Behind The Scenes Of The Outdoor 100 | The Editor's Column - Outdoors Magic

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Editor's Column

Behind The Scenes Of The Outdoor 100 | The Editor’s Column

A look at what goes into our huge annual gear guide; a labour of love if ever there was one

The Outdoor 100 2019/20, our guide to the best outdoor gear of the year, is genuinely a never-ending thing for our team. The only escape is sleep, or, well, perhaps a change of career.

We love it though really. It all starts with the trade shows, navigating our way through huge halls to see new products and then navigating through the marketing spiel in order to decipher which ones actually work. And it all ends with the writing, which I’ll admit, isn’t my favourite bit. There are at the very least 50,000 words to write after all.

In-between all that however, there’s the good bit, which is the testing. This year I thought I’d give some insight into the kind of stuff we got up to and places we travelled in order to make sure the 100 items in our guide are all legit.

The Early Stages of Selection and Testing

Throughout the year, we’ve taken the gear we’ve had up for consideration for the 100 list out with us at any opportunity. I was away in February hiking the Beacons Way for six days with a number of items that made the cut including the Jöttnar Elvar jacket and Rab Xenon Gloves, and I also managed a couple of trips to the Alps, where I tried the Lowe Alpine Altus backpack, Haglofs Skuta Proof Eco and a few others.

Jordan our staff writer has been equally busy. He travelled as far away as Iceland where he tested out a pair of boots by Hoka One One, and, being a big fan of trying and failing to find the right conditions for ski mountaineering in Scotland, he’s spent a chunk of time north of Hadrian’s Wall with various items, like the new Suunto 9 Baro watch and Adidas Terrex Free Hiker.

Using the Lowe Alpine Altus out on some via ferrata in the Alps. Photo: The Outdoor Guru
OM staffer Giles Dean testing the Osprey Kestrel on a scramble in the Brecon Beacons. Photo: Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson photographing the Ortlieb ATrack in use.
Staff Writer Jordan testing kit in the Icelandic winter.

The Norway Trip

There’s probably no better place for some gear testing than the Norwegian Fjords, one of Europe’s wildest and most rugged corners. With a selection of Outdoor 100 kit, we ventured into the wilderness surrounding Stavanger and hiked, scrambled, camped, and paddled our way around and over the granite mountains there for a week. Along the way shooting six video reviews which we’re all really pleased with. You can watch them over on the Outdoors Magic Youtube channel. Word of advice: avoid the famous Preikestolen hike here – it’s miserably busy with selfie snappers.

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The Brecon Beacons Trip

Then there was another week of gear testing closer to home in the Brecon Beacons, but in much worse conditions than we found in Norway surprisingly. While a couple of nights were spent camped out in the elements, we also had a very good basecamp in the form of Rock Cottage.

Rock Cottage made for the perfect team HQ.

Located in Llangynidr, right slap bang between the Black Mountains range and the Central Beacons, this riverside spot gave us quick access to some of the national park’s finest locations, including the cliffs of Llangattock, the forests around Tal y Bont reservoir (which are straight out of Jurassic Park), and then the hilltops above Llangynidr village, where the summit of Tor y Foel gave us impressive views of Pen y Fan, south Wales’s highest mountain.

The Outdoor 100 Test Team

Our final stage of testing. For this we called upon some external opinion; a group of 11 outdoor experts, and enthusiasts that included a Himalayan mountaineer, a record-breaking long-distance kayaker, a polar explorer and a person who’s climbed all 446 mountains in England and Wales within six months. We loaded them all up like pack mules with our Outdoor 100 kit and marched them along a 15-mile ascent-heavy route within the Black Mountains that ended with a frosty camp out.

The purpose was to get a final approval on the gear we had included, and to gather a few more thoughts to add into our reviews. Some gear fell by the wayside, but the majority passed muster to finally make selection in, what I believe has been our best Outdoor 100 project to date.

So now the gear has been tested, the photos taken and the reviews written and published, it’s back off to the trade shows to start this whole process all over again.

You can find the reviews for all of this kit we’ve been testing over on our Outdoor 100 2019/20 hub. I hope you find something to take along with you, and perhaps even enhance, all of your future outdoor escapes.

Outdoor writer James Forrest inspects an item by Cotopaxi
The Outdoors Magic Test Team briefing. Photo: Chris Johnson
Good weather for ducks, and for testing waterproof jackets. Photo: Chris Johnson

A big thanks to our photographer, Chris Johnson, and videographer Callum Earnshaw, as well as the whole Outdoor 100 Test Team for the help with the project.


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