Here’s how to become an outdoor gear reviewer, one of the most sought-after areas of expertise in the business.
It’s something that happens naturally when you are truly engrossed in something: big music fans often eventually find themselves wanting to write reviews of their favorite albums; passionate movie buffs want to write critically about film; and die-hard outdoorsmen and women want to share their experiences with hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and survival gear.
Writing reviews of gear can be a great way to bring your passion for hunting and other outdoor sports into another new realm.
It can also, eventually, become a source of income or a way to get your hands on free gear releases from the big outdoor brands.
Before you start thinking about the big leagues, though, you need to establish yourself as a gear reviewer, and here are the five steps you should take to do so.
1. Start thinking of the gear you have now in a critical way
No one is going to start giving you free gear to test right away, unfortunately, so if you want to be a gear reviewer, you are going to have to get your start by writing about gear that you already have. Take a look through your gear arsenal and pick out a few items you think you could write a review of. Try to steer away from older gear. As with any type of review, critical writing about gear is only really topical when it’s discussing newer items and can be used by fellow outdoorsmen to make decisions about whether or not certain products are worth purchasing.
Every time you wrap up a hunting or fishing-related shopping trip, plan on reviewing the items you bought. And make sure you are thinking critically about those items while you are using them. That doesn’t mean that you have to strive to have negative opinions about gear, but do make a point of noting pros and cons in performance, usability, learning curve, design, durability, price, and more. Chances are you won’t have time to take gear notes while actually fishing or hunting, so start a gear journal that you write in after every trip. This will allow you to formulate and remember your thoughts on a specific product when you go to write about it.
2. Think of interesting review angles for recent gear purchases
Once you’ve begun to establish a list of pros and cons, you can begin thinking of how you will formulate your review. Always remember that the notes you took in your gear journal won’t function by themselves as a review. There isn’t an experienced outdoorsman on the planet who wants to read a review that goes “The good things about this product are…” and “The bad things about this item are…” without any color or personality.
Obviously, you will want to fit your pros and cons into the article, but you will want to do so in a way that is interesting, entertaining, and relatable to the reader. Ultimately, reviews are subjective pieces of writing, colored by all of your unique opinions, biases, and experiences, so embrace that fact and write in a style that is unique to you as well. Establish a personal voice (will you be the funny reviewer? The old and wise veteran? The storyteller?), then run with that voice and use it to establish a following.
As a rule of thumb, it will be the gear you are reviewing that brings readers to it, but it will be your writing style and voice that sticks with them. So frame your reviews like thrilling adventure stories; build them with jokes and wisecracks. Just make sure you’re being creative and unique. There are a lot of people out there who would like to be gear reviewers, and you need to stand apart from the pack.
3. Outline your review
Once you have your pros and cons list written down and your review angle decided, you can start outlining your review. Decide ahead of time how you will start your review, how you will end it, and how you will move from one point to the next in the body of the article. Chances are you used outlines like this in high school or college English classes, and they help a lot to formulate your thoughts and ideas into a seamless piece of cohesive writing.
An outline can also be great for helping you to adhere to a specific length. Remember that you want your review to be long enough to have color and personality while still offering valuable insight into the product at hand, but not so long that modern Internet readers, with their brief attention spans, lose interest.
Eventually, you will be so comfortable with writing and expressing your thoughts on gear that you will be able to write something that flows well and hits all the requisite points without using an outline. When you’re starting out, however, an outline can help a ton.
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4. Establish a blog for yourself and start posting articles
Here’s the easy part: pick a free blogging client – be it Google Blogger, WordPress, or whatever – and establish a blog for yourself. Think of a unique, memorable blog name: this will be your brand name if you end up sticking with the gear review thing, so make sure you like it. Once the blog is built, you can start posting articles. In posting the review, think of the types of content that you like to read online. Doing so will help you to format your article and balance your blocks of written text with other items that help make the review more digestible.
For instance, pictures are essential for helping your readers envision the gear you are writing about; headings help offer a road map to your review and make it easier for readers to catalog the information you are presenting; and tables or bullet lists are great for offering addition information, like product specs and prices.
5. Be on the lookout for chances to build your brand
Once you’ve begun posting articles, be on the lookout for ways to get followers. Use social media to promote your blog (Twitter and Facebook are both essentials), and think about spicing up your content with articles that go beyond gear reviews.
Also look around the web for opportunities to register for free gear. BackpackGearTest.org is one website that works to hook writers up with gear. If you decide to write with them, you will have to post your reviews on their site rather than on a personal blog, but you will be able to get complimentary products sent to you for testing and reviewing, which is obviously a big perk. If that doesn’t appeal, just start reaching out to other writers, reviewers, and outdoor sports industry figures. If you stick with writing and remain vigilant about maintaining a steady stream of content, you’ll eventually start building a network and getting your name out there.