Stephen Regenold started The Gear Junkie as a newspaper column in 2002. The column quickly became a nationally syndicated source of real world gear reviews. In 2006, Regenold launched GearJunkie.com with two business partners. Since then the site has grown substantially with about 10 people involved in managing gear reviews, brand sponsored contests and social media platforms.
RootsRated: What is life like as a professional gear tester?
Stephen Regenold: There are always new “toys” arriving on the doorstep from FedEx and UPS. I still enjoy seeing new gear and gadgets, but the real thrill is getting outside and putting the gear through the paces. I run, bike, paddle, climb, ski, and backpack a ton each year to test hundreds of new pieces of gear.
RR: Is there a downside to testing so much gear?
SR: It takes time to test something right. I enjoy the process most of the time. But some product categories do not change much year to year, so it gets difficult to say anything fresh.
RR: Do you see true innovation in gear or just lots of “exciting bold new colors” announcements from brands from season to season?
SR: We do several award programs each year around trade shows as well as year-end “Gear of the Year” type projects. So each year there are about 30 to 40 items we recognize as being truly innovative. But otherwise, yes, there’s just lots of new colors, styles, etc. in many categories.
RR: Do your friends constantly ask you,” Which is the best (insert product here) for me?”
SR: Yes, and I often just send them a link to a review that I’ve written or one of my team members has already produced.
RR: Adventure racing plays a role in your career. What is the appeal?
SR: It’s the ultimate sport for testing gear. It’s the harshest venue imaginable, including deep wilderness, serious gear abuse, and hours and hours or days of straight use of the gear. We really trust our lives to the equipment in some cases. I’ve raced in Patagonia twice, both for 7 to 8 day events. Those were the most epic experiences of my life.
RR: Outdoor recreation is your profession, but what do outdoor activities do you like to do away from the office?
SR: Orienteering. I love that geeky Nordic woods running, map-and-compass sport. Alleycat bike racing is a close second. Hiking with my kids, often with a baby in a pack on my back is tops, too.
RR: Favorite place in the Twin Cities to play?
SR: That’s the Minnesota River Valley. Or the urban “pirate” trails along the Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River where generally only trail runners and hobos seem to tread.