by Diane Spicer
Hiking gear reviews make the hiking, backpacking and camping world go round.
Or at least they try to make you think so!
Let's take a close look at them.
Think about it.
Who writes hiking gear reviews?
Uh, is this a trick question??
Just a necessary one, before you part with your hard earned cash and precious time.
Gear reviewers may have a vested interest in the gear, for any number of reasons.
For instance: Maybe they want to get the word out to other trail type people about what works, and what DOES NOT work.
Or, maybe they are writers as well as outdoorsy people (hopefully), and they're combining two loves to earn a paycheck.
No harm in that, right?
Then it's entirely up to you to decide if the information they provide is reliable.
The profit motive is definitely a factor in some hiking gear reviews, and it's sometimes hard to detect it.
Full disclosure at the beginning or end of the review would be nice, as is done in scientific literature when the authors disclose potential conflicts of interest.
Every Hiking For Her review you read begins with disclosures, stating any affiliate relationship or arrangement with the outdoor brand.
If it's a product I bought because I needed it or was curious about it, the review lets you know that right up front.
Are there any other motives behind writing hiking gear reviews, besides altruism and profit?
Extremely negative reviews might be a form of venting, making the author of the review feel better for spending money on something that didn't work or fell apart.
Personally, I find these rants - oh, sorry, reviews - to be entertaining.
If you read between the lines, sometimes the reviewer used the gear incorrectly, or had inflated expectations based on the marketing hype surrounding the product.
You're looking for gear reviews you can trust as an outdoorswoman.
But don't overlook this one little fact of life:
Women hikers are backed into a tighter corner than male hikers.
We're at the mercy of manufacturers who may not have recognized that women aren't shaped like men, and we don't hike like men (apologies to the Iron Maidens who say they do.)
I'm not talking about endurance, speed, mental toughness - I'm talking about the realities of living in a female body:
That makes many gear reviews unreliable for women.
Knowing all of this, where do I go for hiking gear reviews?
Sadly, very few places.
I avoid the reviews which are clearly tainted with profit motives - the review is placed side by side with an ad.
Product placement, I think it's called.
A well known outdoor magazine does this month after month, year after year.
I also avoid reviews which are superficial, focused on the color of the backpack, or the number of pockets in the pants, or the person wearing the stuff.
Useful details, but not really answering my vital questions:
Reviews in hiking magazines can be reliable, if you regard them with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Maybe it's just my scientific background, but if you state a fact, where's the proof?
"This stove will boil water in 2 minutes."
A factual statement, no?
But where's the context?
For example: Where was the stove?
I think you get my point: just because the review says it's true, won't make it true for your unique hiking situation.
When I read a review, I do a little detective work on
If this sounds like too much work, it probably is for most casual hikers. I've gone off the deep end with hiking, and claim it as my life's passion.
So I make it my business to ferret out the good reviewers, and I pay attention to what they say.
The rest is up to me, and if you trust my judgement you can take a peek at the womens hiking gear I recommend.
OK, by now you're probably wondering where I turn to for gear reviews when I'm scoping out a new piece of gear.
Here's one place: Backpack Gear Test (perhaps a misleading name, as it reviews gear for any type of hiker).
I immediately felt good about this site because they dedicate a page to explaining why and how they review hiking gear.
Another thing I like about this site is how thorough each review is.
I hone in on the hiking gear reviews written by women, which is easy to do on this site when you identify the category of gear you want to read about.
For instance, here's a female generated review of a pack complete with photos, pros & cons, and field reports.
That information makes it easier to decide whether the review is realistic for someone of my size, age, and hiking patterns.
It also gives me clues about how to buy hiking gear.
OK, I'll bet you knew this was coming: I've been known to write my own reviews.
A lot of very detailed, thorough reviews.
And my motivation is always to simply share what works with you.
If you've found some great sources for reliable hiking gear reviews, please share!
I'll post my review of the gear review source here.
You can review it at your leisure!
And you can rely on me to be unbiased: I purchase and use most of my gear on the trail and in the back country.
If I do receive a piece of gear to test (I'm pretty picky when it comes to review opportunities), I'll tell you that right up front in the review.
And I'll scrutinize that piece of gear even harder - because I don't want you to think I'm biased just because it was free.
Plus, I never turn around and sell that free gear for profit (some reviewers do!).
Instead, I give it to a hiker who needs it when I can't use it myself.
So let's keep the gear review love flowing to our virtual trail sisters!
Hiking Gear Reviews
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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