Our Gear Review Process

Publishing honest gear reviews that give our users the most complete information about a product is one of our goals at ORB. We have been burned too many times by poor reviews. We want you to make the smartest choices with your hard-earned money.

When we’re reviewing gear, we’re following a rubric so we can make a good recommendation. Right now we are publishing two types of review articles: best of articles and individual gear review articles. All of our review articles are supplemented by additional informational articles.

How we create our best of articles

Some examples of our best of articles are our Best Nuts for Trad Climbing and Best Bouldering Shoes for Beginners.

Here’s how we come up with our best-of lists.

First, we research all of the available products in the category. We only include products currently in production, but we may make a note of a cult favorite that is no longer produced. This gives you a better understanding of the history of the category and is something to keep an eye out for in case it comes back into production.

Next, we trim down the possible products. We do this through a combination of our own personal experience using the gear and what we see our friends and colleagues using. We have experience guiding professionally, so we tap into our network in the outdoor industry to see what the opinionated pros are using.

Once we know what the pros are using, we acquire the products. We can acquire these in one of three ways.

  1. Purchasing products with our own money
  2. Receiving free products from manufacturers. Any product that is sent to us by a manufacturer will be prominently displayed in our review. All manufactureres that send us gear are in agreement that they have can have no external influence on the review.
  3. Borrow gear from members of our network.

Once we have the gear in hand, we compare it to what is advertised on the manufacturer’s website. Does the advertised weight match up the product in hand? Did a climbing shoe listed as having a downturn come with a downturn, or was there an error in quality assurance that made it come flat? We get picky here.

Then we put the products through the wringer and start using them. We look at the advertised features, durability, and longevity of the product. We see durability as the product’s toughness, how long can be it used after constant use.

But longevity is something that goes under the radar in gear reviews. I remember the first belay device I bought was awesome while I was only climbing in the gym. But when I started to climb outside, it was nearly rendered useless because it could not be used in outdoor climbing specific scenarios. I had to buy another device and now have two pieces of gear when I could have just had one all along. These are scenarios we want to make you aware of so you can make an informed decision.

Once our research and testing are complete, we then pick winners for sub-categories. We pick our overall favorite, but we also pick the best options on other use cases. We publish our findings for you and then move on to the next topic.

Individual Review Article Process

Our process for reviewing individual pieces of gear is similar to how we build out our best-of lists. But these articles will go into more depth on a piece of gear.

An example of our individual gear review articles is our Unparallel Up Lace Review.

Our review process is similar to our best of articles. First, we identify the piece of gear to review. This can be an item we’ve known and loved, an item that is new to the market, or an item that’s been requested by our audience.

Next, we acquire the item. We will either already own the gear, borrow it from our outdoor industry network, or receive the gear for free from a manufacturer. If the manufacturer sends us the item for free, we prominently display it on the article. The manufacturer has no influence on the review.

We then research the item. And making sure that it matches up to the features and tech specs advertised by the manufacturers. Any defect or facet about the piece that we feel has been misrepresented will be discussed in the review. Then we take the item out in the real world and begin testing. Seeing how it feels, performs, and doing side-by-side comparisons if necessary.

We then publish our review with every little fact and opinion we have about the piece. We give just the facts and some of our own thoughts so you can make an informed decision. We balance our personal opinion with any other reviews we’ve seen online or heard from in our network. All of this info is passed along to you.

As time goes on, we will update the review at specific time intervals to give you an idea if the item has held up. If the product is updated or removed from production we relay this information to you

All of our articles will follow these templates. If you have any suggestions for improvements to our review process or would like to see an item reviewed. Please leave a comment below.