Our Review Process

We publish lots of articles on outdoor gear here at 99Boulders, and in those articles we oftentimes make gear recommendations.

Our review process is a key component to making good recommendations, so we want to detail it candidly for you, our readers.

Our Current Gear Review Process

NOTE: We updated our review process in April 2017. At the time of writing this, many of the articles on the site were written using our old review process.

There are currently three main types of gear articles that we publish on the site:

  1. ‘Best of’ articles
  2. ‘Versus’ articles
  3. Individual reviews

Our review process is different for each type of article, so let’s look at each in turn.

Our Review Process for ‘Best of’ Articles

Browse the site for any amount of time and you’re likely to come across multiple ‘best of’ articles in which we recommend the best of a certain type of gear. Here are two examples:

Our review process for these articles is as follows:

  1. Research the available products of a certain type of gear
  2. Select a handful of the top products in the category to test
  3. Acquire the products by purchasing them with our own money, receiving free units from manufacturers, or a mix of both. If we receive free gear from manufacturers, we let you know at the top of the article. You can read our policies on reviewing free gear if you’d like to know more. We share them with every manufacturer before they send us anything.
  4. Design experiments to test the pieces of gear side-by-side in an unbiased way
  5. Test the gear in the field and in the ‘lab’ by conducting the experiments we designed earlier
  6. Supplement our hands-on testing with other expert opinions and insights (e.g. related reviews from other experts)
  7. Pick winners based on all our testing and research
  8. Write and publish an article sharing all that we’ve learned and making recommendations
  9. Rinse and repeat this process for that type of gear as often as it makes sense. New gear is always being released so we work hard to keep our articles up-to-date by testing new offerings.

We’re proud of our current review process because it means, for all our new articles, we’ve actually tested all the gear we recommend. For many outdoors sites, this isn’t the case since it’s quite expensive to do.

Our Review Process for ‘Versus’ Articles

Another type of gear article you’ll find on the site is what we refer to as ‘versus’ articles. These are articles that compare two products or brands side by side. Here are two examples:

Our review process for these articles is as follows:

  1. Identify two similar pieces or brands of outdoor gear to compare side by side
  2. Acquire the products by purchasing them with our own money, receiving free units from manufacturers, or a mix of both. If we are comparing two brands, we acquire the top products from each brand. If we receive free gear from manufacturers, we let you know at the top of the article. You can read our policies on reviewing free gear if you’d like to know more. We share them with every manufacturer before they send us anything.
  3. Design experiments to test the pieces of gear side-by-side in an unbiased way
  4. Test the gear in the field and in the ‘lab’ by conducting the experiments we designed earlier
  5. Supplement our hands-on testing with other expert opinions and insights (e.g. related reviews from other experts)
  6. Write and publish an article comparing the two products or brands and giving recommendations on when to choose which
  7. Rinse and repeat this process as often as it makes sense for the two brands or products

Our Review Process for Individual Reviews

Individual reviews are the third main type of gear article found on the site. These are articles where we do an in-depth review of just one piece of gear. Here are two examples:

Here is our review process for these articles:

  1. Identify a piece of gear we’d like to review
  2. Acquire the piece of gear by purchasing it with our own money or receiving a free unit from the manufacturer. If the manufacturer sends us the piece of gear for free, we let you know at the top of the article. You can read our policies on reviewing free gear if you’d like to know more. We share them with every manufacturer before they send us anything.
  3. Test the gear in the field over the course of the following weeks or months. These individual reviews rely almost entirely on our real-world experience with the gear.
  4. Supplement our hands-on testing with other expert opinions and insights (e.g. related reviews from other experts)
  5. Write and publish an in-depth review of the piece of gear
  6. Update the review whenever it makes sense, such as if the product has been updated or we learn something from further usage that we’d like to share with readers

Our Old Review Process

Many articles on the site were written using our old review process, so we’d like to include it here. It was designed to be cost- and manpower-efficient during the site’s early stage in which we were a small team with shallow pockets.

Here are two articles that followed this process:

The process was as follows:

  1. Decide upon a gear category (e.g. hiking shoes)
  2. Conduct hours of research on the top products in that category using every good resource available (e.g. videos, articles, existing reviews, experts’ opinions, gear manufacturers’ websites)
  3. Supplement the research with any hands-on experience we have with the products
  4. Select the top five products for the chosen category
  5. Write and publish an article explaining our choices and including buying advice
  6. Update the articles as new products come out or as we gain more hands-on experience with our picks

We are slowly updating old gear articles using our current review process. It will take a minute, but eventually all the gear articles on the site will follow our current review process. When they all do, we’ll probably throw a party or something to celebrate.

(You’re invited.)