I wrote a “Gear Testing 101” blog post back in 2018 about how we penetrated the world of gear writing back in 2013, and the ins and outs of the business, but I thought it’d be fun to revisit some details. As Justin & I wrapped up 2020, I realized about 70% of our workload comes from gear writing, though it probably only accounts for 40% of our income (spoiler alert: not the most lucrative job).
I’ve mentioned our roles before, but we are both category managers for Backpacker’s Spring Gear Guide (print issue comes out March/April). This was Justin’s 4th time managing knives/tools, my 4th time managing trekking poles and our 2nd time jointly managing food/nutrition. Justin also started managing the backpack category for REI Co-Op Journal and we jointly manage traction for them. Coming for 2021, Justin is taking over the snowshoe category for Backpacker’s Fall Gear Guide. We also are in our 3rd or 4th year as the online holiday gift guide team for Backpacker and the 2nd year as The Voice Top 50 List (which actually should be out any day now). It’s a juggle struggle that keeps us busy year-round.
I believe “gear tester” and “gear category managers” are one of those jobs that make people swoon. There are definite perks, no doubt about it. But, there’s also an excess amount of reading and answering email. We’ve managed to build excellent relationships with brands and PR firms, which are key for making the duties easier when tracking down samples, specs and photos.
Similarly, we have a list of trusty testers, who get out there, play hard and report back with the details we need to write reviews.
For example, we had about 40+ items of food out with 22 testers from February 2020-October 2020. It’s an arduous task reading tester feedback and deciding which reviews to pump out, but the fun quotes, anecdotes and comparisons make it delightful.
I did this last year, so I thought I’d share our favorite gems from 2020 field testing notes, context-free to make it more interesting.
I felt like I was eating a lime slurpy, or maybe a margarita with salt. It may have even saved us a few dollars in town; no need for a marg with our Mexican food.
It does its job when you are craving a sweet treat on the trail, but I wouldn’t put a bowl of these out for halloween.
They each have an odd, medicine-y aftertaste that reminds you these are for athletic consumption, not dessert.
For what it’s worth: no spicy poop effect.
If I went the rest of my life and never ate another bowl of oatmeal, I would die a happier man.
Your jaw is going to get a workout when you eat these bars, losing more calories than you’re inputting.
Seems tougher than some other bars, which is not a good thing when it feels like it might pull your teeth or fillings out.
The texture actually reminded me of that pickled herring that you buy in a jar.
It’s terrible. It smells bad. It tastes bad. It falls apart. It’s like eating poorly flavored chalk or cardboard.
***For the record, here’s some feedback about some bars that were discontinued shortly after our testers ate them. Everyone is still alive and kicking.***
TLDR: All these are gross.
Something has gone terribly wrong here.
Tastes like eating raw nutmeg mixed with dry flour—actually tastes strongly of regrets.
Tastes like 85% nutmeg, 15% soap. About that dry too.
This one tastes like soap, like something you would buy at Bed Bath and Beyond.
The worst thing I have had that classifies itself as food. I can’t imagine how this made it to production.
Are these bars a practical joke? These bars are all completely inedible, and should be thrown out immediately. I had to find something to chase these with… vodka anyone?
I was raised under the times where I was instructed, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. Take this as silence on these bars.
I had to force myself to keep eating them, even when the risk of vomiting was just too great.
We have 5 hours and 12 minutes of daylight as of Jan. 11! And the sun will hopefully peak over the mountains by our house within the next 15 days.
Hope these gave you a chuckle. We are on the last of 6,238 edits, so fingers crossed the magazine is heading to print very soon and we won’t need to dig through our 2020 notes or bug testers anymore. And if anyone wants to try the unnamed bars for themselves, we still have a few boxes left …