Our mission is a straightforward one: trustworthy outdoor gear advice. Our opinions reflect our team’s many collective experiences in the outdoors, time spent working in the industry, and countless hours on the trails, slopes, slabs and singletracks. We stay up to date by testing engaging new products and providing honest analysis of their upsides and shortcomings. Our gear content is more in-depth than what is typically found online with an unmatched level of quality and attention to detail.
We have two main types of gear articles: round-ups and individual products reviews. The round-ups provide an overview of the best goods on the market in a particular category (the Best Down Jackets of 2016, for example). To create these articles, we research, assemble and exhaustively test as many products as we possibly can, including both established players and breakthrough new tech. We then whittle them down to final ranked list featuring our 10 or 12 top choices. You’ll find a range of price points on the final list—value is an important part of our testing criteria and we know that not everyone has a big budget for outdoor gear.
Our individual product reviews are exactly as they sound: an in-depth analysis of our experiences and opinions on one particular piece of outdoor gear. If the product summaries in the round-ups aren’t quite enough to make a final decision, the individual reviews often are. And we think you’ll find our gear reviews to be more detailed and helpful than just about anything on the internet.
Gear and Revenue
Just like you, many of the products we test are purchased at full price from retailers like REI, Backcountry, and our local outdoor stores. In addition, we receive some product samples from manufacturers, particularly for new releases. This often allows us to complete our testing before they hit the open market—then you can make your buying decision in-season when the need strikes without having to wait for us to complete our thorough review process.
We always retain complete editorial independence in our articles and we never receive any financial compensation from manufacturers for reviews. It makes no difference to us whether the product was purchased or provided as a sample. Some of the best feedback we receive from readers is that they appreciate all of the honest criticisms we provide, which are just as helpful as the positives in making a buying decision, if not more so.
Our revenue comes when you make a purchase through the links or buttons on our gear articles, by using the price compare tools on our gear reviews, or by shopping directly through the retailer links on our support us page. We really appreciate when you do—the price is the same to you but this allows us to continue testing and reviewing as much gear as possible.
And if you return a product, we make nothing. If you end up being disappointed with our recommendations and don’t come back to the site, we lose our readership. Therefore we always set a very high standard for our work, constantly striving to provide the best, most honest, and most helpful information around.
We love outdoor gear, but the outdoors is not about gear. People have climbed high mountains, skied tough terrain, and backpacked in the wilderness long before the treated down or ultralight movements existed. And we all have antique gear lying around that we absolutely love despite it not being made from the newest or lightest materials. It’s a point of pride and we say keep using it as long as your heart desires.
The right outdoor gear certainly isn’t mandatory but sure can make your trip a whole lot more fun. There is a ton of really cool technology and innovative materials that can help keep you warm and dry, lighten up your pack, and make your adventures noticeably more comfortable overall. And if you’re going to be shopping for a new a tent or down jacket, why not find the best one that fits your intended uses and budget? We’ll share our experiences, recommendations and the best options, and you can pick whatever suites your fancy, if anything at all.
We also want to note that although Switchback Travel is a website and our revenue comes primarily from retailers like REI, Amazon, Patagonia, and others, we encourage you to support your local outdoor stores. You’ll probably find that gear prices online are the same or lower than the brick-and-mortar alternatives, but every great adventure destination needs a local shop and there is no replacement for trying something on in person and getting local advice on trails and conditions. We always try to stop in and support Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Feathered Friends in Seattle, and New Moon in Northern Wisconsin, and hope you do the same at your local store.
It’s not easy being a gear tester at Switchback Travel. Our Founder David Wilkinson grew up in an outdoor-loving family in Boulder, Colorado, and has spent much of his life traveling, hiking, backpacking, fly fishing and enjoying the outdoors in any way that he can. Our Gear Editor John Ellings is an avid hiker, skier, trail runner and mountain biker, having honed his expertise working at REI’s offices before landing with us. Our lead climbing writer, Chris Kalman, has been climbing for over 15 years and recently received the Copp-Dash Award for his first ascent of the 3,000-foot east face of Cerro Catedral in Patagonia. And the list goes on.
We always are on the lookout for people doing great things who can add value to our site. First and foremost, you must live the outdoors—our testers are out doing this stuff nearly every day, and not coincidentally many are athletes or guides. You must have strong writing skills and the ability to convey information about outdoor gear in a clear and interesting manner. You also must have photography experience and the ability to capture great images of the gear and your experiences testing it. If you think you fit the bill, we currently are looking for testers in the areas below. Please submit a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to david [at] switchbacktravel.com.
- Ice climbing
- Women’s hiking apparel
- Women’s hiking footwear