APPENDIX 6 - All About Report Writing
- Thinking Like a Tester
- POLICY - External Links
- POLICY - Gear Maintenance, Repair, and
- POLICY - Manufacturer Interference
- Notes on Projecting
- Summary of Report Content - Andy Mytys, BGT
- Tester Biographies - Andrew Priest, Senior
- Miscellaneous Notes - Jerry Goller, Chief
- Fair and Balanced Reporting - How
Being a new tester, I am unsure as to what all would be nice to see in a
report - I know what I like to see but I also know there are other things that
others would like to see that I don't necessarily think of.
'Thinking like a tester' is a skill that you will develop over time. I always
try to approach a report with the consideration that the person reading the
report has never heard of such an item before. If you do that, you eliminate a
lot of assumptions.
Let's use the insect repellents. What if I asked you to describe the
bottles and how the product came out? If you're not thinking like a
tester, you might say, "Well, DUH! It comes in a bottle and you squirt some out
and rub it on you. It's insect repellent!"
Well, if I've never seen or used insect repellent before, I might not know what
it is. I might assume that it's some kind of tape for instance, and I might
imagine that insect repellent comes in a roll and I tear off a piece of tape and
stick it to myself to be protected. While that seems kind of an inane example,
it becomes very important for things like GPS units or other new technologies.
The second thing to keep in mind is that you should be writing reports that you
would want to read. If you follow this, and the consideration above, you will
rarely go wrong.
I also like to consider all the functions of the gear I am testing. There is
some kind of inverse rule that says, "The simpler an item is, the more uses it
will have." To illustrate that, a pack is...well...a pack. You put things in it
and carry it around. There are only so many uses a pack has. A towel, on the
other hand, is far simpler than a pack, but has MANY more uses. Of course, every
item has a basic function. The basic function of a flashlight is to provide
light. The basic function of a cigarette lighter is to make fire. The basic
function of a tent is to provide shelter. You should evaluate the item based
primarily on this function, but also consider ALL other reasonably possible
functions, and how the item performs in different conditions and in different
To use the cigarette lighter as an example, it's basic function is fire. How
well does it do that? How well does it light or burn in different positions? In
the wind? In the rain? In the cold? In the heat? Under water?
After that, you start considering other uses. Often these other uses will be
dependent on the objects qualities. Is the case shiny? How might that be useful?
Can it be broken into component parts? How might each of those parts be used
independently of the others?
You might not include all those things in your report, but you may discover
things that you do want to include.
Can I include links to retailers or other resources in my reports?
With rare exception (like my HH video) they aren't allowed. You can link to
internal bookmarks, other reports on BackpackGearTest.org, and you may also have a link to your
personal hiking page.
Without paying too much attention, I have been the worst culprit when it comes
to violating this rule, and I have been spanked for it. I'm in the process of
removing all external links from my reports. I've got a lot of fixing to do...
With the Magellan IR, I stripped them all out and just left the Additional
Resources link to a page on my personal hiking website that I maintain. I think
that this is within the rules, but I've done it as more of an experiment to see
how I like the idea. We may think about hosting something like this in the
future on BackpackGearTest.org. If we have an Articles section, then we could all contribute to
it and simply have a link in our reports that says, "If you want to learn more
about GPS, then see the GPS page in our Articles Section." Time brings all
So, to answer your question directly, the policy as it stands is that NO
external links are allowed EXCEPT for links to:
- A Manufacturer's HOME page.
- A vendor or distributor's HOME page, when that vendor or distributor is
directly responsible for the Manufacturer's product.
- Thales.com in the Magellan reports.
- RETAIL links like www.campmor.com are NOT allowed.
- A link to a testers personal hiking website, and with rare exception, this
should be the HOME page of that site as well.
Active testers should try to remove external links that do not fit this
policy from their existing reports at their continence. This is not a
requirement, but the policy will be enforced more stringently in the future.
Can I modify gear that I received for testing?
The short answer is, "No. Gear may not be altered in any way before the
close of the LTR."
The clever folks, of course, want to know the definition of
'alter', so here is the policy:
- Gear should be tested, as far as possible, as delivered from the
- If the gear is unserviceable without the modification, the Moderators
will make a determination.
- No destructive or permanent modification should be made to the item.
- EXCEPTION 1: Some gear is designed to be altered by the end user.
Pack straps, for instance, are always provided over-long so that they may be
trimmed to a user's packing preference. It is OK to trim such straps,
because the gear is designed for this.
- EXCEPTION 2: The manufacturer will sometimes recommend a
modification under certain conditions or circumstances. Such a
modification should only be made with Moderator approval.
- EXCEPTION 3: Some gear is specifically designed to be fitted to
the user. Footbeds are sometimes an example of this, and the fitting
process is not considered a modification, per se.
- A destructive or permanent modification is anything that fundamentally
changes the function of a piece of gear.
- When in doubt, ask the Moderators.
- This policy is suspended whenever a situation arises in the field that is
a matter of life and limb, or a matter of health and safety. Safety
considerations are always a priority, and no tester should at any time place
himself or herself in any danger or jeopardy while testing gear.
- Such a circumstance may be minor, such as taping the straps on a pair of
sandals because they are causing blisters.
- Such a circumstance may be major, such as burning your tent in order to
create a signal to rescuers.
- Such a circumstance may fall in the middle. A good example of this
Keen Newport H2 test, where Colleen was forced to cut the straps on the
Newport H2s as a matter of health and safety.
- Where the circumstance is such that the gear itself created the
situation, a determination will be made by the Moderators if the action was
warranted, and if the tester acted reasonably, then the tester will not have
to replace the gear.
- Where the circumstance is such that the gear itself did not create the
situation - as in burning the tent to get rescued - the gear will have to be
replaced by the tester.
- Minor repair of damage is allowed.
- "If I put a small hole in 30 denier nylon because I dropped my crampons
into the bag, I would go ahead and patch it." - David Anderson
- Repair in the field is allowed if the repair is essential to the function
of the gear.
- If the shoulder straps pull out of a pack, you're obviously going to
have to try to fix that in the field, otherwise you're going to have to
carry it in your arms.
QUESTION & ANSWER - David Anderson, BGT Moderator
I know we're not supposed to alter the gear we're testing until we're
done with the long term report...but how far does that go? Can we repair small
tears, etc. that our gear might suffer or do we have to let it go? As a normal
user, I'd re-sew torn seams or mesh but as a tester can I do that?
It depends on the nature and severity of the failure. If the failure was
minor, easily fixable and obviously my fault due to some sort of abuse, I
would go ahead and fix it as long as I was really confident in my ability to
work with the material.
If I put a small hole in 30 denier nylon because I dropped my crampons into
the bag, I would go ahead and patch it. If a strap starts pulling out of
the same nylon, the moderator should contact the manufacturer about it.
A torn seam, we should get in touch with the manufacturer. A hole in the
mesh, you should just sew up, but mention in your report.
If you are not sure, then ask.
Also, can I make non-permanent modifications and then comment on their
utility? Specifically, I'm testing the Moonlite pack and I can use the vest
harness as a full-chest version of a fanny pack if I get a few sliders to run
the back straps through when it's not attached to the pack. They're not
permanent so they'd not affect the use of the harness when attached to the
pack but would allow me to use it for more than just carrying the pack. At
about $2 for the sliders, it would provide a lot of additional utility for
This is fine. It's like trying a larger tarp over your hammock. It's nice
extra information, but the test should still be mostly about the hammock with
the supplied fly or the vest harness with the pack.
The other alteration I had in mind was to add buckles to the straps and
move them outside the pad pocket. The Moonlite's straps feed into the pad
pocket and into sliders attached to straps sewn to the pack. This keeps
attachment points inside where they don't get snagged. But it also means
adjustments can only be made with the pack off (or by someone else while
you're wearing it). I would like to try to evaluate the utility of moving the
attachments out of the pocket by adding a few lengths of nylon web strap,
sliders, and buckles. Then with the attachments outside the pack I could make
adjustments on the fly as I'm hiking without taking the pack off. This
alteration would also not be permanent or destructive.
This is getting outside of what we do. We are testing what the manufacturer
provides, as a customer without the skills to add straps would use it. You
certainly should not do this before the field report because you need to
review how well it does work as designed. After the field report, you can
bring it up again, but it will probably only get approved if the modifications
I've seen reviews where people make suppositions about whether a
modification might be useful for the gear they're testing but they don't
actually have any field experience with the modification so it's up to the
manufacturer or user to decide whether it's worth changing. By trying the
alterations I've noted I can test the pack as designed and delivered but also
with my bright ideas incorporated and then report whether they worked or not.
I would think that's more helpful than just presenting a "wish list" with a
presumed value to it.
But if you like your modifications too much, you might not put in the time to
learn how to use the pack as designed. Read how things went for us with the
Hennessy Snake Skins in the Explorer Deluxe reports. If we tried making our
own larger ones, we never would have figured out how to get them to work as
If ever, in the process of testing any gear, any tester receives any email from
a manufacturer that attempts to influence, intimidate, or threaten any tester,
then that tester should immediately forward that message either to the Test
Moderator or to Jerry directly.
Manufacturers should NOT normally be in contact with the testers directly.
(Except for exchanges, etc.) That isn't to say that manufacturers can't offer
explanations, answer questions, provide additional information, or make
suggestions. *IF* they do so, however, that should be done on list and in the
open. (Aaron at Brasslite is a good example of an involved Manufacturer who is
involved here in an open manner.) Manufacturers are actually encouraged to
participate on the list, and to make comments, etc. What we're talking about
here is one of a few things:
3. Anything else that you feel is inappropriate.
If you think a Manufacturer is bullying you, refer them to us. Ya'll don't get
paid enough for that kind of thing...
If a Manufacturer approaches you after the conclusion of a Report
Series, or in reference to a posted Owner Review and offers something to you or
requests something of you, you should also clear that with the Moderators.
Testers, Moderators, and Manufacturers alike are held to a high ethical standard
in this regard, and it is best to do something in the open than to do something
Shane Steinkamp, BGT Moderator
The policy on Projecting is found in
Appendix 2. These notes are provided as additional information for
I have noticed a trend in my reports about using "you". It gets edited out as
projection. I would like some more clarification on this so I can eliminate some
edits for my Long Term Report. I guess I don't know what projection is? When do
I use it, when not?
Reply by Andy Mytys, Veteran BGT Tester
The way I get around the "you" issue is twofold.
First, I try as hard as I can to always use "I", "me", "My experience has
been", etc. But, there are some things that I want to say is going to
happen to YOU, but I don't want to use YOU because it's projecting. What
I do is just write the report, projection aside. Then, when proofreading, I
search for all instances of "you" and rewrite those sections using "one".
"This characteristic can be frustrating, as it tends to pop out just when you
think it is successfully installed back into its position.
"This characteristic can be frustrating, as it tends to pop out just when one
thinks it is successfully installed back into its position."
Other examples -
"The bite-valve is designed with the intent of assuring that water only exits
when one desires" - from "...when you desire."
"One has to pull the bite-valve up in order to turn the flow of water on." -
from "You have to pull..."
"In order to draw water from the tube, however, one not only has to make sure
the bite-valve is in the "out" position, but one also must bite down on the
valve, opening the access hole and releasing the water within" - from "... you
not only have to make sure the bite- valve is in the "out" position, but you
also must bite down..."
"regular inspection of the feet and prompt mending of any issues encountered
is paramount to being able to keep one's feet comfortable over long hikes in
"That said, one should not make the mistake that the Bite X-Trac OS Sandals,
or any sandals for that matter, come close to offering the level of protection
to one's foot that boots, or even sneakers, do."
You get the idea. I hope this helps!
The IR is a good place to limit your "out of box"
experience, spit out your emotions upon opening the box, measure your stats
(hard numbers, no opinions) against the manufacturers, critique the website,
outline your test plan, etc.
The field report should be heavy in field data.
The long-term should continue with field data, perhaps in new conditions as the
additional four months have exposed you to new seasons.
I also save my final reservations as to what I like/don't like to the LT report
now. There was just too much of "now I get the design" going on as the tests
progressed for me to be comfortable with making any statements that could
possibly by retracted by a subsequent report.
By limiting the field test to what actually happened in the field, there's
really not much to retract.
There will always be exceptions, but in general this is the format I am using.
It also helps to give me something to focus on and write in each report, rather
than having one HUGE report and little to say in the others.
7. Tester Biographies - Andrew Priest,
Senior Edit Moderator
Please remember, bios are not to be your life story, we don't need to know every
track you have hiked, or how long you have been a scout, scout leader and so on.
We don't need to know your pack content.
We do need a brief (read concise) overview of your hiking experience and a brief
(read concise) overview of your backpacking style.
For an example of a good bio, please take a look at
Rick Allnut's Fanatic Fringe
Thompson Peak Pack Field Report. Rick's bio is repeated here:
"Over the last several years, I have become an ultralight camper with a
three-season base pack weight of about 11 lb (5 kg) and skin out weight of
20 lb (9 kg). I have completed many section hikes on the Appalachian Trail
(AT) in all four seasons, with a total mileage of nearly 450 miles (725 km). I
am a gearhead, a hammock camper, and make much of my own equipment." [65 words]
For an example of a bio pushing the limit, take a look at mine, which is
"I have been hiking in Western Australia for approximately five years. For the
past four years I have been regularly walking and now leading walks with the
Perth Bushwalkers Club. These bushwalks range from all on-track to all off-track
pack-carries. I consider myself as moving towards being a lightweight
tent-carrying bushwalker with my pack base weight in the 8 to
12 kg (18 to 26 lb) range. In 2003 I completed my End to End of the Bibbulmun
Track. I have also end to ended the Cape to Cape Track and the Coastal Plains
Walk Track." [91 words]
Senior Edit Moderator and List Moderator
8. Miscellaneous Notes - Jerry Goller,
Chief Edit Moderator
A. No Standard Format
There is a reason that we don't insist on a standard format. Shane likes to
write long, detailed technical reports. That's fine. Some people like to read
long, detailed reports. Is this the new bar for Initial Reportss? NO! Write
your own report! Include what *you* think is important and nothing else. If
your Monitor or Moderator tells you the report is thin, then you're going to
have to expand on some of it. Does that mean that it has to be as big and
detailed as Shane's report? NO. As Shane will be the first to tell you, the
variations in styles of and content in the reports is one of the strengths of
BackpackGearTest.org. That's how we relay all the info we do. Different style reports from
different testers and for different readers. Do I think Shane's report is too
long? Well, it is a bit wordy...but then, so is Shane..... ;o) I don't want
report length and detail to get out of hand. We still get teased on other
lists about describing the UPS man the delivered the package. The reports
should be as small as they can be and as big as they need to be.
A. GENERAL COMMENTS - Andy Mytys, BackpackGearTest.org Tester - March, 2003
First, [some backpacking magazines have] publicly admitted to not printing
reviews that trash gear. So, they won't tell you what's bad, only great, good,
and so-so gear.
Second, [those] reviewers are paid... it's their job. Forget about [magazine]
revenues for a while. If you were making your bread and butter doing something
cool like testing gear, wouldn't you want to keep that job? If you slammed
every piece of gear that came across the table, most likely [the magazine]
would dump you as you would have no value. They would be paying you for work
that would never get published.
Sounds like a flawed system.
Here, nobody controls what I put in my reports so long as I justify the
results. I can't say "this pack sucks". But I can, and did, say that "the weak
materials used in the construction of the pack's bottom and draw cord are of
great concern. My experience shows that this pack has short-term durability
issues. Entertaining a conversation on 'long term uses' is, at this point,
senseless." That's pretty much a WARNING to the consumer if I ever heard one,
and can definitely have a negative impact on sales. But, if you read my report
it is totally justified.
Furthermore, we have multiple reports that are published... not just one. So,
for the Granite Gear Ozone pack for example, Andrew Priest's review might have
me bypassing the pack. He SHREDDED it. Well, the pack just isn't made for
bushwhacking. I can read another report, of a hiker who just used it on
regular trails, maybe something I identify more with, and they had NO issues.
So, the pack is a dud for bushwhacking, but maybe it's great for other types
Is Granite Gear pissed at BackpackGearTest.org? I don't know. I don't care. They gave us gear,
we tested that gear, and we reported the results fairly and accurately. Nobody
said "don't take this pack bushwhacking".
I have yet to receive communication from the people controlling
BackpackGearTest.org that, due
to my negative tone in my product reviews, I will no longer have the
opportunity to test gear in the future unless things change.
On the contrary, I have been told by many that my reports are thorough and
well written, and I have been selected to participate in the Western
Mountaineering Flight Jacket and the Leki Air Ergo Ti trekking pole test.
This is the second time that Leki has come to us. If you read their first
experience, they got slammed. Not only did the testers get to keep the gear,
not only did Leki get some negative remarks in the reviews, but now they've
come back for more punishment (just kidding) and have come to the table with 3
products... a total of 9 sets of poles and more than $1000 worth of product.
Why? Perhaps they fixed the problems that BackpackGearTest.org CLEARLY IDENTIFIED in our last
test, and they value us not only for our ability to test gear and be honest
and impartial, but for the free engineering feedback that we provide.
Do you think [other magazines have] time to get into such detail? Certainly
not in their published reports. Any manufacturer will bow down and give BP
gear because they are BP. If they won't publish a negative review, you have
nothing to lose. However, if they put a mention of your product in their
mag[azine], you're in the money.
[Those magazines are] there to service the [backpacking] community at some
level... I really do believe this. However, you have to dovetail "service"
with "profit". If it is non-value added, they don't do it. I would think that
any relationship that [the magazines] would have with manufacturers would be
BackpackGearTest.org testers are not paid. We deliver fantastic tests (well, we try to) and
deliver WAY MORE in terms of information to the manufacturer than just a
rehash of their features and a "thumbs up" (read any of the current "Editor's
Choice" reviews in BP for an idea of what I'm talking about). All [the
magazine] does is describe features. The don't have the space for detail.
Poor, poor, manufacturers.
Lets say we did give a manufacturer back their gear. In many cases, it would
come back dirty, torn, bent, etc. Off to the dumpster in most cases, I would
suspect. It just isn't worth the trouble for the manufacturer. I would hope
that, in some cases, the manufacturer would recall a test product after
reading about damage, in the interest of seeing firsthand what occurred. As a
tester, I would be more than happy to support this.
The free gear is out of practicality, more than anything else. I suppose it
could be viewed as "gratitude" for the time spent testing. But, once again,
because many of our reviews highlight the poor quality of gear, I don't see
how anyone can say that we are biased. They're just saying, "Thanks for your
There's absolutely nothing in writing or pressure put on testers for good
I challenge someone to find something to the contrary.
Getting back to my upcoming tests. Let's think about this for a second. Read
any test I have done in the past 6-months. They are LONG, thorough, and I go
out of my way to use gear in ways that are not straight forward. I'm ANAL. If
there's something wrong with the gear, I'm going to find it and report on it.
Western Mountaineering is a prized company for BackpackGearTest.org, I would think. They make
awesome products. Certainly, any tester here drools at the thought of getting
one of their bags or jackets for free. Jerry also gets lots of credibility,
because they are a fairly large, well known, company. This is the first time
WM has come up to the plate with BackpackGearTest.org - you would think Jerry and the gang
would want to impress them.
Yet, who's testing the product? An a-hole like me. It's not like I need
another piece of gear... by basement looks like REI. I also have a well paying
job... $175 is not like winning the lottery to me. I'm not going to kiss
anybody's a$$ here. I have a free jacket in hand. As long as I write three
reports, nobody can take it away from me (well, the vendor is free to, based
on defects we find, stop the test and pull their product... that has happened
I have not gotten a letter from anyone saying "hey... go easy on these guys...
we want to make a good impression so that they give us more 'stuff' in the
future". I got fed the jacket because I had a thorough and interesting test
plan laid out and, based on previous reports, the staff of
BackpackGearTest.org feels that I
will do a great job, irrespective of any conclusions that I might reach.
The jacket that I'm getting is a winter parka. How much testing is really
going to be done my most? Even if winter was in full swing... if you use it as
a jacket you say how warm it is, how light is is, report on down leakage and
material wear... not much else. I'm proposing carrying it in the 3-season as
well, using it to augment my 45 F bag. It will see a lot of trail miles over
the next 6-mos, and the jacket will not be shielded under some Gore-Tex parka.
My test unit is going to get a TON of use, and I will be expecting a lot from
If BackpackGearTest.org wanted a sure-fire positive report and brown nose Western
Mountaineering, there's no way in "you know where" I would have been selected
as a tester. Too much risk.
You want to talk fair??? I don't see how anyone can claim that
BackpackGearTest.org is biased?
Look at the facts.
BackpackGearTest.org is the big league, in terms of testing. Based on our readership, vendors
are enticed to participate. If they're smart, they send only the best gear
they have so it has a chance of getting a good review. If they're smart,
they'll start asking BackpackGearTest.org to beta-test products in the pipe so they can get
them right, and not have to worry about picking "only the good stuff".
BackpackGearTest.org has made a glorious stadium for testing gear. We've got a first rate team.
The manufacturers are invited to step up to the plate. Whether they hit a home
run or strike out is up to the batter - the piece of gear - it has nothing to
do with the owner of one team or another (Jerry -vs- the gear manufacturer)
and the testers are not their to coddle the product. They're not their to
strike it out either, but they will pitch their best fastball and, at times,
pitch a curveball or a slider in an effort to see if the batter should be in
the big-leagues, or sent back to t-ball.
I said, for one, Jerry pays for the site out of his pocket (that is correct
That has nothing to do with the tester getting free gear. It's not like I slip
Jerry a "fiver" at the end of the test period.
B. FOLLOW UP COMMENTS - Jerry Goller
I would like to make a point here and this is an excellent post to do it
with. I have to admit, I cringed when I saw Andy's name as a tester. He
certainly goes out of his way to push a product to the limit. I have no
problem with that....as long as he doesn't go *over* the limit. While I like
to know the limits of a piece of gear too, using a piece of gear beyond it's
intended purposes is simply demonstrating ignorance. We've all read the posts
from people that felt their pack should be replaced free because it failed
even though they threw it off a cliff or out of the back of a moving pick up
truck. That doesn't demonstrate testing the product to it's limits and beyond.
That is just showing ignorance.
I don't think Andy is going to do that. He knows his gear and understands
the concept of "intended use". I'd be surprised to see him wear a Flight while
bushwhacking, even though WM doesn't specifically say you can't. They don't
say you can't pour gasoline on it, light it, and expect it to survive either.
All light and ultralight gear has limitations in the amount of abuse it will
take. It's all part of the trade off. Hell, heavy weight gear does too, for
that matter. When you're testing gear keep in mind that this isn't destructive
testing. I have absolutely no problems with taking an item to it's obvious
limits. Just don't go beyond those limits then express surprise when the item
fails. This is true in both testing and in regular ownership use. I own a
Flight personally. I love that jacket. I would never abuse it and do take care
of it...almost to the point of babying it. But I did the same thing with my 4
pound Gore-Tex jackets when they came out. I realize I may well be unusual in
how easy I treat my gear. I certainly don't expect testers to do the same
thing. I do expect them to use the gear in a fairly reasonable way while still
finding out what it can do. It's just fair and reasonable.... ;o) That is also
why I have sleeping bags that are almost 15 years old and look brand new. With
that said <crosses fingers and winces>, take your best shot, Andy.
C. FOLLOW UP COMMENTS - Andy Mytys, BackpackGearTest.org Tester
> While I like to know the limits of a piece of gear too, using a piece
of gear beyond it's intended purposes is simply demonstrating ignorance.
I totally agree.
As a tester, I hardly get a piece of gear and say "Oh boy, free gear, let's
beat the crap out of it and use my report to complain".
I treat test gear in the same manner that I would if I bought it. I value my
gear. If you were to look at the majority of the gear that I own, you would
think I never even go hiking with it. It all looks so new. That's because I
clean my gear after every trip, store it in a dry place, and follow any
instructions given to me by the manufacturer... at times even the vendor.
For example, when I bought last my WM sleeping bag, my outfitter told me not
to store my bag in the basement as there's too much moisture in the air. That
same vendor told me not to keep my bag in the trunk of my car, in it's stuff
sack, when traveling in the summertime. He suggested that, as soon as I get to
the car, I store the sleeping bag in the back seat and, if possible, take it
out of it's stuff sack. This guy clearly felt that the more a down bag could
breath in a dry environment, without experiencing temperature extremes or
excess amounts of moisture or packing, the better. It all made sense to me,
and this is what I do to this day.
I've honestly only had a couple pieces of gear ever fail on me as a result.
Two returns due to issues with material, and one product that works, but not
always, and I keep because it works enough of the time and there have not been
any perfect designs to hit the market yet which would guarantee better
I'm hardly the gear ogre that some may take me for.
Dual use just makes sense though and, where applicable, I recommend it in
order to obtain a lower pack weight, and get the most bang for you buck.