Guides Choice: The Peak of Approval


The Guides Choice Testing Program

Equipment and clothing that have been awarded the Guides Choice designation by the American Alpine Institute have proven to be of the highest quality in their product category. The awards are made on the basis of excellence in design, performance, and durability demonstrated in rigorous international field tests carried out by the professional guides of the Institute.

The American Alpine Institute makes comparative and individual evaluations of equipment and clothing used in mountaineering, rock, and expedition climbing through field tests that the Institute conducts in a wide range of environments throughout the world. Evaluations are made throughout the year in desert, cold weather, rain, snow, high wind, and high altitude environments. The constant and demanding use to which the gear is put by our guides corresponds to many years of use that a recreational climber would give it.

The data and conclusions drawn from the field tests provide manufacturers with critical, independent, and detailed feedback on the durability and effectiveness of their products. The information also assists the Institute in its selection of the world's best gear for its guiding, instructional programs, and expeditions. And the Guides Choice designation awarded by the Institute for the top gear in each product category helps draw the attention of our clients and customers to the most outstanding clothing, camping gear, and technical equipment to be found in the marketplace.

Field Testing Guidelines

AAI also does prototype testing for manufacturers on a confidential basis. 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. 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.