Our company values:

Trust • Authority • Objectivity • Inclusivity • Clarity

We strive to reflect all five of these values in our product reviews.

That’s why we are committed to publishing comprehensive gear reviews that are critical, honest, founded on both sound technical analysis and rigorous field use, applicable to a wide range of hikers and styles, are free from hyperbole, and can be interpreted easily by anyone willing to think.

Solicited vs. Unsolicited Reviews

We both solicit and accept unsolicited products for review. Submission of an unsolicited product does not guarantee that we will be able to publish a formal review about the product – often, unsolicited products are handed over to one of our staff members and they are under no obligation to publish a review.

  • Important: if you submit unsolicited products requesting a review, we normally do not track these products in our review pipeline and are not able to provide you with updates about whether or not we are going to review your product (due to the volume of product we receive).

What happens to my product if it’s not reviewed?

If we decide not to review your product, we either donate it to a nonprofit (e.g., Scout group) or use it as a raffle/giveaway for either online or live events. We are careful about the products we consider for reviews due to limitations on our reviewers’ time and the level of interest among our readership.

I submitted an unsolicited product for review, but there’s no Gear Review article about it – what gives?

Product exposure may take on a variety of different forms (e.g., photos and notes found in article types other than product reviews). Also, we can’t guarantee editorial exposure for all unsolicited products.

  • Please review our Author Portal to learn more about the types of articles we publish, and where you might find your products featured.

How do I submit a product for review?

Please ship your product(s) for review to the following address:

Backpacking Light
1230 Big Thompson Ave #101
Estes Park, CO 80517

Will my product be returned to me?

Generally, no, but we are willing to work with manufacturers on a case-by-case basis.

  • Products submitted for review become the property of Backpacking Light.
  • We strongly believe in both field and laboratory testing. Consequently, we may sacrifice the product after its field test to take a closer look at construction, or we may cut samples of the fabric prior to field testing to test laboratory performance of its materials.
  • We use this stuff hard – many times beyond its intended limits. Give us a climbing jacket, and we may intentionally scrape it on water ice, granite, ice tool picks, or even glissade on it. We do our best to assure the accuracy of our review writeups and have no intention of criticizing your product unfairly if we abuse it outside of its normal operating limits.
  • Having the product in hand for the final write-up assures both Backpacking Light and the manufacturer of an accurate review that fairly represents the product. This process may take several months spanning multiple seasons.

Review Reproduction Policy (Electronic)

Use of Reviews for Public Relations or Marketing: Our reviews are produced primarily for our membership, and we have designed our usage policy to accommodate your brand’s needs for reliable, third-party product marketing without compromising the integrity of our review program.

Electronic Usage Terms

You may quote up to 50 words in the review (not including contextual additions of your product name where appropriate – see example below), but you must provide a link back to the review’s URL at our website. The reason for this requirement is so that selected quotes are not taken out of their fair context. The format of the link should be as follows:

<a href=”https://backpackinglight.com/url_of_your_product_review/”>Read the entire review of the [Brand Model Type] at Backpacking Light</a>

Do gear brands and their representatives qualify for complimentary memberships?

We do not provide complimentary memberships to brands that provide products for review. We serve primarily a user community – not advertisers, public relations firms, or product brands. Before you consider asking us for a complimentary membership, please consider asking yourself the question, “Can I support the BPL user community and its objectives to share and learn about backcountry skills and stewardship?”

Can employees or affiliates of gear brands review gear?

We do not provide gear for testing to employees of brands, including their sales reps, or public relations firms in the outdoor industry without explicit disclosure. Disqualified are employees of outdoor industry retailers that pay their sales staff on commission. Our other reviewer guidelines are extensive, to ensure the high quality and fairness of our review process.

Nothing gets published until it meets our standards of fairness, objectivity, and accuracy. Occasionally we make mistakes. But if brought to our attention, we do our best to rectify the situation ASAP to minimize the impact of distributing erroneous information.

Where does my product go after the review?

Our product reviewers have the option to keep the product after the review period as partial compensation for their time and effort required to test the product and prepare the review. Optionally, many of our reviewers have agreed to donate the equipment back to us or an organization of their choice. For products in our possession, we either sell them in our annual Garage Sale or donate them to non-profit organizations that promote participation in wilderness activities consistent with our company values.

Types of Reviews We Publish

Backpacking Light publishes three types of Gear Reviews (Performance, Limited, and First Looks Reviews).

  • Performance Reviews
    • Editorial Scope: comprehensive
    • Duration of Testing: long-term, spans multiple seasons
    • Range of Environmental Conditions: extensive
  • Limited Reviews
    • Editorial Scope: limited
    • Duration of Testing: limited, spans 1-2 seasons
    • Range of Environmental Conditions: limited by season
  • First Looks
    • Editorial Scope: short
    • Duration of Testing: narrow, spans a few days to a few weeks
    • Range of Environmental Conditions: narrow, limited by opportunity

If you’re wondering how any of this relates to the gear reviews published by others, keep in mind that our First Looks Reviews are always based on hands-on experience, our Limited Reviews are based on more experience and expertise than other website’s so-called “in-depth” reviews and that our Performance Reviews are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Want some context? Read our disclosure letter.

Here’s a general comparison:

Type of Review »First LooksLimitedPerformance
length (words)Less than 5001,500 to 2,0003,000 to 10,000
field testing environmentsnone to 1-2 daysnarrow range of locales, environmental conditions, and seasonswide range of locales, environmental conditions, and seasons
# authors/reviewers/testers112 or more
third-party researchnonelimitedextensive
technology discussionsvery limitedlimitedextensive
quantitative experiment data from lab/fieldnonelimitedextensive
market category analysisnonelimitedextensive
# comparisons to other products012 to 7+
membership required to access performance analysis?nosometimesusually
review rating awarded?nosometimesusually


Other Types of Backpacking Gear Reviews (Historical)

In the past, we’ve published other types of reviews that have been variously recognized as “Flash” or “Spotlite” or “First Looks” reviews (we know, it’s inconsistent with our current standard, thanks for your patience with us changing our mind over the past 20 years!). They are most representative of the current format of Limited Reviews as described above. However, some historical “SpotLite” reviews have been very comprehensive in nature and offer some information more commonly found in a Performance  Review. See historical reviews in our Article Archives.

Gear Review Ratings, Awards, and Badges

We assign review ratings to products when we have the opportunity to evaluate them over long periods of time in a variety of conditions in the field. Ratings are not assigned for First Looks Reviews.

Rating Categories

Highly Recommended

The highest possible rating for a reviewed product. The minimum requirements to qualify for this rating are:

  1. Exceptional quality in materials and workmanship;
  2. Outstanding field performance based on sound design principles;
  3. A performance-to-weight ratio reflects the ideals of carrying out the Backpacking Light Mission: “to promote multi-day, self-sufficient (“backpackable”), backcountry travel in lightweight style,”; and
  4. The product offers significant advantages over the next best competitive products.

A Highly Recommend Rating requires unanimous consensus by three people: the Publisher, the Editor, and the Review Author(s). Each person has the right to vote nay.


Solid performing products that provide good value for the money, quality materials and workmanship, and acceptable performance that should meet or exceed consumer expectations. Minor improvements in design or materials may be required to allow this product to be considered for a rating of Highly Recommended.

Above Average

Products that should meet consumer expectations, but against which other products of similar performance should also be considered.


Products in categories where better performance:weight and performance:value can be realized in several other competing products.

Below Average

Products with performance:weight and/or performance:value ratios that would not meet the expectations of most consumers and are neither worth the weight nor the money for the vast majority of users.

Bias and Conflicts of Interest

Backpacking Light makes no effort to remove “bias” in reviews. Indeed, we hope not only that the reviewer’s personality and experience come through as part of the review, but also that the reviewer communicates positive bias for products that offer unique capabilities, durability, quality manufacturing, and high performance – at a light weight, of course. Likewise, we expect products that do not meet acceptable standards in any one of these areas will be reviewed with some degree of negative bias. We are extremely careful to insure that reviewer bias does not interfere with the company values that we want to see reflected in our reviews: objectivity, authority, and trust.

Guide’s Gear Awards

The Guide’s Gear Award is Backpacking Light’s highest honor awarded to gear that offers exceptional performance, light weight, durability, and value – and is usually awarded to gear that has only been in production for multiple years and thus, has a proven track record. We firmly believe that longevity in the marketplace cannot be ignored as a testament to a product’s value.

Guide’s Gear Award Criteria:

  • Performance and Weight – When evaluating performance, we more specifically look at the performance:weight ratio of the product. Guide’s Gear Award are given to products with the highest performance:weight ratio when compared to products of similar weight.
  • Durability and Value – Durable products provide good long term value and are easier on the environment. They should also be expected to last for several expeditions, and can be relied upon not to fail in the field. Consequently, Guide’s Gear Awards are given to products that provide an exceptional durability:weight ratio, and an exceptional durability:value ratio.

Staff Picks

The Staff Picks award badge is assigned to products when one of our staff (payrolled employees, regular independent contractors, or contributing authors) makes a recommendation in our annual Staff Picks Gear Guide (example here).

There’s no editorial review or rigor here. These are totally biased recommendations that haven’t been vetted! YMMV!

Backpacking Light & the FTC

  • Backpacking Light adheres to FTC Endorsement Guidelines (Title 16, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 255).
  • We do not accept paid product endorsements that are not clearly marked as either Sponsored Content, Advertising, or otherwise include disclosure of a reviewer’s financial relationship with the product brand or its sales, marketing, and distribution agents.
  • We do not offer paid product placements or link insertions in editorial content.
  • We are an affiliate publisher – see our disclosure.