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The Backpackgeartest.org
Survival Guide
v. 0609

WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO

You have found "the most comprehensive interactive gear reviews and tests on the planet."  Within this group are outdoors people of all types: ultra-light, mid-weight, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-weight and everything in between.  We truly span the world, with members from many countries.  Our backgrounds are different, but our interest in the outdoors brings us together.  Members of the group variously backpack, hike, bushwalk, tramp, climb, camp, run, snowshoe, and ski.  One way or another we all carry our gear.  We all share a keenness to play with backpacking gear and to share our experiences with the wider backpacking community.

So please read on to learn about the various policies and procedures at BackpackGearTest.org.  At the bottom of the page are links to the Backpackgeartest By-laws, related to this section of the Survival Guide.

GETTING STARTED

You will need to join the email list at Yahoo! Groups.  This will allow you to submit reviews, receive edits and follow the flow of the group.  You will have options at Yahoo as to how you receive your mail.

You will also need to register at:  http://www.backpackgeartest.org.  Once you write your first review you will need to be registered in order to upload it on the site. You do not need to be registered to read the reviews.  

We welcome Owner Reviews from everyone, and will work with you to make sure your review meets our standards.  If you are under 18 however, you will not be able to apply to test gear until after you turn 18.  

OWNER REVIEW PROCESS

You will need to write two Owner Reviews (OR).  The writing of two Owner Reviews is, in part, a learning process.  The Owner Review process helps the new member to understand the standards and processes associated with Backpackgeartest.org.  It also shows that you are willing and able to make a commitment to the group.

The item chosen for your first Owner Review should be a piece of  backpacking equipment that you are very familiar with – keep it simple for your first review.  It's advisable to avoid complex equipment, such as packs, tents, or electronic equipment.  The item you review should be still in production, or not more than two years old.  You should have enough days/nights in the field with the item you choose to write a thorough, detailed report.   If you are unsure if your item is appropriate, email the group and include the name of the item, and a moderator will get back to you. Take the time to read some recent reviews on the http://www.backpackgeartest.org website, as this will help you understand the structure and style we require.  Only submit one review at a time.  Allow your editor to work with you on your first review, before submitting a second review.  It saves editing time in the long run and helps you avoid the same mistakes.  Once you receive the edits for your first review, be sure that you understand why the edits have been made.  Ask your editor if necessary.  The editors are veteran testers who volunteer their time.  They will work with you, helping you to understand the standards that Backpackgeartest.org sets for its reviews and test reports.

Many new testers (and some who have been around a while, but are having trouble) request a mentor to help them get through the process of review writing.  Mentors can answer questions and offer suggestions.  They also can 'pre-edit' reviews and test applications to help insure the new tester is on the right track.   Email: mentor@backpackgeartest.org to request a mentor.

WRITING THE REVIEW

Your review needs to include the following:

Name of item being tested prominently at the top of the page, followed by ‘Owner Review' and the date.

Example:
Smith Company Top of the Line Tent
           Owner Review
           January 1, 2006

The date should be in this form, rather than (for example) 1/1/2006, as the order of month and date are not internationally uniform. Do be sure that you have the equipment name listed in the exact form that is used on the manufacturer website or in their literature. As in the example above, please include in the review title the type of gear under review (in this case, tent).

Personal biographical information:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height – include metric/imperial conversions.
  • Weight – example: 5'7" (1.7 m)  (see above)
  • Email address (need not be clickable) You may use this format: jdoeATyourispDOTcom or jdoe(at)yourisp(dot)com
  • City (or region), state, and country where you live
Backpacking Background:
  • Typical weight carried, packing style (ultra light - heavy weight)
  • pace, area covered, terrain
  • tent, hammock, tarp?
  • Special activities while outdoors
  • 100 word limit – link to "Writing a Brief Biography" 
Product information:
  •   Manufacturer
  •   Year of manufacture *
  •   URL of top level manufacturer web site (not the item at the site, and only use the manufacturer's URL)
  •   Manufacturer's listed measurements, if pertinent to review*
  •   Actual measurements
  •   Listed weight*
  •   Weight as delivered -  Many testers use an accurate kitchen scale or a postal scale.          
  •   Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP from web site). e.g. $250 US *
*If this information isn't available on the manufacturer's website, please indicate that.

You will also need to include a written descriptive of the item you are reviewing.  This would include such information as; texture, color, fit and any features of the item.  Also address any peripheral items included with item (tent-stakes), directions included with product - are they easy to follow and accurate, etc.

Field information:

  •    Locations where the test was conducted
  •    Description of location (mountains, elevation, terrain, etc.) *
  •    Weather conditions (temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.) *
  •    Any other notable information
*Don’t forget to include metric/imperial conversions http://www.backpackgeartest.org/convert.html

General information about the content of the review text:

The body of the review 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, this is where to report whether or not the item lives up to expectations and why or why not. While you may certainly quote portions of the manufacturer's description, the item under review needs to be described in your own words, and any claims made by the manufacturer should be evaluated in the review, and any specialized terms should be explained. Any quotation of the manufacturer description should use terms for proprietary materials exactly as they appear in the literature, although the trade or registration mark symbol need not be used. You should not project how someone else will find the product. Avoid implying that your reader's experience will be the same as yours. Avoid the use of the pronouns "you" and "yours." "I," "me," and "mine" should be used.  The review must be written to reflect your findings while using the item.

Reviews are not required to be positive. Reviews of poorly performing or designed gear are just as important as reviews of outstanding gear. All statements you make, whether positive or negative, must be supported with details. To balance your reviews, consider both the positives and the negatives as you write. Do not compare the item you are reviewing with any other product.  You may say "compared to my past experience with a similar product" or a similar statement, but do not do direct comparisons, with named products.  As a group, we also do not 'rate' items.  Just describe the item, and how it performed for you.

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. These could be features you hate, you merely find annoying, or even just ways that you think the gear could be improved.  This is a recommendation, not a requirement. Use your best judgment as to whether or not to include positives and negatives in your review.

Although photos are not required in Owner Reviews, they are highly desirable, especially in your second review.  If you are unable to take and use your own photo, you may take one from the manufacturer's web site.  Be sure to credit the manufacturer.  Your photo should be clear and show the item being reviewed.  If you describe in your report a structural issue, a photo to illustrate that is a very good way of giving the reader a clearer understanding of the issue.

POSTING THE REVIEW

Things to check for BEFORE submitting:

  • Do you have metric/imperial equivalents for ALL measurements? Use this link to the conversion table:  http://www.backpackgeartest.org/convert.html
  • Make sure you read the directions and abbreviation standards at the bottom of the conversion page.
  • Did you spell and grammar check?
  • Does your manufacturer’s link work?
  • Have you covered all the required areas in your review?
  • Did you use the word ‘you’?  If so, you may be projecting your findings onto others.

How to submit:

  • Email the text version of your review to backpackgeartest@yahoogroups.com
  • Do not send your review as html.  
  • Your subject line should read: 'OWNER REVIEW', <product name>, <your name>
  • You will also upload an HTML version to: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/OWNER%20REVIEWS
  • If you make changes to your review after the first submission, but before an editor picks it up, put ‘REVISED’ in the subject line.
  • Repost/Revise:
    • Repost means you’ve made changes that your editor suggested.
    • Revised means you’ve made changes before being edited.

Having HTML Problems?  If you need help with html issues, send an email, stating the problem to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BGTFileUploadHelp/
There are free programs available that will assist you in html.  One is Nvu, which can be found at: http://nvu.com/. There are Windows and Macintosh based downloads available.  NoteTab Light is another free program, available from http://www.notetab.com.  Microsoft Word does not create clean HTML, and should be avoided.  Many testers write the report in Notepad and then copy it into an html program, such as Nvu, Composer or similar program.  A few testers do hand code.  You may also use the BGT Report Writer, which will help to ensure that your reports are compliant with our format.

EDITS

An editor will read and edit your review.  Look upon your editor (whoever it happens to be), not as an adversary or critic trying to get you to change your *style*, but as someone who knows what we want at BackpackGearTest and can help you become an effective tester.  Watch the list backpackgeartest@yahoogroups.com) for the edits.  It may take two weeks  for your submission to be edited.  Please be sure to monitor the BackpackGearTest list for your edits.  Once you have your edits, make the necessary changes, and send it back to the list with ‘REPOST’ added to the subject line.

UPLOADING TO BACKPACKGEARTEST.ORG

First, you must be registered at http://www.backpackgeartest.org.  Once registered, you will have access to the test folder (where you and your editor can look at your review, before it is uploaded to its permanent folder).

Once you have completed all edits, you will be given the link to your review’s permanent folder.   Upload and check your review - looks good, doesn't it?  Now you can start on review number two!  

You also need to fill out and mail a tester agreement to the address on the agreement. The agreement is found in the files at  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/backpackgeartest  Once you have completed your second owner review and your tester agreement has been accepted you are eligible to apply to test gear! 

NEXT STEPS

You should now join: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/backpackgeartesters/.   On the Backpackgeartesters list, you will be able to read about tests in progress, test reports, test calls, and general management of the list.  You are encouraged to continue to submit Owner Reviews; it helps to develop writing skills, and shows a commitment to the group.

Once you join the Backpackgeartesters group, you will have the opportunity to apply to test gear.  There are specific requirements as to what is addressed in your applications.  Further application information can be found at here.

LINKS TO RELATED GROUPS

LINKS TO RELATED CHAPTERS IN THE BYLAWS



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. 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.


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BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson