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Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report
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Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Nothing to do with SOTMR on 09/19/2012 23:19:06 MDT Print View

Move this to Chaff if you wish but I started the negativity here. I take my grand daughter MaKailynn or "Mak" dining and dancing at a country dancehall/saloon/BBQ/roadhouse type place. I know, great place to take your grand daughter, but on Thursdays its a really clean crowd. The food at this place can be fantastic at times,ok other times,sometimes pretty bad. I usually just eat it and dont complain. Mak loves their fries. really good beer battered fries. sometimes not so good. Mak complains when they are bad the waitress says that when they get busy they have to make big batches and they just are not as fresh and does not offer to get her new ones at all. The food might be good it might not you never know. I have gone from buying meals like a rack of ribs to maybe a sandwich or maybe hit McDonalds on the way and just buy soft drinks and dance there. I have complained about the consistacy to the head bartender and waitresses and they just seem mad that you complained and the consistacy still aint there. The dining crowd seems to be getting smaller and mostly people are just coming out to dance. I would like to eat there more but dont like paying for bad food. The owner never talks to us at all about the food. Im watching the place go downhill I hear they are in financial trouble and its really to bad cause its a fun place and the food when its good can be real good and there is no other place like this for us to go. And to an outsider it seems so easy to fix,like Im sorry I will get you some fresh fries. But instead the cook comes out yelling you dont like my food I dont care. Sorry for the stupid analogy, I thought it might be less offensive and easy to understand and its a true story. I wont complain anymore it does not help and only makes you look bad

Edited by mtmnmark on 09/19/2012 23:27:47 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: State of the market on 09/19/2012 23:34:18 MDT Print View


You are correct. You can vote by not renewing your membership. Capitalism at its best!! And I approve of that.

However, this business cannot and will not be successful by relying on membership sales to support it. Especially the M-Life option.

BTW, I bought my membership. What I got was a little less than promised, but I am happy with the investment for the forums alone.

The attitude is not "defeatist." I learned a long time ago to control what I can control. Those things I cannot control are often not worth the effort.

The M-Life forums have not been beneficial to the members or BPL as of yet. Nothing productive comes out of them except more complaining. I pretty much ignore them anymore.

The dice have been cast. Nothing will change unless Ryan changes them. And no one here is going to pressure him into doing anything. That has already been proven.

So, I am not going to spend an ounce of time worrying about it. And if BPL dies, I am not going elsewhere else. I have no desire to participate in another website forum.

What I will tell you is that in the almost 4 years I have been a BPL member I have met a lot of really nice, smart and great people. Actually I have only personally met about 5 people, but I feel as if I have met and know 100's of truly wonderful people -- yourself included.

Life is too short and valuable to get upset about a website.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: title change on 09/19/2012 23:34:58 MDT Print View

Wow while I was writing a story fresh fries came, Thanks

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: State of the market on 09/19/2012 23:54:32 MDT Print View

Nick, thanks (as usual) for the intelligent conversation.


Serge Giachetti
(sgiachetti) - M

Locale: Boulder, CO
more rietvelds please.. on 09/20/2012 01:54:50 MDT Print View

I think this 'round up' just came across as a little insulting to a BPL audience that has a pretty low tolerance for fluff. Truly, there is nothing here that couldn't be gleaned from a 5 minute online spec comparison, except for pictures of the some $1600 worth of high tech gear on the reviewers lawn. Its basically a farce. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but its genuinely a little frustrating to be paying for 'content' thats not really content. OK, so I'm a little protective of BPL, because a good majority of online media is pretty superficial. I visit BPL with the expectation of substance, I don't think thats unfair.

There's a few reasons for the high expectations, one of which is Will Rietveld. Seriously, that dude crushes. His reviews are pretty much unparalleled, because he gets 'out there' like few people do, and he's got a keen eye for design. He's also METICULOUS (just felt like that had to be in caps). Dave C is sort of like a Will Jr., except lower case meticulous, and a maybe little bit more of a crusher (just a little though ;). Its obvious that there is no way for a website like this to properly compensate the kind of work that goes into one of Will's reviews. Here we have a fit retired man living in alpine heaven with boundless enthusiasm for the outdoors and gear testing (a winning recipe for BPL). His reviews, as well as Ryan's early UL insights, which once seemed like secret dark arts, were some of the reasons that bpl was actually able to pull off the trick of pay for online content.

Basically, I'm suggesting that BPL needs to clone more Will Rietvelds. The business model seems to rest on these 'for the love of it' outdoorsman who crush, and who know their stuff. Anybody know any mad geneticists?

Edited by sgiachetti on 09/20/2012 01:59:18 MDT.

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
More Reitvelds? on 09/20/2012 05:51:03 MDT Print View

I agree Will is a great reviewer. But Will and Roger are retired and can get out a lot plus have plenty of time to write. Most people have jobs and families that take their time too. Writing gear reviews does not pay well. My SOTMR (and supporting reviews) took almost a year and did not pay enough to cover one round trip of gas to go backpacking. Most of us do this because we believe we are helping other backpackers to make informed decisions before plunking down their hard-earned cash, and to help manufacturers get real-world data to let them make better gear. At least that is the way I look at it. I bet reviewing gear costs me a couple thousand dollars a year. Welcome to the wonderful world of gear reviewing Chris. (I’ve been doing it since 2005)

That said, this was very lacking. The trips that you did make Chris should have been written about. I want to see “action” shots, no matter how cruddy the surroundings. It proves to the reader that the gear was “out there” and that you are making informed statements. Personally I try to get at least a few trips (5-6 nights) with a piece of gear before I write about it. I prefer much more than that.

All of the tents that fit the category should have been in it to make it a SOTMR. Like Daniel said, calling it a Round-up, or even a collection of Spotlight Reviews would have been more accurate.

Personally I stopped writing for BPL mainly because it was not enjoyable for me. I hate Ratings. What I think is great another person may hate. Gear should be reviewed on its own merits. The reviewer should express their opinion and the reader should realize that is all it is. The writer’s opinion. I can’t tell you what works for you. But hopefully I explain the item in enough detail for you to use my field data and observations as a basis to help you decide if it is something that you will like or not.

I hate comparisons for the same reason. It should not be my job as a reviewer to pit one item against another. Save that for Shoot-Outs, something I have never partaken in.

And lastly, just this kind of angst is another thing that turned me off to BPL. Many people here want the writer to be just like them, and hike their style, or it is “no good”. Chris, you can’t let yourself get mad reading these posts. Take the constructive criticism to heart (to use it to get better) and ignore the destructive criticism.

Now, since you got to keep a few of those shelters Chris, maybe as you get more use in with them you can write full (separate) reviews of them and put a link in this article as each is published. That will make it a much better resource and will help the manufacturer also. I wish you well as you grow in the “business”.


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: More Reitvelds? on 09/20/2012 09:03:24 MDT Print View

I don't know how many of you are professional writers, but as one myself I agree with Raymond's assessment about not taking the criticisms personally. Criticisms in a public forum are part and parcel to being a professional writer. If you can't take the guff, you shouldn't be writing in a public arena, especially if there are paying readers. Whether or not you get paid a pittance is beside the point; if people are paying the publication, then you as a writer need to listen to what the readers want, even if you don't agree with them. Readers (paying or otherwise) are what keep all publications afloat. Kill the readers, or their interest in the publication, and all your bemoaning how you were treated becomes a moot point. Remember, all writers write for their audience, not for themselves. That's the very reason you write.

Develop a thick skin, roll with the punches, learn to find the sweet spot and to heed good advice, and never assume that your writing can't use improvement.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
reviews on 09/20/2012 09:23:44 MDT Print View

Personally I would love to help with reviews as I have plenty of free time and little in the way of commitments but unfortunately I am a big and tall guy so most of the stuff out there is not made for a person of my size. To that end is there a role for me out there?

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: State of the market on 09/20/2012 09:32:40 MDT Print View

I think constructive criticism about this article belongs on this thread. Criticism of BPL in general belongs somewhere else. Use this article as an example, if you want, but saying you think BPL has somehow turned into something it wasn't because of one article is silly.

As for this article, I stand by my previous (constructive) criticism. Comparing tents is hard. Designs vary quite a bit, and there is no easy way to get an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the various models. Simple things like determining floor space or head room are tricky to represent. Some tent makers have great diagrams, so it is easy to see, while others leave a lot to the imagination. Even great articles, like this one:, don't do a great job of describing the dimensions of a tent. This is where you come in. You could include layouts. If I had an easy to read tent layout reference of the 17 setups (in the hikelighter article) and the 5 here, it would make the buying decision much easier. This way I could make my own decision as to whether a tent was a one person, or one person plus tent.

One of the things I really like about this site is that it is filled with scientific, nerdy type information. Much of this goes over my head. But it is objective. Making the diagrams I want would not be easy (which is why it isn't common) but it would be a great example of making a complex subject easily understood (something you do quite often).

Edited by rossbleakney on 09/20/2012 09:35:34 MDT.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
SOTMR - The missing leg. on 09/20/2012 09:33:25 MDT Print View

Much has been written here about individuals disappointment in the recent BPL "State of the Market" report. As a non member, I've not read it, so can't comment about the article directly. Given my position in the community, probably wouldn't even if I could.

However, what's missing in all the bashing between readers and writers is what I call the third leg of the stool. There are obviously three components to a review. Gear, a well written review and an interested readership. The large dose of forum discussion clearly indicates an intense interest. Threads were appearing weeks in advance wondering about it's eventual release.

As I said, I won't comment on the review itself. But clearly BPL has a long history of good reviews. Some of which were penned by Chis.

The missing leg here is the gear. This is where I come in and the story is long, strange, complicated and certainly not something that's going to get espoused upon in this short thread response.

You have probably wondered why many of the popular gear items that once appeared on the pages of BPL have been long absent. The simple fact is that a number of us manufactures simply haven't provided BPL with gear, even when asked.

It's not that we've been mad because some item of gear was pilloried in a review. That's all part of the course and if properly considered it helps us make better products.

Nor are we mad with Will. In fact those of us who've not provided gear have actually paid for Will and his wife Janet stay at the Outdoor Retailer Show for the last couple of years. Clearly not in any attempt on our part to curry his favor for some pleasant review. But simply because we like and respect him. At one point or another most of us have been on backpacking trips with him over the years. Often struggling to keep up.

Now with Will retired, for the second time, Chris has been handed a hornets' nest that he clearly didn't see coming. And has been instructed to make the best of it. Personally I wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

So what is to become of BPL? That's clearly beyond my powers to forecast. There are some in our cottage community that have expressed deep concern about the lost of BPL and what potential impact it might bear on our bottom line. One even suggested either buying BPL or creating our own alternative. But the key success of any publication is the ability to be both independent and objective.

As has clearly been pointed out by a massive number of threads on the topic. It's equally important for publications to have open, frequent and frank dialog with both its readership and with those upon which it reports.

In a little over a week Henry, Grant (Glens off this year) and I will be off on a backpacking trip. I've no doubt the topic of BPL will be raised at sometime or other. Especially now that I've written this tome. I doubt that I'm the only one who'd like to see and end to this log jam. But it's beyond me to see a resolution.

Perhaps some will see this post is simply dumping another unwanted can of worms on a bad situation. There maybe some truth to that. If I wished for anything is that it would spur the opening of a dialog. Will it in fact lead to anything? Only time will tell.


Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
reviews on 09/20/2012 09:45:48 MDT Print View

As a scientist and amateur statistician, I know how long it can take to gather and analyze data, then write a meaningful report. I offer my thanks to ALL authors who take the time to do reviews and/or technical articles for BPL. I have about 20 in my "Favorites" list.

In my opinion, the most prominant/prolific of these are:

Roger Caffin
Will Rietveld
Alan Dixon
Ryan Jordan

Here are just three examples of in-depth technical articles from the past. All are still available; you just have to search through the Articles and similar categories.
By Roger Caffin 2006
By Alan Dixon 2006
By Will Rietveld 2008

and reviews:
By Roger Caffin 2011
By Don Johnston and Ryan Jordan 2002 re: Nunatak Arc Alpinist quilt

Access to in-depth information of this kind is why I bought a Life Membership at BPL. These forums are a side benefit.

Thanks again, authors.

Wandering Bob

Edited by wandering_bob on 09/20/2012 09:48:11 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: SOTMR - The missing leg. on 09/20/2012 10:03:22 MDT Print View

Great commentary, Ron, as always.

Keep in mind that there is a very good reason why Will or Roger were almost never pilloried (I can't think of a single time, personally). A very good reason. There is something to be learned from that, as a writer, as a publisher, as reviewers, as gear makers.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
format change? on 09/20/2012 11:06:52 MDT Print View

While I know it is good to see some of these SOTM reviews that will compare a multitude of different items, why not just use the system where someone would review one item and then other people could add their thoughts on its usage also? People could even write about comparisons for other similar items they have used also and do a compare and contrast. I seem to remember that there were a lot of reviews like that previously on this site. Maybe free it up so that more than just a handful of people are writing reviews so that more gear is covered. That might allow reviews to be more timely also and those contributing to it could add how their item has worked out long term. Just an idea.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: reviews on 09/20/2012 11:10:49 MDT Print View

People to I think that there is a difference between constructive criticism here. I felt that some of the comments thrown at the reviewer were somewhat meam spirited. Of course when you write something be it written word, music or art you are 100% open to critique .....some of the responses were constructive and some were like I mentioned, a bit on the mean side.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Perspective. on 09/20/2012 11:24:44 MDT Print View

I have no idea how many people subscribe to BPL.

But it seems to me that there are less than one dozen on this thread that are posting negative comments and seem to believe this piece is another symptom of the ultimate slow demise of BPL.

Frankly, I think people change and people get bored. When people reminisce about the "good old days" of BPL, I suspect there's a certain loss of perspective that those were days when much of the info on this site was genuinely new and refreshing to them.
I think a lot of the current angst has more to do with boredom than BPL or industry stagnation.

It gets old, eventually.

It's certainly gotten old for me.

That's why I haven't bothered with renewing. It's not some sort of political statement or jab at RJ or anyone else. It's because I'm simply not too interested anymore. I don't read 90% or more of the member content. I don't need a solo+ tent, and when I do, I'm confident in my own assessment of what I need. Or I'll turn to the forums or blogs, which usually are months if not years ahead of the curve. I'm just not interested in new jackets, fabric technologies, etc. The bulk of the content here is gear driven, so if you're over the gear thing...What's left?

I don't feel like BPL is doing things all that differently. I am.

Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Re: Perspective. on 09/20/2012 12:42:31 MDT Print View

Craig makes an excellent point. Once you have gotten your gear dialed in and aren't all about the newest, lightest, and shiniest gear, the articles put out by BPL just aren't that important anymore. Most of my outdoors time nowadays is spent with an activity other than just backpacking in mind (fishing, trail running, climbing, etc). I've changed.

But in contrast, there are quite a few people who are just finding out about lightweight backpacking and changing their own perspective. I feel these people deserve in-depth analysis of gear in these reports, as well.

And this is why pleasing everyone is nearly impossible.

Edited by aaronufl on 09/20/2012 12:43:20 MDT.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Solo -Plus Tent SOM-- Crowd Sourcing?? on 09/22/2012 11:20:00 MDT Print View

I found the author bashing a bit surprising. Having started out at BPL with getting printed copies in the mail. I was just happy to find a real, original article posted :-). I found it informative, and appreciated the review of a mix of shelters from cottage and larger, commercial manufacturers.

To the above comment about "standardized" reporting, any scale 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, is just a way to rank order one person's opinion or attitude. The Consumer Reports "Scores" are just the results of survey research of the CR readership.

There was another interesting comment about the combined expertise of the BPL membership which was on the money. However, that expertise is either in the heads of the members or when written down scattered across 100s if not 1000s of postings.

This aggregate experience and expertise never got successfully captured in the wiki project. That being said, a lot of companies today use "Survey Monkey" and other web tools to administer on-line surveys at a very lightweight administrative overhead. A state of the market author could "crowd source" some of the analysis by using such a tool.

I used to design surveys and hire survey research companies in an earlier career. The real work involves the design of the survey questions. To wit, "On a scale 1 poor to 5 excellent....Rate your opinion of the shelters' ability to withstand a snow load ." "Rate your opinion of the shelter's ability to withstand wind in alpine or above tree line conditions...."

A state of the market author could post the survey for input for two weeks and then publish the summarized "opinions" of 100+ BPL members along with his or her own analysis. The larger data set might be even worth $ to the manufacturers and could be sold to support the site. My 2 cents.

Edited by btolley on 09/22/2012 11:24:13 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/22/2012 12:21:24 MDT Print View

It is what it is but if I were in the market for a new shelter, having all the weights and stand-out features available in this review would make my job as a consumer easier. Not like BPL can ship it writers off to a Norwegian glacier like the others guys can for gear testing, though maybe they could get some staff and readers together to see which gear (and which readers) survive up in the mountains. Think BP still uses reader-testers.

Edited by hknewman on 09/22/2012 12:23:58 MDT.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Solo+ Report on 09/22/2012 22:03:45 MDT Print View

Thanks for your feedback on this and other articles, and the review process in general.

I've pulled a number of articles off of our editorial calendar in the coming weeks with the intention of revamping our review program significantly.

I have two goals.

1. I'm keen to publish what you find valuable.

2. I'm not keen to continue to do things that you are critical of because of their lack of value to you.

I'm game for a retool as needed.

I'm heading out in the early morning to teach the WTS ULBC course with Ryan Connelly and some of you, a week in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. When I get back I'll have some announcements regarding changes we are making to the review program, and what will be on the radar for the next several months with it. I hope you will find it encouraging, and in the meantime, I appreciate your patience.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Solo+ Report on 09/23/2012 10:16:28 MDT Print View

Thanks Ryan. Check your in box when you get back and have a good time.