The original idea behind Best of the Best, which first appeared in Field & Stream in 1998, was really rather simple: the editors of Field & Stream would select gear, based on personal use, that they thought exhibited superior quality and function. Over the years, the program grew into what it is now—a year-long effort to identify innovative, new hunting and fishing products worthy of carrying the Best of the Best label.
As you might expect, Field & Stream editors are besieged with submissions. The first step is much like threshing wheat; we sort through the applications and separate the chaff. Not every new product is innovative, and some, frankly, based on the product descriptions provided by the manufacturers, don’t meet this initial standard.
Once the applications are sorted out, we then request sample products to be delivered to the respective editors for testing. You can take a look at the accompanying copy to get an idea of the kind of testing we do. Such testing often reveals the little things that knock a product out of contention. In some cases, a rifle may fail to deliver acceptable groups; in other cases, it might be a pack with zippers that fail to stay on track. There is also, from time to time, a product (usually in the miscellaneous category) with instructions so mystifying no one can figure out how to use it.
But the main point to take away here is that all the products under consideration are actually used by an expert. We’ve found that to be the best way to truly establish products that are “Best of the Best.”—Slaton L. White