda, Review Editor

Sara has a B.A. in Creative Writing and is a freelance writer and avid trail runner, climber, and gear tester. She has hiked a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, has traveled abroad to Latin America and the UK, has roamed about the Western states to climb, and even worked and lived in Yosemite National Park for five seasons. Currently based on the Front Range of Colorado, her work has appeared in The Climbing Zine, The American Poetry Review, Boulder Weekly, and online with Alpinist,, and Misadventures Magazine. Visit her website,, for stories from the community and examples of her work.

Ryan Baham, Review Editor

Ryan is a Tampa Bay native but migrated to southern Virginia in early 2013. He has a B.A. in anthropology and a second B.A. in religious studies, both from the University of South Florida and earned a Master's in Public Administration from Old Dominion University. His interests include armchair philosophy, politics, social progress, economic and urban development, beer, wine, scotch, and of course, road running and cycling, where he works out all his demons and fixes the world's problems, because… what else can you do on 100-mile bike rides and 13-mile runs?

Maggie Brandenburg, Review Editor

Maggie is an outdoor and travel junkie, always looking for the next adventure. From researching chimpanzees in Senegal to teaching marine science in the Galapagos she's always up to something. When she's not reviewing gear for OGL, you'll find her leading backpacking trips and outdoor education adventures for kids with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. In her spare time, Maggie is involved with Girl Scouts and SOS Outreach, and enjoys exploring with her dog and balancing her mad running habit with hecka yoga.

Jessica Haist, Review Editor

at the top of the sherwin's, mammoth lakes, ca
At the top of the Sherwin's, Mammoth Lakes, CA
Credit: Jessica Haist
Jessica has lived and worked all over North America pursuing her outdoor passions and work as an outdoor educator and guide. She has an undergraduate degree in Fashion Communications from Ryerson University and a Masters Degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College in Arizona. Originally from Toronto, Canada she has settled in Mammoth Lakes, California and loves her home in the Sierra Nevada. She is an avid skier, rock climber, backpacker, gardener and mountain biker.

Ryan Huetter, Review Editor

Ryan Huetter grew up near the coastal tidewaters of the Puget Sound in Washington State, but has since traded moss and rain for the sunshine and splitter cracks of the Sierra Nevada. Since 2006 he has called the Sierra home, finally settling down in the ski town of Mammoth Lakes where he is able to enjoy the unbelievable year-round skiing and climbing the Sierra is known for while working as a full-time mountain guide. Ryan's passion for climbing and exploring has taken him around the world, from Yosemite Valley, where he has climbed over 20 different big wall routes, to seven seasons in Patagonia, where he has made many major ascents, including Fitz Roy and first ascents of remote alpine walls. But year after year the Sierra Nevada remains Ryan's base and he loves introducing people to the Range of Light.

Joshua Hutchens, Review Editor

Joshua prefers pedals to bi-pedals. Rolling on two wheels long before his first memory of life, he grew up on a BMX bike and took his first bike shop job at the age of 12. He's held most every position in the bike industry trying to impart his love of two wheels to others. Bikes have taken him around the world as a guide, to the podium as a racer, to countless mountain tops and a few emergency rooms. Now living in South Lake Tahoe with his wife Hillary and daughter Penny, Joshua can often be found on the amazing trails and beaches around the lake. Rarely seen on the same bike, he rarely sheds that silly grin.

Amber King, Review Editor

Credit: Amber King
After finishing up her B.Sc and B.Ed in 2009, Amber moved to the U.S.A from Canada to spend time in the mountains of the West. Drawn in by dreams of climbing perfect cracks, and exploring new areas, she found herself in a few different places - Utah to Colorado to Arizona to Washington. Along her journey, she discovered trail running as a new found love. Completing her first half-marathon, full-marathon, and ultra-marathon within one year, she is learning how to be an endurance athlete. She also loves to boat, backcountry snowboard, and rock climb. When she's not playing in the wilderness, you can find her planning experiential-based school trips as a high school science teacher.

Renee McCormack, Review Editor

renee lemmer mccormack, lead women's tester.
Renee Lemmer McCormack, Lead Women's Tester.
Credit: Scott Rokis
Renee McCormack has been tipping and ripping since her mom dressed her up in a pink piggy onesie and sent her off to follow a ski school snake at age three in Colorado. She's since started creating her own snakes, teaching first in Vail, and for the past seven winters in Mammoth Lakes, California. She is a fully certified Level III Alpine Instructor through PSIA, which means she can [mostly] manage to french fry when she's not supposed to pizza. When not busy feeding children hot chocolate and Starbursts, she and her husband teach scuba diving around the world, go rock climbing and mountain biking, and enjoy life with only the obligation of two mouths to feed.

Ian McEleney, Review Editor

ian mceleney
Ian McEleney
Credit: Dale Apgar
After falling in love with mountains in New England, Ian traveled all over the country making ascents of everything from short roadside rock climbs to big walls to big peaks in the wilderness. Now he lives, plays, and guides in the Sierra Nevada, one of North America's best mountain playgrounds. He rounds the year out with forays to Red Rocks, Moab, Washington's Cascades, and Alaska. He likes ice cream, jackets with hoods, and well-earned rest days.

Cam McKenzie Ring, Review Editor

Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring
Cam McKenzie Ring began climbing over 20 years ago and considers herself a Jill-of-all-disciplines. She has climbed Camp 4 boulders, El Cap big walls and many things in between (except for ice - as she prefers to climb in a tank top). After working for Yosemite Search and Rescue for five years she "retired" to Las Vegas, where she can be found out on the rocks with her two young boys in tow.

Ian Nicholson, Review Editor

ian nicholson after a long day near washington pass.
Ian Nicholson after a long day near Washington Pass.
Credit: Ian Nicholson
Ian is a man of the mountains. His overwhelming desire to spend as much time in them as possible has been the reason for him to spend the last seven years living in small rooms in dusty basements cluttered with gear and in the back of his pickup (sometimes in the parking lot of the local climbing gym). This drive and focus have taken Ian into the Kichatna Spires of Alaska and the Waddington Range of British Columbia (with the help of two Mountain Fellowship Grants from the American Alpine Club) as well as extensive trips through much of the Western United States and Canada. His pursuit of guiding has been tenacious. He was the youngest person to pass his American Mountain Guides Assn Rock and Alpine Guide exams (on his way towards becoming a fully certified International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations guide). Ian also holds an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Level 3 certification as well as an AIARE Level 1 avalanche instructor certification.

Lyra Pierotti, Review Editor

Credit: Lyra Pierotti
Lyra is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide, an AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide, an AIARE Avalanche Instructor, and a Wilderness First Responder. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.S. in Biology: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution and a minor in French Literature. Her year studying geology in the French Alps is what steered her toward a career in mountain guiding. Lyra has guided all around the world, on numerous objectives from Alaska to Antarctica, Mexico and Baja, to the western U.S. and the Italian Dolomites. She has guided expeditions to the summit of Denali, Aconcagua, Mt. Elbrus, Mexico's Volcanoes, as well as steep rock climbs in Yosemite Valley, alpine routes in the North Cascades, long rock climbs in the desert southwest, and athletic ascents in the High Sierra. In addition to guiding, Lyra has applied her skill set to industry and education. She has worked in technical field support for scientists in Antarctica, and as a member of the Joint Antarctic Search and Rescue Team. In the spring, she works as an Adjunct Instructor for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, teaching mountaineering skills to high school girls as part of the Inspiring Girls Expeditions program, a non-profit field science education program. Lyra also works as a freelance writer, focusing on science writing, and as a Review Editor for OutdoorGearLab. When not traveling and climbing, Lyra lives on a farm on an island in the Puget Sound, her favorite home base for her annual migration patterns, where ocean sports and good food help her stay healthy and balanced.

Jediah Porter, Review Editor

jediah porter
Jediah Porter
Credit: John Burns
Jediah Porter is a full-time part-timer. He works as a mountain guide and for OutdoorGearLab and as an educator in various contexts. Guiding work requires an even mix of rock shoes, approach shoes, ice boots, and ski gear. Off the clock, he climbs and skis. He also engages in binges of mountain biking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, and trail-running. He goes by Jed and takes pride in using the right tool for the job unless he doesn't have that tool. In which case he improvises. "If you don't have it, you don't need it". He grew up in the Northeast, lived most of his adult life in the Eastern Sierra of California, has put down roots recently in "Wydaho's" Tetons, and tries to get to Alaska or South America (for big mountains) and the East Coast (for family) once each year. Jed's website is

Michelle Powell, Review Editor

Michelle grew up surfing in Huntington Beach, CA, got her first board at the age of nine, surfed competitively all four years of high school, and served as captain on the surf team her senior year. At 19, she made her way to the frigid waters of Humboldt County, and eventually found a middle ground in Santa Cruz, California where she fell in love with rock climbing. After completing her degree in Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, she traded the waves for Sierra granite in South Lake Tahoe. Michelle loves the seasonality of mountain life, skiing and snowboarding all winter, climbing all summer and fall, and running off on surf trips whenever she can. She currently lives with several furry creatures and is somewhat of a dog whisperer. If she's not playing outside, you can usually find her buried in animals, baking, geeking out about espresso, doing yoga, or indulging in a good book.

Curtis Smith, Review Editor

the smith forefront in matte cement worn with smith pivlock v2...
The Smith Forefront in Matte Cement worn with Smith Pivlock V2 sunglasses.
Credit: Luke Lydiard
Curtis lives in South Lake Tahoe, CA, with his wife Lindsay and their dog Penny. He races for the Bikes Plus/Sierra Nevada team in road, mountain, and cyclocross. Recent accomplishments include a 1st place overall finish in the Sierra Cup Northern California Nevada Regional Championship XC Mountain Bike Series. His favorite things include Bikes, Coffee, Family (not necessarily in that order).

Clark Tate, Review Editor

the furtado is fun on a wide range of terrain.
The Furtado is fun on a wide range of terrain.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
Clark is really into writing and being outside with good friends. She learned to climb, cave, and whitewater raft and kayak in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After environmental science grad school, she headed to Colorado to snowboard bum, guide rafts, and wrangle horses. She then interned at the Summit Daily and worked as river restoration ecologist based in Grand Junction and Durango for seven years. This involved tons of field work, e.g. 15-day rafting trips on the Colorado River. It's also when she started backcountry skiing and biking: Fruita, Loma, Grand Junction, and Moab with detours to high alpine lines in Crested Butte and the ribs of Phil's World. Clark then moved to Cali to write, surf and sail. Now she spends her time playing in the Sierra, sneaking off to the ocean, or visiting old friends in the Rockies.

Joanna Trieger, Review Editor

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Joanna Trieger discovered the diamond in the rough that is Reno, Nevada in 2014 and has been loving life at the base of the Sierras ever since. She is a safe streets advocate an avid bike commuter who hasn't driven to work in more than two years, so she knows a thing or two about gear that works for cyclists. When she's not pedaling around town with her fearless niece in tow, Joanna can be found falling off mountain bikes, falling on skis or falling while running on her favorite east-side trails.

Andy Wellman, Review Editor

andy wellman
Andy Wellman
Credit: Andy Wellman
Andy Wellman is a writer and mountain athlete who lives in Ouray, Colorado, in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. More often than not you will find him rock climbing, trail running, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, or backpacking. He also enjoys traveling the world, spending time with his girlfriend and dog, reading quality literature, and practicing yoga. He believes that experiencing nature can help us solve the world's problems and that quality equipment enables this process.

Rob Woodworth, Review Editor

Lead Test Editor for powder skis and bike panniers, Rob Woodworth, is a level 300 certified Development Coach and Alpine Official who learned to ski before he could run. He cut his teeth as a FIS and USCSA athlete before pursuing a career as a professional stoke monger—sharing his love for the sport with a new generation. When not on skis, you'll find him bike touring, trail-blazing, or daydreaming about life in the shire with his hound dog, Wrennie Mae.

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