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Ready to test some gear?  Good.  From time to time announcements are made through the BackpackGearTest Yahoo group.  You should monitor this group carefully because test calls go out periodically and are closed after about a week.  You must get your tester application in before the test call closes.  There are just a few rules to remember when applying for gear:

  1. Don't apply for gear that you can't reasonably expect to test.  (If you live and hike in Hawaii, for instance, don't apply for a snowshoe test.)

  2. Do not apply for a test if you are unable to spend the time and effort to gain the experience with the gear necessary to write complete and impartial reports over the six month period typical of these gear tests.

  3. Do not apply for a test if you are currently testing a similar item.  (If you are already testing a backpack, do not apply for another backpack test until the first one is complete.  Exceptions to this rule may be made, but contact a moderator before applying.)

  4. When you accept gear to be tested, you accept the responsibility to test that gear fairly and to complete all three reports required.  Additional requirements may also have to be fulfilled for some tests.  Do not apply if you aren't going to finish.

  5. If, through accident, misfortune, or circumstances beyond your control you can not complete a test that you have started, contact your monitor or a moderator immediately so that arrangements can be made to have another tester complete the tests.

  6. Unless noted otherwise, after you complete all three tests, the gear being tested becomes your property.  Items do not become the property of the tester until after all required reports have been uploaded.

  7. You must read Chapter 5 of the BackpackGearTest Survival Guide, and you must indicate in your test application that you have read it and will follow all instructions and fulfill all requirements.  Failure to do this will cause your application to be rejected automatically.  This document is updated from time to time, so you should review it from time to time.

When you see a test call that appeals to you, it's time to create a test application.  Like an owner review, your test application should be clear and easy to follow.  Your application should be complete, since incomplete applications are discarded with no notice.  The test group will be selected based on parameters specified by the manufacturer and to include a broad spectrum of hiker types, styles, and locations as appropriate for that particular item.  

So, what is involved in a tester application?  Well, your biography, for one, field information for two, and a list of previously completed reports.  The general outline looks like this:

  1. Biographical Information
    Email Address
    City (or region), State, and Country (if outside the U.S.)
    Backpacking Background

  2. Field Information
    Location or locations where you propose to test the gear
    Description of location (elevation, terrain, etc.)
    Typical weather conditions expected (temperature, precipitation, etc.)
    Style (lightweight, tent vs. tarp vs. hammock, etc.)
    Test plan or strategy

  3. Previously Written Reports
    Owner Reviews 
    Completed Tests (if any)
    Current Tests (if any)
    Tests you are Monitoring (if any)

Nothing to it!  Let's look at an example.  Instructional notes are in red.  Let's use the same example we used for our owner review.  You see an application for the Maglite Solitaire, and you would be interested in testing one.  Your application would look something like this:

Please accept my application to test the Maglite Solitaire.  I have read Chapter Five of the BackpackGearTest Survival Guide, version 0802, and I will follow all requirements.  You should include the version number when referring to the Survival Guide.  Always check, because the Survival Guide is updated from time to time.  If it has changed since the last time you read it, you may want to refresh yourself.

Tester Bio

Name:  John Backpacker
Age: 34
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (1.9 Meters)
Weight: 250 Pounds (113 Kilograms)
Email address:
City, State, Country: Barrow, Alaska, U.S.
Date: April 1, 2002

Backpacking Background:  I started backpacking five years ago, mostly taking weekend trips and occasionally going out for a whole week.  I like my pack to be as light as possible, but I don't really consider myself a lightweight backpacker.  I normally hike in hard, mountainous terrain, and I frequently encounter snow and freezing temperatures.

Backpacking Background applicable to this test:  (For specific tests, it may be necessary to add additional biographical information.  For example, it may be necessary to add additional measurement information such as torso, inseam, etc. for applications for other types of gear such as backpacks or clothing.  Including information in both English and Metric units is a good idea, and it is better to include too much information than not enough.  For this particular test, no additional background is needed.)

Field Information:  I intend to test the light on several upcoming meteorite hunting trips.  I will be out for several multi-day trips in and around the Barrow, Alaska area in cold, mountainous terrain.  The average temperature will be 32 Degrees Fahrenheit (0 Degrees Celsius), with an average elevation of 5,000 Feet (1524 Meters) above sea level.  I will be hiking with four season gear, and an average pack weight of 45 Pounds (20 Kilograms)  I plan to test the light under hard, cold conditions and evaluate it for usefulness as a small-task light and as a backup light for my headlamp.  I currently use a Princeton Tec Aurora headlamp, but I don't carry a backup.  I am interested in the Solitaire because it is light, streamlined, and uses the same batteries as my headlamp.  

Previously Written Reports:

You only need to include two reports that are indicative of your reporting abilities and style.  Generally speaking, these should be your last two completed test series.  If you have not yet completed any test series, include your owner reviews.  Failure to include this information will result in your application being rejected automatically.

Since John Backpacker isn't a real person, and doesn't have any reports, I have used my own reports as an example.

Owner Reviews:

(For owner reviews, include a link directly to the owner review file.)

The Packa (A rain jacket with integrated pack cover. - April 5, 2002)

The Frontier Hawk by Cold Steel (April 6, 2002)

Completed Tests:

(For completed tests, include a link to your folder for that test.)

None at this time.

Currently Testing Other Items:

(You must include a list of all items you are currently testing.  URL's (links) are NOT required for these, but I have included them here anyway.)

Travel Medicine Insect Repellents 
< & Safety/Insect Repellents/Travel Medicine/Shane Steinkamp/>

KISKIL Mithril Pack
< Packs & Day Packs/KISKIL Mithril Pack/Shane Steinkamp/>

Explorer Deluxe A-sym by Hennessy Hammock
< Explorer Deluxe A-Sym/Shane Steinkamp/>

Currently Serving as Monitor For:

(While serving as a Test Monitor will not buy you any special or extra consideration, serving as a Test Monitor shows your commitment to BackpackGearTest.  Include links to the main Sub-Category folder for the tests you are Monitoring.)

The Packa 

GoLite Trek

Thank you for your consideration,

John Backpacker.


Check your application carefully, then post it to the BackpackGearTest Yahoo group.  Be sure to include APPLICATION TO TEST (Name of item) in the subject line.  If, after posting it, you realize that you have made a mistake, make corrections and repost the entire application.

If you are selected for a test, the Moderator will contact you off-list for additional information such as your mailing address, product choice options, and sizing.  Respond promptly or a substitute will be chosen.  If you think you are going to be unavailable at the close of the test call, notify the Moderator and give him/her your address, telephone number, and other information you feel appropriate so that if you are selected for a test and you are unavailable you will not miss your chance to test the gear.

The Moderator for each test series will normally try to post a message to the group letting everyone know that the testers have been selected.

Once selected, you will receive a notification letting you know who the Monitor is for the test.  The Monitor is responsible for keeping track of report due dates and helping testers when they need help.  Please communicate with your Monitor, and let him/her know any problems or difficulties you encounter.  When you receive the item, it is customary to notify the list that you have received the item, and that your initial report will be posted shortly.  You have one week to submit the initial report.

Once you begin, you are officially a tester.  You can apply for as many tests as you like, as long as you have the time to do a fair and honest job of testing each item thoroughly and finishing the test series.  Don't be discouraged if you aren't chosen right away or for every test for which you apply.  Keep trying, and welcome aboard.

Return to the Introduction page

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson