After mulling this over all day (subconsciously, while doing other things), I've come to the conclusion that we're arguing apples and oranges again. There are two components to any type of opinion-based activity (be it issuing audit opinions on financial statements or writing gear reviews): Independence and Objectivity.
You can, in some cases, give up independence and still produce an objective, meaningful review (or financial statement.) Whether the reader can rely on that product depends upon his needs, and how he can overcome the independence problem. However, you can never produce worthwhile output if you give up your objectivity - regardless of how independent you are.
That seems to be exactly the position we (readers) are all in regarding BPL. We recognize that Ryan, et. al., may not be independent. But, they have demostrated an almost inhumanly-high degree of objectivity (see the BMW Pack Project thread Ryan started.)
For many of our purposes, this results in relevant, reliable information. However, despite the desire for a risk-free life, we have to realize that all of the information (reviews, reader forums, or whatever) is a tool, NOT a guarantee. It's strictly up to us to determine when and to what degree to rely on it. Don't ever forget that Ryan is our advisor, not our mommy.
The best example of a proper mindset was a sign I saw once at a National Forest trailhead: "You are now entering a wilderness area. The USFS does not guarantee your enjoyment or your return."