The Best of the Best
In a draft titled Starting Over, I try to condense a decade’s worth of outdoor gear experience. The 8,000 word missive, started in 2017, highlights “The Gear I Would Buy if I Had to Do it All Over Again”. After thousands of dollars spent searching for the best of the best, it tries help those just starting out avoid some of the expensive lessons I had to learn. That post has not left my drafts folder, though, in part because the list keeps changing. Two weeks in Arizona made me reconsider my chosen boot, the Vasque St. Elias GTX, plus I need to try the new Phantom 50 I bought while there to go with my Matador Freerain 24. I want to move to a more lightweight and season-agnostic setup, and I will have to see how that plays out before I publish the be-all, end-all list for aspiring adventurers. Until then, take a look at these sites. I do a lot of research before I buy, and that research starts here.
- https://thewirecutter.com/ - The Wirecutter reviews product categories, and recommends a few of the best in each. Look here for reviews of consumer products, rather than outdoor gear in particular, but you may find some good information about the latter, too.
- http://toolsandtoys.net/ - Tools & Toys reviews focus on products rather than entire categories, so expect less breadth than a site like The Wirecutter. These writers bring a different, less utilitarian, and more bespoke perspective to the table, which I sometimes find valuable.
- https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/ - Outdoor Gear Lab’s tagline says it all: its staff write “the world’s most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear”, period. Enough said.
- https://www.rtings.com/ - RTINGS focuses on electronics like keyboards, televisions, and headphones. The site’s approach strikes me as a cross between The Wirecutter’s and Outdoor Gear Lab’s, which makes RTINGS a great resource for those shopping for peripherals.
- https://www.thinkprivacy.io/ - ThinkPrivacy recommends applications and services based on how well they preserve their users’ privacy. This has become increasingly important to me, so I try to choose from these lists as much as possible.
I do a lot of research before I buy, because I like to buy one good thing once — instead of three bad things before shelling out for the good thing I should have bought in the first place. That research starts with these websites, but does not end there. They all thoroughly test many similar items, evaluate them, and recommend the best one for most people. My strange and opaque criteria may overlap with the reviewers’, but seldom matches it, so I take as much as I can from each and then keep hunting. Until I get around to posting Starting Over, I suggest you do the same — and even then, take my advice with a grain of salt. Starting Over should add to this list, not replace it.