Ryan Dionne, a Boulder, Colo., writer and founder of the blog Explore It Outdoors is a new member of the Gear Junkie team. Dionne has reviewed more than a dozen products for Gear Junkie over the past year. But this month he takes on a more active role, writing in our Daily Dose Blog about the outdoors industry, events, and new products. As way of introduction, we asked Dionne a few questions.
How long have you been involved in the outdoors?
Dionne: Since my outdoor adventures as a kid in the Midwest, not much has changed. I grew up in small-town Wisconsin, and I still love many of the same activities that kept me outside when I was young. But now I’m skiing and snowboarding in the mountains of Colorado, looking for constellations in the Western sky, and still listening to those frogs and other wild noises when camping in the Rocky Mountains.
As a journalist, what is your approach to reviewing outdoors gear?
Dionne: I have a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota. My day job is as reporter and editor at a business newspaper in Boulder. When it comes to reviewing gear, I try to stay even keeled when first taking something out of the package. Whether it’s a new tent or an HD helmet camera, I do my best to put it through the paces in real-life situations. I absolutely love testing gear that proves any preconceived notions wrong — whether in a positive or negative way — and I look at things from a user’s point of view to try to help the readers make buying decisions that are smart.
What recent adventures stand out from over the past few months?
Dionne: I spent two nights car camping north of Silverthorne, Colo., immediately followed by the Teva Mountain Games in Vail where I competed in a 5k mud run and a mountain bike race. A week later, I was back around Silverthorne introducing a Minneapolis friend to backpacking, and then about a week after that I was climbing my first 5.10d in the Flatirons. Living in Boulder, it’s hard to sit still!
What is your ideal product? What attributes do you look for in gear?
Dionne: My ideal product is something with amazing functionality, durability, good looks, and a reasonable price. It really comes down to value. If it’s the best thing in the world, but you need to sell your car to buy it, what’s the point? I look for gear that will last. I still have gear that I bought 10 years ago like my Sidi bike shoes and some Obermeyer ski pants.
What are some of your favorite pieces of equipment or apparel?
Dionne: For winter, I love my Westcomb Mirage jacket. It’s made with eVent, has pit zips, a curved zipper, a helmet-compatible hood and a powder skirt. The thing is windproof, breathes pretty well and looks good. I’m also a big fan of the GoPro helmet cameras. For the money they are hard to beat. They have accessories so you can mount them pretty much anywhere, and it shoots good-quality video. For everyday use, I don’t go anywhere without my Leatherman Squirt P4 multitool. I’ve had it for about eight years and it’s never failed.
Name a product that has failed to meet your expectations as of late.
Dionne: I was really excited to test the Polar Bottle and Camelbak insulated water bottles. After some unofficial thermometer tests and using them while biking, I was pretty let down. I felt the insulation was a mere marketing ploy.
What are you testing right now?
Dionne: I’m always testing new gear. I’ve been using the CatEye Vectra Wireless on my bike, the KoleGear pressurized hydration pack, Leki AERGON trekking poles, a hoody from Outdoor Research, Gerber’s Crucial tool, and the list continues. Look for the reviews soon!