Friday, August 16, 2013

Review of Reviews

Before diving into this I want to clarify that I do not claim to be an expert on this but I do want to share what I believe to be important when looking at a gear review to help you in a purchase of new gear.  I am also not attacking anyone for the way they may do gear reviews nor am I saying that I do the best gear reviews out there.  I am just sharing what I think is useful in reviewing a gear review.  I believe this information could be useful for both consumers as well as for companies looking for people to perform gear reviews.

As an online blogger I see a lot of "gear reviews" done by other bloggers that have caught my eye.  Some times the things that catch my eye make me not believe a single thing on the review and in some incidences even discredit the whole blog.  Once again that is just my opinion and I have my own reasoning for such conclusions.  Other times the things that catch my eye make me overly excited about the gear.  Reviews that are done right sell people like me on trying out new gear!  Below are some things I look for when reading a review.

 How/Where they tested the gear:
It is important to look at how the reviewer tested the gear.  When I was talking to Ribz Front Packs about their gear and possible doing a review, the owner expressed a frustration of how some people doing a review just wore the pack around the house.  Be sure the review actually FIELD tests the gear! Anyone can try something on inside a store but the purpose of a review is to tell people how the gear performs in the field.  So when reading a review check for WHERE they tested the gear (if the reviewer does not specify if they used it in the field, it was probably tested in their living room). Also look for how intense the gear was tested. If you want gear that is durable and quality you need to check to see if the gear was tested for a few days or if it was a quick 5 minute "test" just so they could write a review and snap a few pictures.  By checking for these things you protect yourself from buying something that isn't going to suit your needs or wasting money on something that is going to fall apart the second time you use it.
Reviewing the Ribz Front Pack

How often they use it:
Another thing to look for is how often the gear was used.  If the reviewer only uses the item once for the review then the gear may not be as valuable as they are claiming it to be. Look through the reviewers other posts to see if they mention the product multiple times.  With this I know that you may not use some items as often as others but if a product is worth it the reviewer will often mention it in other posts as well as on their other social network accounts (ie. Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc...).

I use my Teton Sports Summit 1500 almost weekly
A quick easy way to see if a review is worth while is to take a look at the pictures provided. If the pictures have houses, sidewalks, or kitchen counters in the background then that may be a sign that the review is lacking in quality field testing.  Once again this isn't a guarantee but be sure to check it out. If the reviewer says they took the gear on an intense hunting trip and all you see are pictures with kitchen cupboards in the background I would question the validity of the review. Do take into consideration the time of year the review was done also. If I sent out a review of my ice fishing gear in mid July then the review would even cause myself to question how accurate it would be.

Ranger Beads on my carpet
Ranger Beads on my Pack


Pro-Staff or not:
This is one of the items I struggle with the most. A pro staff member is asked to promote a companies products so it is inevitable that they are going to say the product is a good one.  At the same time, most pro-staff members are quality outdoors men who have worked hard to be where they are in their social networking.  Be sure not to be easily convinced the product is good just because a pro-staff member says it is. Be sure that the pro-staff member can chat with you about the product, how they tested it, and what the products strengths and weaknesses are.  Many of the online bloggers have a twitter or Facebook account where they would gladly chat with you about their review. This is your way of making sure there aren't any inconsistencies between what the review says and what the pro staffer has to say about the gear.  It is also important to ask the pro staffer if there are others who have done a review on the same gear this way you can base your decision off more than just one opinion.

Remember, these are just some things to look for and be aware of when using a review while searching for new gear.  There are a lot of good bloggers out there who share some great information.  Even with the best blogs out there, it is important that you do your research and not just take someone's word on it.  This keeps us bloggers honest with the companies we promised to give their product a good review.  If you are aware of these things you will be able to tell the difference between those who do gear reviews because they like to test the gear and give it an honest review and those who agree to do a "gear review" just to get their hands on some gear.

Like I said I don't claim to do the best gear reviews out there but I try to make sure my review gives the consumer as well as the producer the most honest opinion I can to ensure the product is accurately tested and reviewed.  Some of the other bloggers I have see write and produce good reviews are: SoCal Bowhunter, Sole Adventure, High Country Bowhunter, The Will To Hunt, and a few others.  Remember that This information is to protect yourself from buying a product that will not be good for you in the future.  This is not information that is meant to bash or criticize anyone's blog or their efforts on gear reviews. 


  1. You bring up some very valid points/concerns. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad, or at least "staged" reviews out there. One thing that I've noticed is that there is a different between an information "walk through" of a product, and a review of that product; but often both types of content get labeled as "reviews", which they clearly aren't. Anyway, good stuff...thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Mark, I agree with you. There are some good blog posts that share some good information about new products. These posts are more of a marketing strategy than an gear review which is also important to educate consumers of new products that are available. I feel that consumers need to be aware of the differences and be educated that way they can make decisions that will be in their best interest!

  2. Interesting read, Kevin. Excellent points being made, too. I agree with Mark on the 'walk though' that many people do, especially as Pro Staffers. We can read the website info, but how did that person actually use the gear. Right on.

    While I understand where you are coming from, be cautious about the 'houses, sidewalks, or kitchen counters' comment. From my experience, and many of my later reviews, I have limited area in which to field test these items. More importantly, these may be the best places for the photos. If you are the only one taking the photos, it might be the best lighting in the backyard or on the sidewalk. Also, you will also see many of the items are perfectly fine being tested in that environment. I do understand that a pack or boots shouldn't be reviewed in your backyard and such, but the generalization seems a bit harsh. Some people just don't have great photography skills, but have excellent writing skills.

    Great points on the Pro Staff angle. I encourage people to ask me about the companies and products I represent. There have been many times that I have met up with people just to show them the gear and answer their questions. I hope that they buy the items, but I encourage them to make their own decision and use what will work best for them.

    Thanks for sharing this, Kevin. I enjoyed reading it and you make some great points!

    1. I agree Al. With the picture comment, I feel it is important to never take either one of these points solely by them selves. I feel that most of the equipment that needs a gear review should be tested in the environment you will be using it. In my opinion if the gear could be tested in another environment it would then be categorized under the "walk through" area that Mark was talking about. Once again with any review I feel it is important to chat with the person doing the review to see what they have to say about it besides what they wrote in the review. As I mentioned in the post, if it is gear that needs field tested then the review will make mention of where they used the gear. If the pictures are in another location then it would be useful to chat with the reviewer to make sure they are not just pulling the wool over your eyes. It is sad how many dishonest people there are out there. I myself have reviewed gear and taken pictures inside my house for the blog but I feel it is important to write specifically how you used that gear in the field.

  3. Great post Kev!

    I love reading product reviews.....They help me make decisions on what I want to look at myself. Thanks to you and everyone who takes the time to create them.

    Outside our outdoor industry, it's pretty common for bloggers or any journalist, to state their relationship to a review.

    Should product reviews come with a disclaimer saying how they got the product that they are reviewing: Bought it with their own money at retail pricing, bought it at a discount from manufacturer via a sponsor or field staff relationship, received it for free, this is a sponsored post, etc.....?

    There are reviews and then there are reviews. Some hold more weight than others. Some are more genuine than others.


    1. Interesting point Rudy, I would be interested in seeing what the companies would like. I know some of the reviews I have done the companies have told me to put a disclaimer at the end of it while some of the other companies have not specified.

    2. Maybe it should be up to the reviewer.