Holiday Shopping: Reliable Outdoor Product Reviews

Man and hiking equipment in mountains, sticks, water bottle and backpack on a rock


Did you realize that 72 per cent of Canadian households have at least one person who participates in some type of outdoor activity? That’s according to Statistics Canada. Canadians, together with Americans visiting Canada, spend $11.7 billion a year on nature-related activities in Canada, reports the Canadian Tourism Commission. That being said, chances are there’s someone on your Christmas holiday shopping list this year who would enjoy an outdoorsy gift. But with so much information online, sifting through it all to find quality products can be challenging. Some product reviewers are amateurs with uninformed opinions, while others are affiliate marketers with a promotional agenda. Here are some tips on how to wade through the material online and find reliable information you can use to purchase quality products.

Ask People You Know and Trust

Eighty-four percent of consumers trust product recommendations from people they know, claims a Nielsen Trust in Advertising report. The advantage of asking people you know for their opinions is that you know how honest they will be and that they have your best interests in mind, unlike the financial motive sales representatives and advertisers have. Do you know any outdoors enthusiasts, hunters or fishermen? Ask them for their opinions on products you’re considering buying.

To expand your circle of trusted advisers beyond your family and friends, join an outdoors group on Facebook and ask members their opinions. You also can use apps such as Stucck to poll your Facebook friends if you need a range of opinions.

Find out What Experts Say

In addition to asking people you know, another way to evaluate products is to read what experts have to say. The trick here is finding genuine experts rather than amateurs with an opinion to push or an affiliate product to sell. A good place to start is with leading outdoor magazines, such as Field & Stream, Backpacker, Outdoor Life and Bassmaster. These magazines’ websites typically have reviews included under a menu item with a title such as “Gear.”

Leading outdoor suppliers, such as Cabela’s, also often include expert posts and reviews on their blogs. Additionally, there are expert side-by-side product review sites, such as OutdoorGearLab, as well as specialty review sites that focus on specific types of equipment, such as Best Crossbow Source.

Browse Product Reviews From Other Consumers

Another way to find product reviews is to read consumer comments on sites, such as Amazon and specialty review sites. These types of reviews can be useful as long as you read comments with a critical eye. Some commenters may have limited experience with one product and lack the well-rounded perspective of an expert reviewer. Others may be shills posting promotional reviews. Consumerist writer Ben Popken provides some tips for spotting phony reviews. Salesy language, overuse of exact brand models to game search engines, reviews that exclusively favor or attack one brand and multiple reviews with identical content are a few red flags that may be signs of a fake review.

Read the Fine Print

When evaluating reviews, it’s important to dig into the details for vital information that can get lost if you only look on the surface of a glowing review. OutdoorGearLab’s tent review page illustrates the type of in-depth information that should go into making a well-informed purchasing decision. The reviews rate tents in categories that cover comfort, weather resistance, ease of setup, workmanship and packed size. They also include details about the tent materials, height, weight, number of doors and number of seasons the tent is designed for. Other relevant details to consider are the manufacturer warranties and return policies. Paying attention to these types of details help you see past the hype and make a well-informed purchasing decision.

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