Gear Review Review
Let’s be honest: It’s hard not to be skeptical about gear reviews. After all, how often do you read something negative about a piece of gear on the pages of a magazine?
But here’s the truth: For one story that shows, say, 10 pieces of gear—jackets, shirts, sports bras, you name it—dozens of products are considered, tested, considered again, tested again. The goods we’d say negative things about don’t make the cut. You never see them on the page.
Every item gets vetted through hours of research, running (sometimes in place; read on), more research, and more running. Depending on the story, we may enlist other testers for additional feedback. Shoe reviews use more than 50 wear-testers.
Due to weather, timing, interesting end-goals and whatnot, the process sometimes requires creativity.
I once had my husband run in place on a dark street corner wearing reflective gear and different headlamps (12 different outfits = grumpy husband), as I drove at him from a half-mile away to measure the low-light safety of the goods.
For second and third round testing of waterproof jackets during a dry spell in Colorado, I’ve run a garden hose on myself and measured how long it took the water to get me wet.
And I’m currently wrapping up a story for the July issue of Runner’s World, focusing on gear that keeps a runner cool in scorching, mid-summer temperatures. I did most of my testing mid-February, thanks to a family vacation to Hawaii that coincided with my deadline.
To shed some light on the life of a typical gear story you’d see on the pages of Runner’s World, I thought I’d share how the July story has unfolded, thus far.
After meeting with gear and apparel manufacturers at trade shows and sorting through spring/summer catalogs, I chatted with my editor at Runner’s World about a potential summer gear story.
A couple of weeks later, I got the go-ahead for a hot-weather running gear story, with a mid-March deadline.
The next step included contacting gear manufacturers that make short-sleeved shirts, tanks, singlets, shorts, sports bras, skirts, sunglasses, sunblocks, hats, visors, wispy-thin socks, hydration packs, and more. I asked them what’s the newest, coolest, most technical gear they had for this summer.
After sorting through a ridiculous number of emails from marketing and public relations people, I “called in” samples of the gear that sounded like the best fit for the story and that I wanted to see, touch, try on, and try out.
Days later, boxes started arriving from FedEx, UPS and USPS—via delivery people I see almost daily, as a gear-reviewer. I know them by name and once gave the FedEx guy a pair of leftover shoes from a review because he’d been bringing my dog treats for years.
Since I’ve found it more efficient to open everything at once, instead of stopping what I’m doing every time FedEx shows up, I piled the boxes in my office. And I left some in the hallway, to the dismay of my tidy husband.