This chapter details the minimum biographical, field information, and product
information to be included in all Reports and Reviews. Reports and Reviews
are sometimes inclusively referred to as 'Reports'.
- It is better to include too much information rather than not enough.
- While it is appropriate to give some general descriptions of an item's
setup and use, try to avoid writing reports that are nothing but 'how to'
documents or instruction manuals for the item tested. Readers will
be more interested in the item's performance than in simply reading sales
literature. Do not over-use information from the Manufacturer's
- Remember that you are writing a Test Report, not a Trip Report.
Focus on how the item performed, not on your trip.
- Try to come up with at least three things you really like about the
gear, even if the item does not work out the way you expected. Does it
have features that you like? Conversely, try to come up with at least
three things that you do not like about the gear, even if you really love
it. These could be features
you hate, you merely find annoying, or even just ways that you think the
gear could be improved. Use your best judgment as to whether or not to
include positives and negatives in your review. Many people find
this a useful thinking tool.
- Our readers use our reports to make purchasing decisions. Keep this in
mind when writing Reports. What type of information would you want to know
about the gear if you were in the market for it?
- Write Reports that you would want to read.
- In general, the first reference to the item being tested should spell out the
manufacturer's name and item name. Thereafter, refer to the manufacturer's web
site or other documentation to find out how they reference their own gear. For
example, using 'SUPERfeet Quickfit Everyday custom footbeds' for each reference
would get both tiring to write and to read. The SUPERfeet web site uses both 'Superfeet'
and 'footbeds' so either would be appropriate in gear reports.
- Reports are free form. There are no templates or forms to fill out.
Standardized reports or forms would be very boring after reading the third one
on the same piece of gear. Reports can be anecdotal
or strictly factual. You decide. Your reports must have the required information
in them, but you decide how to present those facts.
- Use of the
BGT Report Writer
can help you write reports that meet the requirements.
- Reports should be well written and easily readable.
- Limit the use of fancy HTML features in Reports.
- Fancy fonts and backgrounds can be annoying and distract from the
content of the Report.
- Be aware that not all fonts look the same with all character sets.
- If a feature, such as bold text, aids in the legibility or
understanding of the review, then use it - but keep in mind that
simpler is often better.
- Name of item being tested or reviewed, and the report date, must appear prominently at the top of the page.
- It is helpful to include a one sentence description either as a
sub-title or very close to the top.
- EXAMPLE: The Kiskill Outdoor Mithril Pack is an innovative, custom-built
- Minimum information to include in the Report or Review body in this
- Personal Biographical Information - The following list represents
the minimum information required for all Reports and Reviews. It may be
necessary to add additional information, such as measurement information
(torso, inseam, etc.), when writing Reports for other types of gear such
as backpacks or pants. The information you include, or fail to
include, reflects on your judgment when being considered for gear
- Full Name
- Email address.
- Does not need to be clickable.
- City (or region), state, country (if outside the US).
- Abbreviations should not be used. Spell out the full names of
cities, regions, states, and countries.
- Backpacking Background
- Short, comprehensive description of your backpacking experience (how long,
where, etc.), and a note on your style (ultralight vs. lightweight vs. heavyweight, tent vs. tarp)
- This means your backpacking background should be no longer than
one paragraph with one or two sentences on experience and one or
two sentences on style. In your experience section please briefly
convey an idea of how long you have been backpacking, maybe some
comment on specific backpacking experience and in what general
areas. In the second part of your paragraph, you should comment on
your backpacking style, i.e., provide an idea of your sleeping
system - (tent vs. hammock. vs. tarp, etc) and your weight
carried, (lightweight, ultralight, heavy).
- This applies to your Backpacking Background which is found in
your Personal Biographical Information section of the Review or
Report. If you feel it is appropriate to give more detail, as it
will be germane to your Review or Report, then this should be done
in the "Field Information" section of your Review or
- You may include a link to a longer biography, or a link to your
home page, or both.
- Product Information - The following list represents the minimum
information required for all Reports and Reviews. It may be necessary to add
additional information, such as measurement or other information (dimensions,
batteries used, etc.), when applicable. The information you include, or
fail to include, reflects on your judgment when being considered for gear
- Year of manufacture
- Clickable URL to manufacturer's home page.
- Do NOT use the product page, only the home page.
- Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).
- If you cannot readily find the MSRP, then state 'MSRP not
- Do not include purchase or sale prices.
- Listed weight and measurements. (If any.)
- Weight and measurements as weighed and measured by you. (If applicable.)
- If you do not have a scale, every Post Office has one that you can
- A photograph of the item.
- This may be either your own photograph, or one taken from the
- If you take the image from the manufacturer's website, be sure to
credit the manufacturer.
- Field Information
- For information about Field Information, please see the relevant
chapters and sections.
Long Term Reports
- The body of the Report may include any additional factual
information you are able to provide about the item being tested. You
may also include your opinions about a piece of gear. If you had
expectations from company advertising or word of mouth, you should
report that and whether or not the item lives up to expectations and
why or why not.
- If you have an improvement to the product to propose, or a problem with the
product that needs solving, give details as to what and why.
- Experiences with the manufacturer
- If you had contact with the manufacturer, please describe that contact;
whether it was a positive or negative experience. If you have no contact
with the manufacturer, then skip this section.
- We are interested both in
companies that stand behind their gear and those that do not.
- If you had problems with the
manufacturer, tell us briefly about the experience. Tell us when you contacted them, who
you spoke with, and what was said by both parties. If they refused to back their
product, we want to know.
- If a manufacturer
went that extra mile for you, tell us about it.
- You will be asked by manufacturers and other testers to back up your claims, so be ready to do so. Better yet,
include it in your report.
- Including information in both Imperial and Metric units is required,
- BackpackGearTest.org provides a handy Converter.
- The converter provides standard abbreviations and rules. You
are responsible for following the standards.
- Grammatical Standards
- Use a spell checker and proof your reports for correctly spelled, but
incorrectly used words.
- Use proper paragraph structure and white spacing to make
your reports easy to read.
- Proofread your reports for any other problems such as
grammatical errors, incomplete phrases, and missing information.
- If possible,
have someone else proofread it too.
- Remember that your Reports and Reviews are a required part of your
application to test gear. They demonstrate your writing ability,
which is one of the most important qualifications for gear testing
- For further information about Grammatical Standards, see
Editing and Editing Guidelines.
- At least one photograph of the item is encouraged for Owner Reviews, and
required for Initial Reports.
- Additional photographs may be included in your Reports.
- For more
information about including photographs, please see
- Reports and Reviews are not required to be positive.
- Reports and Reviews of poorly performing or
designed gear are just as important as Reports and Reviews of outstanding gear.
statements you make, whether positive or negative must be supported with
details. To balance your Reports and Reviews, consider both the positives and the negatives
of the item in question.
- Report only on your experiences. Do not project future performance
based on supposition.
- Example: If a seam has split, and others have fraying threads, then
you can reasonably report that other seams might split in the
future. If, however, no seams have split, then you should not
surmise in your report that they are likely too; just report that the
some threads have frayed.
- Review the gear, not the retailer.
- This mostly applies to Owner Reviews.
- Except in cases where the retailer is the
manufacturer, or the retailer plays a major role in the acquisition of the item
such as when a footbed needs custom fitting, the item should be reviewed, not
your experience with the retailer.
- Things that you should not include in your Report:
- Purchase price or sale price. (MSRP is required, if
- Specific retailer information, unless that retailer is also the
- Material from other sources, unless that material is critical
to the report and fully attributed to the source.
- Product comparisons.
- BackpackGearTest.org is not a 'shoot out' forum.
- The only exceptions to this rule are comparisons of the same
item from one product year to the next, or brief comparisons of like
items from the same manufacturer.
- If a manufacturer releases an new model or version, and you own
the old model or version, you can briefly explain the changes and/or
new features of the item, and how you like the change.
- If an item is part of a product line, you may explain where the
item stands within that product line, and what the features or
differences are between the items in the product line.
- EXAMPLE: Some GPS manufacturers release different versions of
the same model and call them Model 100, Model 200, Model 300, etc.
If you are testing model 200, you could explain what features it
includes beyond the Model 100, and what features it does not have
that the Model 300 does. You should, in no case, make any
value judgment on features your model does not have.
- Grading or rating systems.
- BackpackGearTest.org does not give 'stars' or 'recommendation
points' of any kind. You may state that you recommend an
item, or don't recommend an item, but such a statement is purely
at your discretion.
- If you would or would not purchase the item, explain why in the
- Any external link to a retail site, unless approved by the
- Any abbreviated link, redirected link, or abbreviated link service
such as TinyURL.
- Trademark and Copyright symbols are not required or encouraged.
- External links should be kept to a minimum.
- External links determined to be unwanted by the Moderators must be
- Common courtesy is required at all times.
- Reviews with inappropriate
content will be deleted and the author of such a review may be banned from the group.
- Inappropriate content is anything not germane to the review process,
including vulgarity, political or religious statements, etc.
- BackpackGearTest.org is a 'family' site, and reports should be
appropriate for all ages.
There are some mistakes that are very common in reports. By checking
for these common mistakes, you will save both yourself and the Editors some
time. Here is a quick checklist that you can review to help you look for
them. (Thanks to Jim Hatch and Rick Allnut.)
- Make sure that your report is consistent with the requirements found in
- Check to see that you've used standard unit abbreviations for
- You can find them at the bottom of the convert utility here:
http://www.backpackgeartest.org/convert.html although you may need to
scroll down to see it. The table is titled "Table of Unit Equivalencies".
- Be consistent in your use of the comma separator in measurements. We don't
require them for 4 digit numbers but we do want you to be consistent. So if
you use them (e.g. 2,000) then use them everywhere in the review. For 5 digit
(or more) numbers, always use the thousands separator.
- Include metric & imperial measurements, weights, or distances.
- It doesn't matter which one you use as the primary one, but the other
needs to follow each measurement/weight/distance.
- You can find a handy conversion utility at:
- Keep the precision realistic --- yes, 72 F is 22.22 C but 22 C is close
enough since most of us don't use digital thermometers to check the
temperature outside (or micrometers to measure things).
- Include the date of the review just below the title.
- Write the report in the first person (me, mine, I). BackpackGearTest.org and its readers
care about you & what you did & what you feel and think.
- This is counter to how most of us were taught to write (remember the
teachers stressing 3rd person point of view?) but that's what our readers
want. You've used the gear; now they want to know about it from your point
- Avoid the use of "you", "yours", "you'll", "you're" or any other
- It is very hard (although not impossible) to project your experiences,
thoughts and concerns if you don't use these words.
- Projection is bad because you really can't know what someone else is
going to think/feel/experience.
- The word it's, is the contraction of "it is" and is not the possessive
form (which is "its"). When you re-read your review, replace every it's with
"it is" in your head and see if it still makes sense. If not, change it to the
- Make sure you've used the item for its intended purpose.
- Don't just report on your use of a winter bag in summer or a backpack
for day trips.
- Those experiences can add to a review but you should have experience
using the product as it was designed & marketed.
- More than one experience should be included.
- Report on what you know.
- Be prepared to back up every claim you make (whether "it's waterproof"
or "it leaks") from your experience.
- Saying "I was worried it might leak so I tested it by filling it with
water and found water pouring out of all the seams" is much more appropriate
than "I think it's going to leak if it ever gets wet."
- Proofread more than once! You'll be amazed what a second read through will
- Please run a spell checker before posting your review. If not a spell
checker, then a paper dictionary or even
http://www.dictionary.com are resources that will be helpful.
- Trademarks or brand names should be spelled as the manufacturer spells
them so it's Therm-a-Rest and not Therm-a-rest. The same is true of Coolmax,
Mylar, Polartec, etc.