APPENDIX 4 - Test Calls, Test Applications, Newbie Rule
- The Newbie Rule Explained
- Strategy and the Selection Process
- A. General Discussion - Successful Test
Applications - Taken from the Group and reproduced here for reference. -
- B. General Discussion - On Applications & Test
Plans - Taken from the Group and reproduced here for reference. - August,
- POLICY - Travel Plans in Applications
- POLICY - Copying Applications
This section details the Policy known as the Newbie Rule.
A. Policy Statement - Shane Steinkamp, BGT Moderator
In order to be a tester, you must complete two owner reviews, successfully
submit them through the editing process, and post them to the website. You must
also fill out and send in the tester agreement. Once you meet those criteria,
you can apply to test gear. At this stage of the game, you are considered a
'Newbie' tester until you complete your first test series - three reports over
four months. Once you complete your first test series, you are considered to
have 'graduated' and are now a 'Veteran'.
During the Newbie stage, you are limited to one test series, with some
exceptions. Once you graduate, you can be selected for multiple tests.
The Newbie period is a trial period designed to protect both
BackpackGearTest.org and the
Newbies. BackpackGearTest.org needs to know that a tester is with us for the long term, and
testing multiple items as a new tester can be overwhelming at times. We don't
want to loose anyone through short term burnout. Your first test series is also
going to set the mark for how much and what kinds of gear you might be selected
for, so it is in your interest to do a very good job with that first series
since it is the benchmark by which you will be judged for gear selection until
you have more reports done. Having too many tests out at once may affect how
well you do.
There are some exceptions to this rule, and so you should apply for as much gear
as you like even during the Newbie period. Sometimes the Moderators will select
a Newbie for more than one test based on performance, demographics, or
desperation. Some items, like the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad I just released, are
noted as 'freebies for newbies'. This means that the Newbie rule does not apply
to this item, and Newbies can be selected regardless of another test. Freebie
items are usually simpler, easier, and cheaper items to test - but your
participation in the Freebie tests, which some people see as less desirable,
will be noted by the Test Moderators in a positive light. I, personally, also
find such items MUCH more fun to test. Testing things like packs, shelters, and
sleeping bags - and writing good reports for them - is very often WORK.
In the beginning, the Newbie Rule seems rather hard to get along with.
months seems like a long time. As some of the other Veterans will tell you,
though, their graduation dates did eventually come, and suddenly they found
themselves with more gear to test than they could shake a Leki at. (Does the
Nuts and Wheelos Gang care to comment? Go ahead, say somthin' Jim.) Testing gear
is just like hiking. Only the people that stay on the trail and keep walking get
to see the coolest sights and have the coolest experiences. Griping gets you
nowhere, while hard work wins every time. Your graduation day will come.
The Editors, Test Moderators, Monitors, Mentors, and a large body of testers are
all available to assist you through this process.
I hope that this clarification is helpful. If you have any questions, please
feel free to ask them on BGTWeb.
Shane Steinkamp BGT Moderator
B. Additional Comment - Jim Sabiston, BGT Tester (at
the time of writing. Jim is now a BGT Moderator.)
As Shane implied, I was part of a new group of testers that Shane and company
took a chance on a while back. Our first test was the Deuter Futura 32 day pack.
(An excellent item, by the way - check out the reviews!). A fairly high profile
product sent to a bunch of newbies. As I recall, Shane sweated a bit thru that
one, but it turned out all right.
Four months *did* seem like a long time, but once the process began it went very
quickly. Once the pack arrived, it was examined more closely than any piece of
gear I've ever had which lead to the IR. The end of the first week just rushed
up on me. After that, planning and actually going on the various outings
made the next two months fly by and resulted in the Field Report. The next four
months were spent rounding out my experience with the pack and experimenting
with its limits, great fun. It all passed very quickly. It didn't seem
long until the Long Term Report was posted and I waited for the final edit!
Since then, the list of gear I've tested is making a noticeable addition to the
pile in my gear room! It has ALL been fun and interesting.
One additional note: While testing your first item, you can fill some of the
time posting additional Owner Reviews. This will give you more writing practice
and is great for brownie points (and name recognition) when the good gear comes
up and you are a veteran.
You gotta be in it to win it! Get writing!
C. Additional Comment - Jerry Goller, BGT Chief
There is no question that the newbie rule draws things out. On purpose. We
used to lose more gear than I was willing to accept. Of the various plans we
came up with to stop it, the "two Owner Reviews and one complete test series"
was the most generally accepted one. It seems to be working. I've very reluctant
to fix something that is working. We're not checking for volume, but for length
of commitment. We'll look at it, but don't get your hopes up.
BackpackGearTest.org isn't going
anywhere. It will be here next season with more great gear. All you have to do
is also be here....... ;o) Jerry
D. Questions and Answers - Various. Answers by
Shane Steinkamp, BGT Moderator
1. Are we saying that a newbie, or a 1-2 test participant who doesn't
post except for their tests, won't qualify on the basis of being "not
No. So long as they meet the minimum requirements, they will be fairly
considered. If it comes down to a 'tie' between two testers then commitment may
(read 'probably will') come into play. The selection process is EXTREMELY
difficult. The more information you give us to make our selections, the better
the process will be for everyone.
2. I thought newbies had a snowball's chance in hell, but still a
chance, at high priced gear.
They do have a chance - but their reports and applications have to be above average,
and they have to swear on the religious test of their choice that they will
complete the test. The sad truth is that several people have 'grabbed the gear
and ran'. We have to be cautious.
3. I didn't think the wording so strong (e.g. requirement) to where
they shouldn't even bother applying.
They should apply, but they should also understand their chances and adjust
their expectations accordingly. With some gear, and especially with expensive
gear, we are looking for people with dependable track records. High ticket
items, and high demand items are sometimes the rewards for commitment and
consistency. Newbies just don't have that yet - but it's not hard to develop.
Remember that we TRY to put at least one new tester into each test, and
that often puts new testers ahead of the pack when not too many of them apply.
Sometimes, though, that's hard to do for a number of reasons, as noted above.
But, they SHOULD apply! Reason #1 is that we get to see their applications
and comment on them before they get too far along in the process. If they wait
to post an application on THE item that they MUST have, it's too late to do
that. Reason #2 is that on one recent test call I had two newbie testers who
were just perfect. I had to pick one over the other. If I run a similar test in
the future, the newbie tester I rejected the first time will have an extra
'point' in my book for that test.
None of the newbies should have any problem with any of this. At one time we
were ALL newbies. I was a newbie once too, and I'm sure the Moderators said,
"No way is Shane going to get that. At least not yet."
Sometimes being a 'long-timer' works against you. Sometimes being a Moderator
works against you. I'd liked to have had one of the Grasshopper Child Carriers.
I couldn't justify testing one, though, because all the other applications were
really good and I felt better about filling the test with other applicants. It's
a pretty hard business when you've just rejected YOURSELF!
Maybe next time...
Not all of this is fun and games... ;)
This section is taken from messages on the BackpackGearTest Yahoo! Group
and provides some insight on successful test applications.
A. General Discussion - Successful Test Applications -
Taken from the Group and reproduced here for reference. - February 2003
1. Ron Martino, BGT Moderator at the time of writing.
I've run several test calls recently, and have noticed some variation in both
the reviews and the applications submitted by folks. This has been touched on
before, but it doesn't hurt to repeat it.
When you apply, be sure to double-check your application. Is everything
there? Are there special concerns or interests mentioned in the test call? Have
you addressed them? How's your spelling and grammar? (If you show that you are
careless over details in your application, I'll wonder how your reports will
be.) How's your testing strategy? Is it essentially 'I'll take it into the woods
with me', or have you thought about some interesting ways to put the gear
through its paces? We aren't expecting the equivalent of a thru-hike, but it's
nice to know the stuff will actually get some meaningful use.
You need to include links to at least two reviews or test reports you have
already written. Look at them. Compare them to the ones currently being
submitted by other folks. How do they compare? If all of your reviews were
written under older, simpler rules and you don't have anything current, write an
owner review or two. We always need more. It doesn't have to be a major
undertaking, but it should be /complete/. These days it's unlikely anything will
be posted without appropriate links, date, bio information and such, but how's
the review of the item itself? Have you addressed all aspects of the piece of
gear, or did you just toss something off in order to meet the minimum
There's certain folks on the list who consistently turn out good reviews and
good applications. They end up getting to test lots of gear. It's also possible
that there are some members who don't bother. They in turn may not get to test
anything, no matter how often they apply. I hope that won't be the case, but it
could happen. It's up to the individual.
I don't mean to talk down to anyone here. I hope this doesn't come across
that way. But I do see differences in the applications I receive, and those
differences translate into whether or not I end up selecting someone. I want to
give everyone a chance to get some of the fun stuff we're being allowed to play
with. But I can't do so if their reviews don't live up to our standards. We have
a responsibility to the manufacturers to do our best, and those who do will be
rewarded for it.
2. Clifford 'Rocky' Haynes, BGT Tester (and Charter Member!)
Ron I under stand that you didn't intent to offend anyone, and I'm not trying
to bust your chops. "But"; been with BackpackGearTest.org since before the first Hennessey tester
call, and I've heard this before and from other folks. I understand the point
you are trying to make, but weather or not folks get gear, or submit good
applications is "It's up to the individual." There is a third group of folks
that work very hard to write the best application and reviews that they can, but
don't often get selected for popular gear or gear that they really would like to
test. First there are the standard selection profile- topography, male / female
mix, newbe / old-timer mix, and that type stuff. We are growing more moderators
and repeat monitors, the preference they rightfully receive effects the
weighting of selections. All of these issues affect the selection before the
quality of the qualified application becomes an issue.
Not every one has the same education, intelligence (LOL Shane's IQ's higher than
mine), or the writing ability. We have feed back in the review writing process
the "Edit". A really poorly written report might start with and edit suggesting
reading the survival guide, but we seldom totally reject a review. We are about
to embark on a mentoring program to improve reports, but we have no feedback
from applications other than success in selection.
What I'm trying to get at is weather intentional or unintentional if we lump
folks into two groups, folks that do there best and do it well, and people that
don't care or try; we could easily be discouraging folks that are trying very
hard to write the best reviews they can. If out goal is to be a service to folks
that are looking for gear, and to have an influence in producing quality gear we
need to be able to review lots of gear. Our excellent editors insure we have
quality reviews. So that isn't an issue. But we still need folks that are
willing to write owner reviews and reviews on the less desirable gear. Often
those people are going to be the folks that are less skilled than the folks
reviewing the desirable gear. Perhaps we have grown to the point where we don't
need or want folks that don't have the skills but want to try. I doubt that is
the case, especially considering we are starting a mentoring program.
Anyway the short of it:: LOL - I would rather be told I'm stupid, than I am
lazy. : )
2. David Anderson, BGT Moderator
Our goal is to move everyone up to the highest stage possible. You are right,
that there are a lot of things that we consider when selecting the testers, but
at least with the test calls that I run, it goes something like this.
1. remove applicants that do not meet minimum requirements, really screwed up on
their applications, or have lousy reviews.
2. try to narrow it down by demographics.
3. judge by the best applications and reviews within those demographic
categories. Balance that with who deserves gear, but hasn't gotten much lately.
You are absolutely correct. Those demographics can be a killer, especially for
those of us that are fat, male and live in an area where there are other
For the sake of the newbies here, I will say that we try to get one newbie in to
each test. But the definition of newbie does depend on the test. First time
testers are not likely to get a $400 tent or sleeping bag. But if they do a good
job on their first test, they might get the newbie slot on that gear, or it
might take a couple more tests for that to happen.
We also like to make sure that we get women testers in every appropriate test.
For a long time this meant that the women got a lot higher percentage of the
gear that they applied for. But now, it looks like we have a lot more women
coming in. They may finally have some competition :-)
Overseas testers also face a few extra hurdles. Some manufacturers don't want to
ship overseas. We try to change their minds and give them some options that
might work for them. But even if they agree, we generally need to limit it to
one tester unless the item is already in full production and in the hands of
their overseas distributors already. We also hope that with the reversed seasons
we can interest US manufacturers in testing in the southern hemisphere to have
their reports out in time for "the season" up here. We are also open to the
possibility of running tests of Australian or European gear where the overseas
tester would actually be in the US. We Will have to work our way into all these
options. So far, we have been able to get enough of the gear overseas to keep
the testers fairly happy.
As for the discrimination against us big fat boys, all we can do is keep
reminding the manufacturers that we are out here. There is a lot more gear
coming out for us big guys, and a lot of it is from manufacturers that we have
lined up. We probably aren't going to get to start with their big guy gear, but
it will eventually happen. They want their big sellers reviewed first.
Finally, we will be running another one of those test calls like we did last
spring, where we offered a critique of the applications as they come in. This
will hopefully help the newbies see what is expected of them. This will also be
a part of the mentoring program once Shane gets it going.
As for the gear that goes to the moderators, repeat monitors, top testers, and
various other old-timers. There is going to be a lot of new old-timer slots
available. We have even more of the popular items than ever before. Tents,
hammocks, sleeping bags, packs, trekking poles and lights. Everyone will get a
chance to work their way up. Even with the demographic limitations, everyone who
is willing to put in the effort to do a good job will get to test gear.
Hopefully this all makes sense, as I'm writing it as 3 a.m. is closing in on me.
3. Andy Mytys - BGT Tester
First... no gear should be viewed as "less desirable". These items you refer
to should be viewed as a "challenge". Go take a look at my recent flask, mitten,
and bucket reviews (upload still pending, but posted yesterday) for an example
of "less desirable" gear with fleshed-out, thought provoking, reviews. It can be
(Note, Andy is here referring to
post here, where Rocky makes the statements below.
Rocky's text is in dark blue.)
For those that want the point quickly, it's "When I feel that I'm no longer
participating, I just write an owner review."
For those that just get posts via mail, here's the text in question:
I consider myself a successful applicant. My Strategy is simple.
1. I don't write well, can't spell, and type with one finger.
2. I don't fit the manufacturers hiker profile. Most manufacturers aren't
interested in selling gear to fat people.
3. I'm not a real likeable kinda guy. On more than one occasion I have tried to
make a constructive comment, and had the comment seen as criticism, and
dismissed as such.
OK I should have made my point, I'm certainly not the most chosen applicant.
But since my interest is to participate in the list, it's up to me to find a
way. When I feel that I'm no longer participating, I just write an owner review.
I don't have to compete with the better report / application writers, I just
have to write the best report I am capable of and get it good enough to be
accepted. I didn't lower the bar so much on the quality of the report, I just
avoided the competition, for the opportunity to write the report.
The other key to my success as a test applicant, is that I have applied for less
popular test items ( provided I felt that I could give it a good test).
My chances are a lot better to be chosen if there are only a couple of
applicants for each piece of gear. Maybe I don't measure up when there are 6 or
8 applicants for each piece of gear, but by going for the less popular I get to
I have been fortunate to get some really good stuff, that lots of folks missed
out on. For example if I hadn't applied for the SuperFeet Quick Fit test, I'd be
sitting home tomorrow nursing a leg injury instead of hiking.
Sure, I wont summit and I'll be on crutches, but the QuickFits have reduced the
pain to the point that I can go. The Doctor has taken pictures and given his
usual it's going to hurt till it stops but you can't hurt it by using it.
Another piece of gear has been great fun to test, I never would have considered
it for backpacking, but I use it quite often. This particular piece of gear
opened an opportunity for me to Beta Test a piece of gear, that as far as I am
concerned is the best piece of backpacking gear I have come across since my
Hennessy Hammock (which I purchased so I could participate in testing as an
owner). Had this piece of Beta gear been in production and been tested on the
list, it would have been popular enough that I would not have had a chance to
test it. Frankly even though the reviews would have been good, I don't know that
I would have bought one to try. It didn't fit my backpacking style. Well it's
changed my style, and made my pack lighter. Now I'm hoping it goes into
production soon so I can buy one for every one in my family.
The bottom line is, a successful applicant, isn't necessarily the one that
collects the most tents and backpacks. The true measure of success as an
applicant / tester, is the value placed on your report by the reader ( the end
user). If you have honestly tried to do your best on a report, weather be an
owner review or a test item, and you someday receive a note of appreciation from
a non-list reader, that note of appreciation will say more, to you, for your
success, than being chosen as one of the 4 people to receive a backpack sixty
people applied for.
4. Shane Steinkamp - BGT Moderator
> There is a third group of folks that work very hard to write the best
application and reviews that they can,
> but don't often get selected for popular gear or gear that they really would
like to test.
True. There are also people who will NEVER actually get to participate in a
test. I think that number is pretty low, however...
> First there are the standard selection profile- topography, male / female mix,
newbe / old-timer mix, and that type stuff.
> We are growing more moderators and repeat monitors, the preference they
rightfully receive effects the weighting of
> selections. All of these issues affect the selection before the quality of the
qualified application becomes an issue.
All true. However, I slightly disagree with the last sentence. Someone could be
a great monitor, and still submit poor reviews. They won't get gear...
> Not every one has the same education, intelligence (LOL Shane's IQ's higha
than mine), or the writing ability.
Perhaps, but IQ has little to do with it sometimes... I've applied for gear that
I haven't gotten...
> We have feed back in the review writing process the "Edit". A really poorly
written report might start with
> and edit suggesting reading the survival guide, but we seldom totally reject a
review. We are about to embark
> on a mentoring program to improve reports, but we have no feedback from
applications other than success in selection.
I think that if I saw a really poorly written application from someone who was
trying hard, I would try to work one-on-one with them to improve it. They might
still not get selected, but they'll get help.
> What I'm trying to get at is - whether intentional or unintentional - if we
lump folks into two groups,
> folks that do there best and do it well, and people that don't care or try; we
could easily be discouraging
> folks that are trying very hard to write the best reviews they can. ...
Perhaps we have grown to the point
> where we don't need or want folks that don't have the skills but want to try.
I doubt that is the case,
> especially considering we are starting a mentoring program.
I want to address this, because I think it's a very valid point. To sum it up,
there are people who get rejected - and rejected a lot. There is no recourse for
these people now, except to throw themselves on the mercy of the Test Moderators
and try to get some help.
The Apprentice Program does address this. People who get frustrated can say,
"I've applied ten times and never gotten gear! What's going on!?" They can ask
for a Mentor. That person will work with them OFF LIST, ONE-ON-ONE and be able
to tell them, as the case may be, "Well, both of your owner reviews suck. Let's
work to make them better, and lets do one or two more to make sure you have the
knack." After that, they can work together on the application, ironing out any
rough spots. Even after they are selected for a test, their Mentor is still with
them, checking their reports and making suggestions. Help is never more than an
The PROBLEM with it is this: Once all of the reports are perfect, all of the
applications are perfect, and all of everything is perfect, then what? All the
same things that you said apply...
In the end, a Test Moderator is faced with a very real challenge - and sometimes
an ethical dilemma. I had a problem running the RailRiders Test Call. Andy and
Dennis had the same demographics. They write similar reports. They had similar
applications. They have both received similar amounts of gear from the list
recently. I like both of them. So, what to do? I could have looked at both
applications and counted mistakes like commas out of place, but I didn't.
Instead, I flipped a coin. Andy lost. Was it a big loss? No, because Andy is
very involved. I won't hurt his feelings, and he'll keep on keeping on. He'll
keep applying for all kinds of things and he'll get gear for a number of
The BIGGEST reason, however is that he IS active, and he DOES apply.
That's the biggest secret of all: YOU CAN'T GET GEAR IF YOU DON'T APPLY! I've
been here awhile (not as long as Rocky), and I see the same people apply over
and over again. I've also seen new people come in, fill out their owner reviews,
qualify, make ONE application, and then BITCH and LEAVE when they didn't get
selected. That's just not the way the game is played...
In the end,
BackpackGearTest.org is not about the gear. If I never get another piece of gear from
the list so long as I live, I will still be here participating if my life
circumstances allow. Why? Because BackpackGearTest.org is important to me for a number of
reasons. One, I like you people. Two, I think that what we do here is important
in a very real way. It improves the chances that people will select gear that is
right for them. It also lets people make educated decisions about gear that they
may one day depend on for their very LIFE. I really don't want to find out that
a sleeping bag isn't worth it's rating by freezing to death in a blizzard... If
BackpackGearTest.org was just about gear, I'd leave...
> Anyway the short of it:: LOL - I would rather be told I'm stupid, than I am
lazy. : )
Nope, neither. In any case, the mentoring program will be able to fix IGNORANCE.
LAZY we can work with to a degree. STUPID won't last long anyway. They'll go get
themselves killed off a cliff or eaten by marmots...
Your points are well made and well taken Rocky.
B. General Discussion -
On Applications & Test Plans -
Taken from the Group and reproduced here for reference. - August, 2003
1. Shane Steinkamp - BGT Moderator
> What we don't want to turn this into is an exercise in "one-upmanship"
where you read all the applications,
> glean everyone else's ideas, then tack on a few new ones and think that yours
The Mods would definitely catch onto something like that.
> The challenge is to have your app in first, and be brilliant.
I want to make a clarification for the general benefit of the membership.
Quality is often more important than quantity. Make no mistake: Testers are in
competition with one another in the application process.
That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that your application is in competition
with another application - or that there needs to be any kind of insane
It is enough for your test application to stand solidly on its own, and in like
manner, your test plan should stand solidly on its own. It isn't necessary to
try to pre-write the initial report, or to list in great and minute detail every
aspect of your testing. "I will count the teeth per inch of the zipper to make
sure that it is within specification.", is certainly going way too far.
You shouldn't concern yourself overly with other people's applications and test
plans. In the end, they may have nothing to do with your circumstances. I get
lots of rain in my area, and you may get none - so your test plan won't include
rain. Mine won't include desert conditions.
What *I* look for in a test plan is an awareness of what the product is, some
possible limitations to test, and a plan that will let me know what kind of
field experience a tester will get with the item.
Using a tent on day hikes and setting it up in your back yard for a couple of
nights is NOT an adequate plan, for example.
When I'm selecting testers, I always also look at reports. I will always want to
have at least one tester who is going to go into the minutia of the item - like
my reports do - but I am also going to pick people who do NOT write those kinds
of reports - people who focus more on how it 'feels' and how it 'flies'.
In the end, everybody should be the best tester he or she is - and stick with
that. I don't expect some people to break out a caliper and check the OD, ID,
and wall thickness of tent poles, but there are others that I do.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that nobody should be trying to out-do anyone
else as far as test applications or reports go. Yes, you should try to reach for
a high level of quality and thoroughness; but each person is going to have a
different level of achievement in that regard. Be the tester YOU are, don't try
to out do anybody - because when it comes to the tester selection process, you
might be out doing yourself. ;)
Not to pick on anybody, but Fuzzy's application for the Snugpak is exactly what
I'm looking for. It covers the bases, is solid in its plan, and lets me know
exactly the kind of use I can expect the bag to get. Without looking at all the
minutia of grammar, spelling, and conversions, it's a good solid report. Just
what I expect from Fuzzy. That doesn't mean that he will automatically get
Remember; we aren't selecting applications, we're selecting testers. While the
application is very important to the process, all of your previous reports - and
sometimes previous applications - come into play as well.
2. Comment from Tester, and follow up by Shane Steinkamp - BGT Moderator
> You'll find lots of different styles and viewpoints represented, and lots
> here willing to give feedback, to help you develop your own unique testing
style and perspective.
And that is, in the end, the real goal. You've really nailed it Steve. If
everyone generates the same reports, then it's just as well to test one item. We
want the differences. I think it's really interesting, for instance, looking at
the recent Child Carrier tests. I love mine, and won't ever use a stroller
again. Someone else, on the other hand, had the opposite reaction. Our value as
a group lies in large part in the verbalization of the differences as useful
information that others can use to make decisions.
3. Additional Commentary - Jim Hatch - BGT Moderator
Maybe this deserves some more detailed treatment in the survival guide.
(Note: Here it is! Ta-da!) I think there are competing issues at
work here. First, for newbies, without a series (or multiple series) of tests &
reports behind them, the application is going to be their major foot forward as
it were in terms of their writing. And they're going to be looking at it as a
competition to get the test(s) that give them the opportunity to get out of
I don't believe the ORs give as much opportunity since they're an after-the-fact
review of the gear. I know when I write an OR I try to identify what I was
looking for in the general gear type (stove, light, knife, etc.) and why I chose
the specific piece of gear I bought. Then I report on whether it met those
criteria or not & whether I'm still using it and would buy it again. The test
plan comes after the choice not before.
For BackpackGearTest.org gear I approach it from a more methodical engineering perspective (I'm
not sure if engineering makes you anal retentive or if you need to be anal
retentive to study engineering).
First, I print out the product info from the company's website and highlight all
of the product features & performance claims. I then create test cases
(scenarios) to validate or refute the company's claims.
Then I take a look at environmental factors - winter gear should be tested with
gloves because lots of things work ok with bare fingers but not gloves, in
extreme temperatures cause stuff doesn't always work at the extremes of temp
(either hot or cold), in wet...etc. etc. Summer gear is similar in that there is
the effect of sun, high temps, high or low humidity, increased water needs, etc.
With the environmental tests identified, I look for personal-specific things.
For instance, as a hammocker, there are unique demands placed on pads, bags,
etc. As a lightweight, low-volume backpacker I look at the impact the gear has
on a 1lb pack, what's it going to do to my total weight/pack volume, what
features would make it worth carrying the extra weight/volume (I'm starting to
focus more on volume lately now that I've got weight down to a reasonable level
-- at least that's what I told my wife to justify the god-awful price I paid for
an Arc Alpinist rather than be happy with the warm & toasty but bulky bag I
already had). What I'm looking for with these features/tests is how the gear
works in my gear system.
Then I check out any other applications that have already been submitted. There may be
things in other ones that I think should be part of a comprehensive test. There
will be things that I've already got covered (after all there are just so many
things to do with a bag or a pack). There will be things other people think are
important or matter due to their system that doesn't matter to me (like people
who camp in ice caves or the desert or try to use towels as loin cloths -
sometimes other people's ideas just seem silly to me 'cause no one looking at
BackpackGearTest.org is really going to do the same...extreme creativity may be called for on a
Wechsler test but isn't always a good thing in the real world).
Then I usually look for a humorous perspective on the gear -- we're not trying
to avert war or something here, it is only gear testing after all. I also look
for some feature that would "require" me to buy a new toy so I can rationalize
the purchase (my wife claims I only do projects around the house that I need a
new tool for...same thing here). It's just part of what I get out of the test. I
don't *need* a Kestrel, but now I *want* one and I'm going to find a reason I
*have* to buy one.
When I'm done, I have a detailed understanding of how I'm going to approach a
test, have a good sense that what I've got planned will achieve the objective
(validating or refuting the company's claims and my preconceptions), and a plan
I can execute from the day the stuff hits the mailbox. At the end of the test I
can go back (as I'm now doing with the Moonlite) to check to see if I covered
everything I intended or if I missed anything. It helps keep me from forgetting
something "in the heat of testing". The test plan becomes my personal checklist.
Maybe that's more detail than the Mods want, but I think it's a valid approach.
If you guys don't want to see all that, I would still approach it the same way
(a "private" app if you will) and do a consolidated version for the official
app. Some additional guidance in the official doc would help point me & other
newbies in the right direction vis-a-vis test mod's expectations.
4. Additional Commentary - Andy Mytys - BGT Tester
[In my opinion]...[N]ewbies would be far ahead by having a basic application
and six solid owner reviews posted, than just two ORs and a bitch'n app.
> I know when I write an OR, I try to identify what I was looking for in the
> gear type (stove, light, knife, etc.) and why I chose the specific piece of
gear I bought.
I don't do this at all, as I'm a rather impulsive shopper. Fortunately for me, I
do know good gear when I see it, and I fiddle with whatever I buy at home before
taking it out into the field. Needless to say, there are a lot of returns in my
house. Returns are usually because of fit/comfort, and have nothing to do with
quality. Why do I buy gear? Usually, because I needed it, it looked cool, or it
shaved a few ounces. I do have a bag fetish - bags I buy just out of the
coolness factor, which is always about compartment design and placement.
> Then I report on whether it met those criteria or not & whether I'm still
using it and would buy it again.
I don't comment if I would buy again or not... I just write my experience, and
let the reader decide.
In my applications, I don't think of test cases for the individual product as much as
imagine where I might be in the next four months, how I would use the product,
what challenges I might run into (e.g. wearing gloves), then make the list. I
also look at the website, but only to see if there are any unique product
features. I don't think "how can I test that feature," in terms of wanting to
come up with all the possible test scenarios (like an engineer would). Rather, I
ask myself how the features would integrate into my style of hiking, then I list
the questions I have, as to how I will use the feature and what question I want
to answer as a result, in my app.
There's no reason to be an engineer, and list ALL COMBINATIONS of possible uses.
That's why we have multiple testers. Just integrate it into your usual routine,
and report on it. Sometimes, your routine will change due to the product's
performance. You'll comment on that as well.
I made the "loin cloth" comment in my app. Yes, it was silly. If you looked at
the manufacturer's website for that towel, they listed a lot of outlandish uses.
I think that, when a manufacturer goes out of their way to claim how a product
is used, we should try to test as many of those claims as possible... not only
test the product in our own field uses. That's the one exception for me. Now, as
I go off trail, in places where there's nobody for MILES, I've got no modesty
issues to consider.
I think detail in a test plan is a good thing. It can't hurt your app, that's
for sure. In my case, I'm have a pretty high success rate in my applications. I don't
apply for too much "popular" gear, as I don't NEED it personally. I like to test
gear that's multi-use, and that's usually the small stuff nobody else wants. I
look at myself as a BackpackGearTest.org resource, and if an existing test has lots of good
I'd be wasting myself as a resource if I got selected, IMO.
I have nothing against thesis applications. I printed out my HighGear Axis Watch app - 7
pages long. I'm just saying that they are not required. They are simply a
reflect of someone's style. With that in mind, if any applicant is trying to
outdo the application of another, by simply making their app longer or more
detailed, it's not worth it. Better to put in a simple app that you're
comfortable with, and spend the extra time it would take to "fatten up" your app
writing and posting another owner review or two.
For some of us, myself included, a short and concise app might actually take
more time... because it's not the way we think. I'm one that likes to do "braindumps",
then take all the ideas and put them into a logic order that reads well. There's
your app. If I had to stay within 1000 words, that would indeed be work! :)
4. Final Word - Jerry Goller - Chief Moderator
I'd like to clear up something myself. The applications aren't, or shouldn't
be, the newbies major foot forward. Their ORs should be. Their ORs are where
they should be demonstrating their writing skills and their reporting skills.
This is where they should be showing their powers of observation and evaluation
and their ability to convey those observations to the reader. This is where they
should be putting their major effort and where the Test Moderators should be
going to gather the information required to determine the testers abilities. The
application should only be used to provide the biographical information
necessary to aid in the tester selection. The test plan is only to demonstrate
that the applicant understands what the item is and how the manufacturer intends
it to be used. The test plan also should show that the tester will have the time
and be in the applicable element to properly test the item. The application
shouldn't be the forum for demonstrating the tester's abilities. That is what
the ORs are for. The applications should be just that...an application with
sufficient information to select the tester for the physical requirements of the
test and the links to the tester's reports to provide sufficient information to
select the tester for their writing and reporting ability.
This section explains the policy relating to Travel Plans in
A. Policy Statement - David Anderson - BGT Moderator
We have noticed in some of the recent applications that some of you are
planning trips of more than a couple of weeks this summer or fall. When you are
applying for a test, please make the dates of these trips very clear, and take
note of where these trips fall in the probable schedule.
While we never know exactly when the gear is going to ship, most of the time we
can come up with a reasonable guess. While being gone around the time that a
report is likely to be due will reduce your chances, other factors might still
cause you to be considered. If you are going to be gone for a month, but don't
tell us which month, then you are almost certainly going to be eliminated. If
you expect to have regular Internet access on your trip, you can let us know
For example if you are going to be gone from the middle of June to the middle of
July, then April is not the time to be applying for tests. If shipping gets
delayed and causes conflicts, we can always work it out at that point.
A1. Policy Clarification - Shane Steinkamp - BGT Moderator
If testers are not comfortable posting away dates in a public forum, they may
send this information OFF LIST, directly to the Test Moderator or Test Manager
who ran the test call.
B. Response to Questions - David Anderson - BGT Moderator
1. Can the moderators meet the testers half-way and publish the "reasonable
ship guess" in with the test call?
Answer: You should be able to figure this out by yourself by now. 1-2 weeks to
complete the test call process. 0-3 weeks for them to ship, up to 1 week to
arrive. 2-6 weeks from the test call is the most common time frame.
Rather than worrying moderators with when my trips will be, I could bypass
applying altogether, based on the target ship information provided. If product
deliver is scheduled for August, a month that I may be out for, and the test
call goes out in June, I won't even waste my time with an app. In today's
scenario, I'd apply because I would assume that the ship date would be sometime
Answer: It has little to do if you are there to receive the gear, though that is
important. The concern is that you are able to file your reports on time. Yes, I
want the applicants to think about their schedule themselves, but you should
still tell us this information so that we know what to expect when the ship date
3. I've noticed that the time frame between test call and test until delivery
can be, at times, MONTHS. If the moderators know this in advance, why not post
Answer: We don't. I don't know how you came to conclude that a "reasonable
guess" means that we know that the shipping date might end up 4 months out. If
we know it was 4 months out the test call would be 3 1/2 months later.
Also, testers are required to take into consideration work load and
availability of time BEFORE applying to test a product. In my current case, I
have two test products I've been selected for that have yet to arrive. I am not
applying for any more tests, as I don't want to risk falling into a situation
where I have three or more tests to deliver in a given week. I am simply not
comfortable with it. If a moderator told me, on the other hand, that I wouldn't
see any test units until July and another test was announced with a ship target
date of late May, I would be comfortable in applying for the test.
Answer: There are no test calls where we expect the ship date to be months out.
But it happens.
This section explains the policy in regards to copying another's work.
|Copying any part of an application or a report is not permitted under any
circumstances. All text must be created and written by the applicant or the
Applications: One of the main things the moderators look for is DIFFERENT
applications. We want to see different viewpoints and approaches to the same
product. We also want to see that you took the time to study the product and
consider how YOU would use it. Anybody can copy an application or complete a
'fill in the blanks' application. We select testers who demonstrate a
willingness to study and understand the product and who can then write about it.
Test Reports: BackpackGearTest.org test reports are not rote, repetitive, recitals.
are based on real experience, by real testers, in real environments. Each report
is EXPECTED to be different. The test moderators expend much effort in an
attempt to choose a varied demographic in their tester selections to this end.
This is one of the strengths of the BackpackGearTest.org test model and why the editors give so
much leeway in writing style and content. The real value in the reports lies in
YOUR experience with a particular product and how you write about it.
Manufacturer's Text: It is acceptable to recite a product manufacturer's
information in an application or a report as reference material. However, the
text must be identified as the manufacturer's.
BGT Test Moderator