By Eric Yang
on 5.19.09

gear-patrol-gear-review-process

As more of you have come to understand what the hell it is we’re doing here at Gear Patrol, you’re hopefully seeing that we’re not just a community that shows you great gear. There are plenty of sites that, frankly, do it better and faster than we can or want to. We respect, appreciate, and likely read those sites, and hold a glass of whatever it is we’re drinking to them in salute.

As Gear Patrol develops, so does the process by which we discover, curate, and review gear. This article focuses on the last of those three: the review process – part of our 5 Point Pledge. It’s something many of you have written and asked us about. It will also show you that it’s not all about work here at Gear Patrol (not that reviewing awesome gear is really “work” per se). We’re staunch supporters of the notion that one can do their job well and do it while having a good time.

If our writing seems chock full of inside jokes, jabs at fellow writers, or something flat out zany, that’s because it is. Gear Patrol is a labor of love – a site written by real men, for real men. If we do something that, at the end of the day, just gives us a few laughs and an honest review, then so be it. We have no higher authorities to report to (yet), no budgets to meet (so long as I can fight off Patrick Tuttle), and though we do have a definitive plan, we are known to wing it when need be – there is method to the madness… and that’s half the fun.

That, combined with access to a lot of gear (our secret sauce) and what we call “real world testing” (by our crew or via reader submitted reviews), is what makes up the Gear Patrol you’ve come to know, appreciate, and perhaps sometimes scratch your head in puzzlement or bewilderment at.

I assure you it’s a boatload of fun.

helly-hansen-ocean-racing-jacketSpeaking of boatloads… this past weekend, the New York crew rented a house through Homeaway.com, to get away from the insanity of the city, review some gear, and play some golf at the Mohonk Mountain House. This is what we like to call a “working weekend.” Well, after some thought, we realized it would also be a good opportunity to share some insight into how it is we review gear.

Whether it’s the latest golf equipment, watch, gadget, or grooming product, the Gear Patrol family ensures that we give it a full run down before stamping it with our seal of approval (aka: publishing an article about it). Let’s take this Helly/Hansen Salt Jacket, for example – one of many products currently being reviewed by one of Gear Patrol’s newest crew members, Stephen Thorpey.

1. Procure Gear

Gear Patrol secures each and every product you see. They’re handed over to one of our crew members along with one instruction: test this how you’d use it yourself, and, if you find it worthy, then write about it and why. It’s that simple. Some products we buy or procure ourselves, some are submitted to us for review, and some are just come across in our day-to-day lives. Like you, we’re always on a quest to find the right piece of gear for the right situation. It’s a symbiotic relationship, but not necessarily scientific in all sense of the manner.

Real-life isn’t as scientific as we’d like it and that’s our approach to reviews. Some gear is over-engineered, some gear serves a purpose entirely different than its original intention, some gear straight-up sucks. We write about what we use, like, and feel comfortable spending our own hard earned dollars on. We have the same budgets you do, and if we wouldn’t recommend it to a friend, we won’t recommend it to you. However, we will highlight noteworthy gear that may not necessarily be in our budgets. After all, who doesn’t like cool gear.

2. Eat Steak. Drink Bourbon. Wait For Rain.

steaks-and-malbec

Due to circumstances beyond our control (geographic, weather, and funding), we sometimes have to wait for the right scenario to test gear. electronics & gadgets are tested in the comfort of our own home (or Ben’s), golf gear on the course.

In the case of one particular review, we were checking out the Helly/Hansen Salt Jacket. Obviously, outerwear appropriate for rain… specifically, bodies of water + rain. Unfortunately, our weekend mancave was located in New Paltz, New York, which as you can probably surmise by this map is near mountains and forest, but not so much an ocean. But like any man worth his salt, we recognized and accepted the challenge, undeterred by the absence of maritime review venues.

ipal-turtle-cheesecakeBut first, we eat. Gear Patrol firmly believes that reviews are best written after a healthy Black Angus ribeye washed down with Malbec followed turtle cheesecake with Knob Creek for dessert. After all, what kind of man is clear headed without a little protein, fermented alcohol, sugar, and bourbon? Not us, that’s for sure.

Priorities gentlemen… priorities.

3. Go Ape Shit

behind-the-scenes

What do you get when you get a blitzkrieg storm, three Gear Patrol editors with serving bowls/buckets full of salt water, one eager and able rookie member, and a camera? You get mayhem, a lot of laughs, and what we call a product review – albeit a not entirely successful one (as you’ll read about shortly).

In the above photo you can see that Stephen has dragged a canoe to the front yard of our rental home in a veritable deluge. Meanwhile, Patrick, Brian, and Ben have been filling up large mixing bowls and buckets with homemade salt water to simulate crashing waves of ocean water.

Our modified 5 Step Hypothesis Testing Method might look something like this:
stephen-thorpey-water-bucket

  1. Question Find gear or service.
  2. Hypothesis Have a drink. Come up with challenge or question.
  3. Experiment With or without drink in hand, participate in said challenge and use all means necessary to take experiment to unfathomable ridiculousness and/or real world scenarios.
  4. Data Take notes, photos, and videos for YouTube.
  5. Conclusion Write a review, publish review, beware consequences and backlash from review.

4. Take Photos, Videos, Notes

stephen-thorpey-canoe

Despite what appears to be chaos, we take notes, albeit some of them are mental. Over a few more drinks and chatter we use the time to surmise what positive remarks or negative remarks we have about the product and jot them down into a basic review outline, which is later hashed out further into what you see as a full Gear Patrol article. Photos and videos (which we’ll be doing more of in the future) are added and finally given a once-over by our in-house copy/golf/video game guru: Dusty Overby.

Side Note: You can tell which photos are taken by our team. To identify then, just look for the little “Gear Patrol 200_” watermark at the bottom left of the photo. They’re just a small cue demarcating the extra step we take to ensure you see the product the same way we do, granted sometimes with a little Photoshop sexification.

The same treatment applies for those of you who’ve submitted articles and photos that make the grade.

5. Publish Our Review

stephen-thorpey-water-test-certified

After a few attempts, we finally succeeded in capturing how well the Helly/Hansen Salt Jacket stood up to blasts of water and rain. As you can see here we’ve managed to capture waves of water, rain, and Stephen holding his oars in what we imagine to be the position when presented with a pending tsunami.

Concluding Observations:

Outside of the one brimming bucket of water Patrick threw right down the collar of Stephen’s jacket, the fully waterproof Helly/Hansen Salt Jacket kept Stephen bone dry, thanks to the adjustable tonal hood, stealth cuffs, and kill cord loop. All very good things.

The fleece-lined collar and handwarmer pockets (nice touch) also kept Stephen (his torso specifically) nice and toasty, and the price point ($200) is easy to swallow, unlike that first bucket of water. It’s perfect on the boat, off/onshore, and in simulated canoe tsunamis like ours.

Good job Stephen. Oh, and welcome to the team.

Cost: $200 | Amazon

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