Our Purpose: We help people thrive outdoors because we believe life outside makes humans better.
Learning about outdoor gear and mastering outdoor skills online is difficult because so much information is created with commercial bias or by people who lack expertise or experience. Backpacking Light creates content that reflects trusted expertise so outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the backcountry with confidence.
Backpacking Light works with content creators and journalists who are:
- Critical thinkers – you are open-minded; you can identify, acknowledge and reject bias; you can research and analyze; you know how to study, hypothesize, test, and validate gear, skills, and ideas to discover both their strengths and their limitations; you clearly interpret conclusions; you can differentiate between opinion and analysis and can clearly communicate to your audience the differences; you can identify multiple solutions to problems; you can communicate intelligently; you are committed to research integrity (see the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity).
- Creative educators – you study and work towards mastery of learning styles, pedagogy, and storytelling; you create the type of content that informs, surprises, and delights people.
- Driven to execute – you can create a clear vision required to complete any project; you are efficient, precise, intentional, and motivated to complete projects on time; you can determine what is the most important work and can prioritize its execution.
Our Values: Advocacy • Expertise • Generosity
Our brand voice
|Authority||Trust is the foundation of developing a long-term relationship with our Members.||Be honest, sincere, objective, humble, confident, clear, and direct. Subtly upbeat and positive is OK. Over-the-top enthusiasm and toxic positivity are not.||Use hyperbole, gimmicks, or techniques that scream "marketing". The occasional exclamation point or emoji in to promote a positive message is fine. Multiple !!! or emojis are not.|
|Helpfulness||We aim to empower our Members to become more disciplined consumers, wilderness travelers, and public lands advocates.||Identify core user issues and provide solutions for them.||Assume that the user has problems they don't really have; offer solutions to customers that don't need them.|
|Clarity||Ensure that our Members know exactly what we're trying to communicate.||Be clear, concise, and direct.||Be ambiguous, deceptive, bloated, or use clickbait.|
Our gear reviews, test reports, skills articles, investigative journalism, and other informative content is written in a voice that’s directed primarily towards a more knowledgable audience, an academic domain, and a neutral, more formal, and academic tone. Trip reports and essays are directed towards a more general audience, a more casual domain, and a storytelling tone. However, we don’t compromise on readability for any of our content – please write in a way that reduces cognitive load on our readers.
Work with us:
If our purpose, editorial mission, and values resonate with you, and you are a critical thinker, creative educator, and driven to execute, we’d love to work with you.
- Submit a story proposal
- Sign up to receive content solicitations and gear review opportunities via email. You may have to disable your popup blocker to see the signup form after clicking this link…
Table of Contents • Note: some sections may only be available to Premium or Unlimited Members.
- Our Purpose: We help people thrive outdoors because we believe life outside makes humans better.
- Our Values: Advocacy • Expertise • Generosity
- Our brand voice
- Work with us:
- What kinds of content does Backpacking Light publish?
- Style guide
- Story development guidelines
- Google Doc style notes
- Passive voice
- Review ratings
- Location / route maps
- Word and line spacing
- Image spacing and caption formatting
- Numbers and units of measure
- Place names / land management units
- Brand names, product models, and trademarks
- Organization & headings
- Text formatting
- Unicode characters
- Nomenclature guidelines
- Caption formatting and image credits
- Audio submission guidelines
- Video submission guidelines
- More info
What kinds of content does Backpacking Light publish?
Gear Reviews • Gear Guides • Gear Checklists • Make Your Own Gear • Gear Testing & Research
Tips, Tricks, and Hacks • Wilderness Skills • Training • Trip Planning • Food Preparation
Trips • Routes
Essays • Stories • Issues • People • News • Media Reviews
Backpacking Light is a community-driven website. As such, most of our authors and contributors are members and participants in our community first. They understand and share our values, our culture, and our vision.
Backpacking Light does not pay writers by the hour, or by the word. Instead, we consider the following:
- How extensive is your experience and knowledge in the subject you are writing about?
- Is your treatment of the subject objective, truthful, and backed by research?
- Do you understand and share our values, vision, and brand voice?
- Do you understand the culture of our community (and participate in it)?
We don’t commonly work with outside full-time freelancers, but when we do, we consider the same criteria.
Our rate sheet is as follows. Word counts represent ranges of what writers typically submit for these types of projects.
Higher rates are offered to writers:
- with established experience writing for Backpacking Light
- who take on projects that best meet the four criteria outlined above
- who take on projects that treat the subject with a comprehensive and well-researched approach
- who are experienced and knowledgeable
- who understand the culture of our community, and engage with them in post-article comments and general forums
- who submit drafts that adhere to the style guide (below)
- Member Q&A – $250 to $500 – a 20 to 30-minute live video presentation with high-quality visual aids and a well-rehearsed presentation on a skills topic, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A with our audience. These are live events requiring some preparation.
- Webinar – $500 to $1,000 – a 40 to 45-minute recorded video presentation with high-quality visual aids and a well-rehearsed presentation on a skills topic, followed by 15 to 20 minutes of Q&A with our audience. These are recorded events requiring some preparation.
- Masterclass – $2,000 to $4,000+ – a 2 to 4-hour recorded video presentation with high-quality visual aids and a well-rehearsed presentation on a skills topic, followed by 30 to 45 minutes of Q&A with our audience. These are recorded events requiring some preparation.
- Gear Testing – $250 to $500 (examples: By the Numbers: Thermal Performance of Synthetic Insulations and StoveBench: A Stove Testing Protocol for Comparing the Performance of Backpacking Stoves)
- Gear Guides – $250 to $1,500 (examples: Upright Canister Stove Reviews, StoveBench Tests, and Gear Guide and My Year of Lentils: A Survey of Packaged Vegetarian and Vegan Backpacking Meals)
- Gear Reviews – $50 to $250+ (examples: First Look – Tarptent Aeon Li Tent; Limited – Outdoor Research Flurry Sensor Glove Review; Performance – Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex Jacket Review)
- Make Your Own Gear Projects – $150 to $500+ (example: Make Your Own Synthetic Fill Vest)
- Skills – $50 to $250+ (examples: Navigating Without a Map, Compass, or GPS and Keeping Gear Handy on the Trail with Multi-Use Accessory and Utility Pouches)
- Trip Narratives – $50 to $250+ (examples: Searching for the Light and Salamander Song)
- Essays – $50 to $200+ (examples: The Backpacker’s Journey and Observing Transition Season)
This resource is designed to:
- Help AUTHORS prepare their content for submission to the Backpacking Light editorial staff; and
- Help EDITORS maintain style guidelines during the editing process.
Story development guidelines
- Authors will be assigned a cloud location for developing/submitting their story, and this is where editors will do most of their work.
- Editors should edit the document (usually a Google Doc) only in Suggested Edits Mode – never alter the original text in Editing mode.
Google Doc style notes
Please use default Google Doc styles for title, heading 2, heading 3, normal, bold, italic, underline, strikethrough, etc.
Creating your own styles requires more time on our end to sort out. Just be plain! Any custom styles you create are going to be stripped out anyways.
Each type of content should follow a consistent, standard outline (structure) as noted below. Your editor will provide you with a content brief and more detailed template to help you build your story effectively.
Research and Testing Reports
- Future Scope
Before you submit: make sure your writing quality and readability are good!
- Readability should always focus on clarity over confusion. Be concise: don’t use more words than needed to communicate a concept. Be clear: don’t use jargon, colloquialisms, or hyperbole. Be consistent: you may communicate similar concepts throughout a story – don’t confuse the reader by communicating those concepts differently each time.
- Your article content should score >65 for technical articles and >75 for non-technical articles on a Flesch readability test.
- Use a grammar checker such as Grammarly to help refine your writing.
- Ask for editing support from a friend or colleague who has trusted writing experience before you submit your draft. A second set of eyes from a qualified person can go a long way towards improving your writing quality!
- Narratives can be written in either past (trip report style) or present (in-the-moment journal style) tense. Be consistent and consider whether you are writing about a past event, or a present action.
- Generally, try to preserve present tense whenever possible in technical writing such as reviews.
- Passive voice should be limited to rare instances when active voice creates a poorly flowing sentence structure.
Claims should be backed up by facts, data, observations, and reputable outside references.
Write in the 3rd-person and avoid personal opinions. Keep ratings objective and unbiased. Eliminate hyperbole from review ratings.
Justify claims with specifics: focus on the objective attributes of the gear, and not on personal experience for the review rating section.
- Review ratings should be consistent with our Review Rating guidelines.
- Please refer to our Gear Review Manifesto when writing gear reviews.
Location / route maps
Format tables in plain text with no character formatting in a Google Sheet. Embed the Sheet link into your manuscript. Don’t forget to share link to Anyone (with edit privileges) so our editors can access it.
- Introduce the list with a complete sentence above the list.
- Be consistent within bulleted lists and strive for consistency as much as possible between the bulleted lists in a document.
- Items in the list should have parallel verb/sentence construction:
- hike three miles
- cross the river
- hike downstream 100 yards to a large eddy
- paddle downstream for seven miles
- In the case of a bulleted list that consists of incomplete sentences, each item starts with a lowercase letter and needs no terminal punctuation (• bears).
- Periods are not required for items in a list unless one item is a complete sentence. Then all items should be treated as complete sentences, beginning with capital letters and ending with periods.
- If a list completes the introductory sentence, items begin with lowercase letters and conclude with a comma or semicolon. The final item in the list concludes with a period.
- Items in numbered lists should begin with a number followed by a period, then a space, then a capital letter (1. Cut fabric on its bias).
Numbers or Bullets?
- Use a numbered list when: your list designates a chronology or sequence, ranking of importance, or reflect an exact number stated in the lead-in statement.
- Use a bulleted list for other lists.
Word and line spacing
- Eliminate multiple spaces between words and sentences – only one space!
- Remove all line breaks before and after headings (no line spacing before or after headings).
- Images center-aligned.
- Image captions positioned immediately below image, italicized, and left-aligned.
- All links to internal and external URLs *must* be verified for accuracy (do they go where you expect them to go?) and validity (are they broken or live?)
- External links should open in a new browser tab (target=”_blank” and have a “nofollow” attribute; internal links should open in same tab.
- All brand/product links should go to the brand’s website, not a retailer or distributor. No Amazon links.
Numbers and units of measure
- A number and its unit should be separated by one space.
- 8.4 kg NOT 8.4kg
- Decimal units with a value of less than 1.0 should have a leading zero:
- 0.5 kg NOT .5 kg
- Please include both Imperial and SI units, with SI units in parentheses – and spell out the full name of Imperial units for distances and weights (e.g., ounces, pounds, feet, inches, miles):
- In technical or scientific text, physical quantities and units of time are expressed in numerals, whether whole numbers or fractions, almost always followed by an abbreviated form of the unit (see exception above in #3).
- 50 km (not kilometers)
- 4.5 L (not liters)
- 240 V (not volts)
- 85 g (not grams)
- For ranges of units, use the word “to” instead of a dash (“-“) and only specify the unit name once:
- Good: 16.8 to 17.5 ounces (476 to 495 g)
- Not Good: 16.8-17.5 ounces (476-495 g)
- Not Good: 16.8 ounces – 17.5 ounces (476 g – 495 g)
- However, a unit of measurement used without a numeral should always be spelled out, even in scientific contexts.
- “I didn’t know how many kilometers I had left to hike.” (not km)
- Use hyphens sparingly, but wisely. Hyphenate age terms and numbers or measurements when spelled out before a noun.
- A thirty-year-old woman
- A fifty-mile trek
- In technical or scientific text, use the degree symbol and unit name (°F or °C), with a space after the number of measure. Do not use the degree symbol when denoting Kelvin. Examples:
- 32 °F (0 °C)
- 452 K
- For units of monetary measure, do not use cents designation if it’s not needed.
- Use $59 instead of $59.00
- For complex units, use the Unicode dot operator character for separating multiple unit types in either the numerator or denominator of the unit. For example:
- When expressing R-values, use a hyphen between “R” and the value:
- R-4.0 not R4
- R-0.22 not R.22
- Use a comma for mille separators on large numbers:
- Good: 4,531 miles
- Not Good: 4531 miles
Place names / land management units
Fact check the official names of Places and land management units. Link land management units to their agency’s web portal for that unit.
Brand names, product models, and trademarks
- Make sure you are using the correct capitalization and spelling of the brand/model/trademark as used by the original brand/trademark holder. Verify the spelling of all branding for products and technologies at the brand’s website.
- Leave out trademark (TM) and registered trademark (R) designations to improve readability for users.
- When referring to specific products, use the complete brand-and-product name for the first mention of the product below any heading or in any single image caption:
- e.g., use “Arc’teryx Venta Mitten” NOT “Venta Mitten”
- Subsequent mentions of the product below a heading or in a single caption can be abbreviated, e.g., “Venta Mitten”
- All images showing a product should contain a reference to that product in the caption (brand and model) so readers who scan and only view images and read captions have full context.
Organization & headings
Note the following guidelines:
- In your Google Doc, assign the Heading 2 as your top-level headings, and then Heading 3 for subheadings. Do not use any lower level (4, 5, 6…) subheadings. If you need a Heading 4, just use STRONG (“bold”) type and a standard (default) paragraph/body style for the heading line.
- Try to limit your word count below each heading to 300 words or less. If you have more narrative than this, split the longer content using subheadings as appropriate.
- Few, if any people, will read your article all the way through at first – they will scan and skim and scroll. So, if you have engaging headings that make sense and entice the reader, they will be more likely to read your article. Practice writing headings. Here are some guidelines / suggestions:
- No adjectives or adverbs.
- No superlatives or hyperbole.
- Use clear, concise descriptions of the content.
- Frame your headline as a question.
- Limit use headings comprised of more than 7 words.
- Use “sentence case” for capitalization – i.e., only the first letter of the first word of the headline should be capitalized (except for proper nouns, etc.)
- Start your article with a level 2 Heading section titled “Introduction” or “Overview”.
- End your article with a level 2 Heading section titled “Conclusion” or “Summary”.
- do not double space at the end of sentences, and remove extraneous spaces in your document
- blockquotes ok? yes
- bold text should be designated with <strong>, not <b>
- italicized text should be designated with <em>, not <i>
- use strikethrough and underlined text sparingly and only when absolutely essential
- do not change fonts, font colors, line spacing, styles, or other formatting from document defaults – keep your HTML as clean as possible
The following table shows some of the Unicode characters that should be used in your manuscript in place of conventional typography:
|plus minus sign||+/-||±|
|right single quotation mark||'||’|
|left double quotation mark||"||“|
|right double quotation mark||"||”|
- Place punctuation inside quotes, as a general rule.
- Use a comma in compound sentences (two nouns and two verbs).
- Use “space dash space” between words, rather than an em or en dash (standard in internet publishing).
- Do not make gear possessive.
- “McHale Subpop pack,” NOT “McHale’s Subpop pack”
- Do not pluralize model names.
- “Arc’teryx Venta Mittens” NOT “Arc’teryx Ventas”
- Do not use apostrophes with plural numbers unless the number is actually a possessive.
- OK: In the 1990s
- OK: The 1990’s growth
- Do not type two spaces after a period! One space only, please. We no longer use typewriters!
You may use acronyms, but be sure that the first instance of the acronym in an article uses the full term with the acronym in parentheses:
- polyurethane (PU)
After that first definition, you may use the acronym in future instances.
Please make all efforts to use nomenclature in a style and manner consistent with Backpacking Light.
|AM (time)||downproof||fry pan||ml||Polarguard Delta||single wall||underquilt|
|air flow||drawcord||Gore-Tex||MontBell||poncho/tarp||snowshoe||waistbelt (use hipbelt)|
|axe||Dryloft||Graupel (snow pellets)||no-frills||pot stand||softshell||water resistance rated|
|backcountry||durable water-repellent finish (in text)||guyline||no-see-um||PrimaLoft||spring, summer, fall, winter (not capitalized)||waterproof|
|backpanel||DWR (in specs)||guyout||non-breathable||rain shell||storm flap||waterproof/breathable (in text)|
|base weight||e.g.||hipbelt||north, south, east, west (not capitalized)||rainfly||three-layer||WPB (in specs)|
|bushwhacking||Epic (rather than EPIC)||i.e.||PM (time)||ripstop||three-season||watertight|
|cookpot||field testing||LED||pack weight||set up (v)||thru-hiker||watts (in text)|
|30 denier (in text)||fly fishing||lightweight (adj.)||packbag||set-up (n)||tieout||W (in specs)|
|30d (in specs)||framesheet||men’s M (in specs||piezoelectric||sidehill||two-piece||windscreen|
|downhill||freestanding||men’s medium (in text)||Polarguard 3D||silicone-impregnated||ultralight||windshirt|
Photos comprise a significant and increasing proportion of Backpacking Light editorial content. They are frequently the most important part of a given article or feature and are extremely important for reviews, DIY articles, and many technical inquiries. Photographs are also of incalculable value in conveying the beauty of places we visit and the excitement of our various adventures. Along with increasing the skills of our readers, we must always be mindful that we’re ambassadors for our sport and are key to attracting new backpackers. To that end, please keep in mind the following:
- Take and submit more shots than you think you need to give the editors a choice. Provide sufficient notes to assure we correctly identify and caption every place, thing, and person.
- If submitting illustrations or maps, they must be publication-ready, and you may be asked to edit them further after review.
- Think about the story you are trying to tell with each photo and ensure that the resulting photos look as though they belong together.
- Please set your camera to its highest resolution and quality settings.
Images should be at least 1,600 pixels on their longest side and uploaded as uncompressed JPG’s. When you insert them into your article, please insert them into their own line. We may change that layout as your article goes into production, but this method is essential so we can understand how you want your story to flow. Add captions to images that include an image description if it’s not clear from the story, and/or a photo credit if the image credit does not belong to the article author.
Editing your photos: Here’s a great photography basics guide from Lifehacker.
Tables, illustrations, and other elements – instructions are provided in your assigned Google Doc. Your assigned editor will provide further instructions as needed.
Photo File Naming
Before embedding your photos in your Google Doc, please rename the files.
Your photo filenames should contain, at minimum, your last name and one or two notable keywords related to the story that they are accompanying, suffixed with an index number (“-1”, “-2”, etc.) to help identify its order of appearance in the story.
Caption formatting and image credits
- Captions should be italicized and place immediately below the photo.
- Captions should describe the photo as a standalone piece of editorial content. Don’t rely on other text to describe the basic meaning of the photo.
- Photo credits should be given if the photo or illustration rights are not owned by the author, and placed at the end of the caption, i.e.:
- Photo: Bobby Lighterhiker
- All copyrighted photos used from sources other than the author or Backpacking Light must be cleared for use by the author and noted accordingly with a permission statement granted by (rights holder) in the caption.
- The word “caption” should not be in the caption.
Send a copy of your audio file to your editor via email, and reference the filename at the appropriate place in your text.
- Format: .mp3
- Minimum Bit Rate: 64 kbps (can be lower for call-in audio due to quality).
- File Size: unimportant.
Upload video to Youtube or Vimeo and keep it unlisted. Insert the direct link (not the embed code) into your article on its own line where you want the video to appear. We generally host video on our own servers, so please activate a download link for us to download your video from YouTube or Vimeo.
- Format: Youtube or Vimeo only, 1080p HD minimum
(Reserve this section for links to additional information as needed.)