Reviews You Can Rely On

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The 2011 version of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm below northern Maine's Mt. Katahdin. Tom is 6'3" and slept on snow with the XTherm at -10 degrees F.
Credit: Max Neale
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Monday February 8, 2016

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. We strive to help our readers make smarter and more informed purchase decisions. If we've done our job right, our readers can rely on our reviews to help them choose the right product for their needs and budget. Learn more in our About GearLab page.

Q: Do companies pay you to review their gear?

A: No, we never receive money from companies for reviewing their gear. We refuse to accept free review units, and we abhor the idea of manufacturer-sponsored content. Our goal is to serve our readers, and we so we utilize a business model that allows us to align our interests with our readers. To that end, we accept no ads on the site and accept no paid product endorsements.

Q: How do you get the gear for your reviews?

A: We buy all the products we review ourselves, at retail just like you, to help assure complete objectivity and independence in our ratings. We won't accept any free evaluation units from manufacturers.

Q: So how do you make money?

A: The revenue to fund OutdoorGearLab comes from the support of readers like you. Here is how readers fund our work:
  • Links to online retailer sites on the gear being reviewed. 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!

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?

some of our top contenders.
Some of our top contenders.
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 headlamp review we compared more than 20 products 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 in every review, we clearly post our dislikes with the product. We want you to 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. Every tester has an obsession with finding the best gear for their activity. Many are professional guides and writers who bring years of outdoor experience and comparative analysis to our reviews.

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 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 (7 bedroom/18 guests, and 5 bedroom/12 guests), which are owned by our founder Chris McNamara. They are 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.