As an outdoor blogger and a Twitter chatterbox, I am on a lot of PR firm mailing lists. I get several emails a week announcing new products and they often ask if I want a sample to review. However, in typical PR fashion these emails go to a huge list of people and the product is frequently irrelevant to me or my readers. Sometimes it’s related but something I can’t honestly review. While many of you might be interested in children’s hiking footwear or a new dog pack, I don’t have kids or a dog. I certainly can’t offer you advice on those products. I end up turning down or ignoring about 95% of the PR emails I get.
Once in a while, however, something interesting pops into my inbox. It’s usually a direct email from someone I know in the industry, or someone who has taken the time to get to know me by looking at my site or Twitter feed. At the very least, I appreciate someone who has done a little homework to know my strengths as an outdoor adventurer and blogger.
One of those popped up last week from one of the folks behind the @Columbia1938 Twitter account, asking if I would be interested in checking out some Spring 2012 gear. Sure! I am a happy owner of several Columbia items, from base layers to hats to jackets, and I’d love to see what new things they have coming out.
After providing pretty generic sizing information I wasn’t sure what I’d get, but when that box showed up on my front porch last Friday it was a lot more than I ever expected! I usually don’t write about gear *before* I’ve had the chance to use it, but I couldn’t resist sharing because they are doing it right.
This was not an ordinary PR firm delivery. The box was carefully designed to deliver and show off three items:
- Solar Polar SS Top: This lightweight t-shirt is supposed to cool down as you saturate it with sweat. Can’t wait to get this out on some runs and under some pack straps while climbing mountains to really test it out!
- Compounder Shell: A lightweight breathable, waterproof, wicking jacket. That outrageously bright color is already growing on me. The fit is wonderful, actually working with my shape instead of fitting like a potato sack.
- Powerdrain Shoes: I do a little bit of kayaking but don’t spend a lot of time in paddle or water sports. That said, these updated lightweight hybrid water shoes are going to make an excellent camp shoe this summer, doubling as a stream-crosser and camp lakeside rock-hopper.
I immediately tried all three items on and the fit was perfect. It was also fortunate timing in that I was about to pack for a weekend in Yosemite Valley – all three items went straight into the duffel!
In the excitement of the gear I hadn’t noticed the included note right away. According to the note, I am part of the #Omniten – a selected group of ten outdoor bloggers and social media influencers that were chosen to try out this new gear (as well as some other awesome-looking perks).
All I have to say is that those Columbia PR folks sure know how to take it to another level. They clearly have confidence in quality product, specifically giving us the freedom to say (or not say) whatever we want about the gear.
I’ll be taking these items along on many upcoming hiking, backpacking, climbing, and running adventures. After a quick weekend in Yosemite I’m already a fan of all three pieces, but I need to get a bunch of use under my belt before I can write a complete review. Guess I’ll have to get out to the mountains more. Oh, the difficult life of a gear tester!