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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Meet our Reader Gear Testers!

BACKPACKER recently selected a group of readers to help with our dirty work. Meet them, then suggest some gear they should test.

Well, meet two of our awesome gear testers! We'll be unveiling all our testers over the next few months as they come in and out of the wilderness from assignments. Today we're introducing Merrill McCauley and Dan Larson. Merrill is going to be our tech guinea pig, testing out all the bells and whistles that are outdoor gadgets these days. Dan falls into our "thruhiker" testing category because he has some epic journeys planned for this summer. Look for reviews from these testers in our January Readers' Choice issue...and poke through their bios and Dan's video below. Then, leave a comment about the kind of gear you want to see these guys pummel.


"My name is Merrill McCauley and I am an avid backpacker, traveler, snowboarder, fisherman, and scuba diver.  Having lived overseas for the past 6 years I have been lucky enough to do all of these favorite activities of mine across 6 continents.  I love learning about the many different cultures of the world as well as watching and learning about wildlife.  My work involves helping to protect the natural resources and wildlife we have in the United States which allows me to spend most of my days in the backcountry. This summer I will be testing gear mainly in the High Sierras. Over the testing period I will log 105 nights in a tent and hike approximately 960 miles."


"I’m a chronic over-packer who’s lightened up a lot over the years in the desire to go farther, faster. Whether I’m backpacking, running, cycling or climbing, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for me to push my limits over all kinds of terrain. I’ll be testing gear on marathon weekends from the Three Sisters Wilderness near Bend to the Alpine Lakes, Mt. Adams, Saint Helens, Rainier, the North Cascades and beyond, balancing a two-week cross-country road trip through Yellowstone with a weeklong fall trek and a few ultramarathon races. With some of the latest light gear, I’m looking forward to many starry nights on the trail this summer."

Here's a video from Dan:


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Pacific Outdoor Equipment
Jul 27, 2010

Congratulations Dan, Merrill, Katie and Mike,

The folks at POE wish you good luck on your endeavors. If there are sleeping pads, lightweight compression sacks, cycling panniers or water gear that you might like to check out, please feel free to give us a shout. You can reach me directly at 406-586-5258 x 206. We have some great stuff in line this year ready to take a beating, as well as some really hot innovations coming out in 2011. Hope you are able to make it to Outdoor Retailer, look forward to speaking with you soon.


Marketing / Sales / &More
Pacific Outdoor Equipment

Jul 27, 2010

I live in Vermont and am in the outdoors whenever possible. I would love to show these simple trail hikers how to bushwack and really evaluate the gear off a trail, out in the wild ! No lean-to's or privy's with the comforts of home. How can gear get an honest review when it is in these simple conditions...

Elizabeth Planteen
Jul 27, 2010

Hmmm, only one female gear tester? Sorta like Backpacker magazine. One time I counted men and women in the magazine, and there were way way way more men, and all the women pictured were either partnered with a man or being helped by a man. This is a sad state of affairs in this magazine.

My son had a subscription to the magazine but didn't renew it. About three years later I tried to get a subscription in my name at the same address. Guess whose name shows up? Yup, you got it: his name, not mine.

Jul 21, 2010

Hi Merril and Dan,

Welcome to the Backpacker team! Congratulations on becoming a new gear tester. Looking at your backgrounds, no wonder they decided to choose you guys :)

I definitely think our Sof Sole products will benefit both of you during your outdoor adventures. Our Airr performance insoles, reduces the impact to your knees and joints and keeps your feet cool and dry while hiking.

Let me know if you are interested. Many runners and hikers who have amped up their training programs have recently turned to the Sof Sole Airr insole for support instead of expensive custom orthotics.


Jul 01, 2010

Really do hope you have a balance of men AND women for your new gear testers...usually the tables are titled toward men in your reviews...

Jul 01, 2010

Hey Merril and Dan,

Greetings from Grand Trunk!

Looks like you guys get to do some awesome stuff for a living.

I'd love to send one of you our Nano-7 Hammock to review. It's the lightest in the world, and could help provide way to relax on your upcoming hikes through the Sierras and Yellowstone.

Regardless, I just wanted to reach out and congratulate you on the new gig with


Jul 01, 2010

How about they review that sub par app you think is so great. Maybe they can help you get it fixed.


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