Here at Gorp we take gear seriously. And just like you, we’re tight on time and cash. When we buy equipment, we expect it to work. We want it to enhance our outdoor experience and increase our performance—basically for it to pass one test: we have to forget that we’re even using it while we’re out, having the time of our lives.
And we also know the gear nightmares. The expensive waterproof/breathable jacket that soaked up moisture like Sponge Bob. The over-the-top, pricey down sleeping bag that shed feathers like a fifth-grade sleepover. The swank new backpack with the bogus zipper and theoretically innovative supports that poke in the small of your back… Spectacular gear failures may make for fun stories (and lucrative book deals), but they mostly just make us regret our susceptibility to marketing hype.
Equipment should be worthy accomplices in our adventure—not an impediment to excellence—and thus we want to offer you insight to the best gear that’s available, so you can get out and enjoy the world outdoors.
What We Choose
There are literally millions of new products introduced every year. Before we pick a product to profile, we spend days, weeks, even months sifting through manufacturer and retail websites, press releases, and catalogs. We haunt retail stores and surreptitiously check labels in lift lines, running trails, train stations, and long airport security lines. We attend conferences and discuss waterproof/breathable laminates and mid-sole construction and insulation loft until we bore even ourselves. Then we focus on what we think will be the best gear in each category, from hiking to camping to biking to travel. And we put it through the ringer.
How We Test
There’s no substitute for time spent in the field—on the trail, road, rock, tarmac, pavement, or snow-covered slope. Even the most ill-conceived product can work during its first outing. But what happens after days of use and miles of abuse? Do midsoles break down after multiple miles? Are harness buckles easy to thread? Will an accidental dry cycle ruin a $100 sweater? It may not be rocket science, but we take these questions seriously. If a product works, we’ll tell you why. If it almost works, we’ll expose the product’s quirks. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t make the cut.
Who We Are
Nathan Borchelt has been gear-obsessed since his first banana-seat bike and has had the good fortune of writing about gear and adventure travel for over ten years. He’s dived in the Galapagos, skied the volcanoes of Japan, tramped across Tasmanian beaches, pedaled through Zion, sipped tea in Sri Lanka, and hiked countless miles in and around his home of Washington, DC. He commutes via bike daily, and will willingly go out into an August thunderstorm to test the breathability of the latest hard shell. He currently works as the lead editor and product manager of GORP.com and the Gearzilla Gear Blog.
Nancy Prichard Bouchard attributes her career choice to a misspent youth–which she admits is far from over. A former internationally ranked rock and ice climber, Bouchard has traveled the globe climbing, skiing, kayaking, running, and backpacking. Bouchard started her writing career as executive editor at Rock and Ice. Her work has also appeared in Men’s Journal, Playboy, Outside, National Geographic, Sunset, Skiing, Backpacker, and Away.com, as well as dozens of other print and web-based magazines. She has appeared in print campaigns, videos, T.V. shows, and commercials, including The Today Show and National Geographic’s Explorer Series. She attended University of Oregon, Northern Arizona University, and University of Colorado, where she earned a Ph.D. in American History. She currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband, John Bouchard (a world-renowned alpinist whom she met while both were competing in the X-Games), and their three daughters, Lili, Coco, and Alice.
Kate Chandler, having escaped her native Mississippi’s oppressive heat, spent ten summers in the cool mountains of North Carolina. It was there, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, she cultivated her love of the outdoors, learning backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater skills. In addition to backpacking, canoeing, and kayaking along much of the Appalachian mountain chain, Kate spent two summers exploring several ranges in Alaska and Canada on foot and on water. She also has extensive backpacking and rafting experience in the Rocky Mountains. She is a PADI-certified diver and a decent skier (for a gal from Mississippi). Kate earned her master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and worked for Backpacker magazine before joining The Away Network as an editor in 2006.
Lacy Morris grew up in the vast emptiness of the Kansas wheat fields. Perhaps this is what cultivated her deep longing to see the world and experience how others live. Lacy followed up her childhood by somehow staying put long enough to craft a degree in journalism, focusing on both travel and photography. Her curiosity about the world has taken her everywhere from playing soccer with orphans in Romania, clinging onto the back of a motorbike taxi driver during an uncompromising Thai rainstorm, sleeping on beaches in Malaysia, to riding the waves with locals in Costa Rica.
The Small Print
After due diligence, we contact the company to alert them that we are considering a specific product. Sometimes it is a product we’ve already used—if not, we request a test sample. Then we put it to work and make the call: Is it worthy?
Field tests take a few weeks to a few months, depending on the gear product, the target season, product release date, and other considerations like whether or not the product is a prototype or has been on the market for years. Our policy is that once products are tested, they are the property of GORP, though we do return, recycle, donate, and sponsor give-aways with the products after they have been thoroughly tested and reviewed.
We have on-staff writers/testers as well as a crew of testers recruited from our readership in an effort to offer maximum exposure of the brand and the product to end-users, and we get reliable from-the-field input from real outdoor enthusiasts.