I was just struck by this great idea!
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Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
I was just struck by this great idea! on 11/05/2007 13:58:47 MST Print View

As many of you know, I often ask about products, and due to the fact that I'm new, I expect to find a "best" item for a large variety of situations. Many of you have taught me that this just can't happen. Great for me for wanting to save money by getting the most versatile gear, but I've come to the realization that backpacking is about specialization. Gear is made for certain situations and until you know HOW to use the gear it's going to be tough to stretch the intended uses.

I think it would be AWESOME if what Miguel suggested in a recent thread were to become a reality. (the post is in the thread about proper pitching of a TT Rainbow) I think that many people join this site to learn, not just about the quality of gear, but how to use it as well. I do glean some information from reviews which say things about wind protection being necessary or the like, but more detail would never hurt.

In fact, I think that a whole section dedicated to beginners would draw a lot more people to become members.
A recent post illustrated how misconceptions about ULers exist and a beginners section would help people shed these views. It would allow beginners to see how gear is intended to be used instead of leaving them to assume or to end up asking vague questions about what is the "best" stove, tent, etc... that require Benjamin (No one has rung this point home for me more than Benjamin..) and others to prompt for more details!

Furthermore, it would be really great to have a kind of AI that would show people possible gear choices. You could plug in details regarding the seasons of intended use, altitude, length of trip, etc.. (I'm sure more experienced people could come up with better details) and then show gear that would work well in the scenario. So you would have a menu that asks what you are shopping for (backpack, stove, tent, sleeping bag, etc..) and then asked relevant questions.

For example, someone shopping for a stove would click stove and then they would be presented with a question like "What is the most important factor to you: weight, ease of use, cold weather operation etc..," depending on their answer a new question would be asked until finally a list of stoves would be compiled. Links could be embedded that direct the user to relevant information to help them answer questions that may be confusing (Not familiar with alochol stoves? Here's a nifty article for ya) Of course, the list wouldn’t be an end all, but it would be a GREAT starting point. It could even be tied to a database on the site which pulled up ratings of products on the final list so that people could see, for example, which alcohol stove the majority of people prefer in windy conditions. Maybe there could be a list of all stoves to start with and then, with each click, the list narrowed itself down until only the stoves with all the relevant tags remained. It is easy for me to see this idea spread to tents (cold weather, persistent wind, weight, snow, # of people, etc..) backpacks (weight of pack, Max weight to be carried, size of pack, durability, etc..) and other categories.

The key would be to have the list based on REAL field experience, not which manufacturer is paying to be included. I feel strongly that all items should be run thru the hands of a total beginner as well as the "experts" to find out how an average person uses the gear and what kind of problems they run into. All I ask, if that if anyone anywhere starts working on this that they talk to me about it and make me the honorary beginner tester!

Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - M

Locale: PNW
idea on 11/05/2007 15:47:57 MST Print View

Sounds like a good idea to me. I'm still in the learning process as well, and I have been dissuaded a few times and I think a newbie section is a great idea...I've seen it in other forums, and it seems to be very positive. /> .02

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Great Idea ! on 11/06/2007 02:01:21 MST Print View

Andrew, that is a great idea! I started out at BPL right at the beginning when most of the articles were about techniques. Since then it has evolved into mainly a gear test site. Of course there are still great articles about techniques, but I think somewhat disheartening for newcomers, mainly because it is hard to know where to start. I think it would be great if there was something for newcomers to click on directly and be given a logical and easy-to-understand rundown of what is available, how to use it properly (with visual examples... Backpacking Light UK's "Tarp DVD" for example seems to be selling very well because it explains a lot of tarp pitching techniques that newcomers don't know about. Don Ladigin and Mike Clelland's "Light Up!" book does the same thing), and the progression to more advanced techniques. Not only that such an online visualization page as you describe would be very useful for other BPL users in helping them work out and think up their gearlists. I look at gearlists all the time and compare them to other gearlists, which in turn I work into my own developing gearlist. To be able to click and see a visual representation of the new gearlist that I've developed would be mighty useful.

It would also be great to see an easily accessible page of all of the BPL staff and BPL member's gearlists along with a photo of all their gear laid out in one picture and then a photo of all that gear packed in the intended pack, preferably being worn by the user, and finally one photo, like the one by Doug, of all the equipment in field use. They could contained in a frame the way Will Rietveld always presents his 4-photo shots of reviewed gear. Sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words.

Edited by butuki on 11/06/2007 02:09:05 MST.