Guides Choice Field Testing Guidelines
Most tests involve the comparative evaluation of multiple products from the same category, produced by a variety of manufacturers. Some tests involve a single product which is evaluated because it is innovative or because of its probable importance to the Institute and/or consumers.
AAI also does prototype testing for manufacturers on a confidential basis.
Tests are conducted year round, throughout the world. Tests may be completed in a single, long season (for example five summer months of intensive climbing in the Cascades, Bolivia, or Europe or five winter months of constant use in the Sierra, Patagonia, or Ecuador) or they may be conducted over several seasons (for example McKinley expeditions in the spring and Himalayan expeditions in the autumn).
Test conditions range from the severe cold and wind driven snows of the Arctic, to the constant sun and heat of desert crags, to the intense UV exposure of months of use above 17,000 feet in the Andes, to the heavy rains of the coast ranges in Canada and Patagonia. In many cases, tests are conducted in contrasting climates. Because of the intensity and constancy of use, the wear and stress that the gear receives during tests corresponds to many years of use by a recreational climber.
Field tests are conducted by a core group of professional guides within the staff of the American Alpine Institute. They guide and climb in the world's major ranges year round. Their comfort and, not uncommonly, their lives depend on the gear they choose to employ.
When AAI originates a test, the results are shared with the manufacturer as well as with the public. The results of prototype testing are provided to the manufacturer, but are otherwise confidential. The American Alpine Institute has no financial ties to or financial interest in any manufacturer or distributor. All testers and their expenses are paid by AAI.
The prestigious Guides Choice award is given to select items of equipment and clothing found through AAI's field testing to be outstanding in their category based on performance and durability.
AAI field testing is not a substitute for government or industry safety tests or standards, and the Guides' Choice Award is not a warranty.
View the most recent Award Winners.