I’ve often read of folks being envious of GT from Trail and CT from TGO. The ideal life that is an endless cavalcade of free gear and trips to the mountains every day to try it out.
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of it as these guys have to work their way through a whole pile of pish kit as well as all the nice stuff. That’s a nightmare. A fine hill day spent in an ill fitting budget waterproof with a roll away hood complete with flapping chinguards or a weekend spent carrying a rucksack with inaccessible pockets and having to take it off and on everytime you need to get something. Crivvens.
People wonder why reviews are predictable, you like what you like and that’s it. Both magazines have guest reviewers from time to time and you can tell the lack of user experience and lack of in depth product knowledge immediately. So although I might make jolly at GT for wanting stiff boots and durability or CT for finding everything too hot and too heavy, the reviews are mostly thorough and they know what they’re talking about. It’s just opinions differ on what’s good and not. The truth? In the middle of those two named above most likely.
Another thing that gets flagged up regularly is “Recommended? Aye because they paid for the advertising!”, or “Just because you got it for free!”. I’ve never really believed that was the case. I know that supplements and advertorials skew the facts by ommission of competing product. That’s business, and experience lets you filter out all the subliminal selling. You just have to hope that the product being pushed is a good one and the new and impressionable who buy it won’t be disavantaged, toiling in it under the misconception that it is actually the best available and perfectly fit for purpose.
I submitted a list of essential Fast Packing kit for a Trail article and the jacket I went for without even thinking about it was the Haglöfs Oz. And that’s what brought all this to mind. I wouldn’t have bought the Oz as it looked too much of a gamble, but as test kit you push it to see what happens to it and it turns out that it works incredibly well. I’ve tweaked the hood so it copes with our winter winds and it’s now just a standard shell jacket, it’s just frighteningly light.
I do have a lot of test kit which I love, but it doesn’t come without responsibility or pressure. The manufacturers want exposure. Some of the kit is for long term R&D and you might see it in 2009 or maybe never. If I don’t deliver usable results then I’ve failed them and myself. You need the time, you need the facility to use it regularly.
It’s a blast aye, but kit testing is not what folk think it is. It is helped by the fact that I only get good stuff. Come to that, I only get good lightweight stuff. Alright!