Passing The Lab Test

There’s lab testing, then there’s “Lab” testing. You never know just how sturdy gear is until the latter.

By Philip Hunt
Explore Ambassador

Outdoor companies always brag about the tough tests their products go through. In a lab somewhere, scientists are tearing, dousing and trying to break new materials that will make activities from a short walk to hiking the Appalachian Trail more enjoyable.

While these labs are respected and do incredible work, they are missing a key component to properly test their equipment and supplies. These labs need a Lab — a Labrador retriever. My family’s yellow Lab, Hank, was happy to volunteer for the job on our last camping trip. Hank, like most Labs, is an expert in sleeping and focused his tests in that area.

When it comes to sleeping bags, Hank prefers the one you are in. Preferably, he likes a sleeping bag that has enough room for a dog and half of a human. Somehow throughout the night he slowly works his sleeping bag partner out of the bag to get the whole bag to himself. Hank has found that our kids’ sleeping bags are more comfortable and provide snacks. The only drawback is the constant petting by the kids. But at the end of the day, he will do anything for a peanut butter cookie.

Who can sleep without a good pillow, though? No one knows this better than Hank. After wandering around the tent and trying everyone’s pillow at 2 a.m., Hank chose my wife’s inflatable pillow with a fleece cover. It has just the right amount of support for his huge head. In fact, when he plops his head down, my wife’s head bounces right off the pillow. Another slight nudge, and Hank is inside her sleeping bag and sound asleep in the tent.

(Photo: Philip Hunt)

Our most recent purchase was a family tent. It is a nice four-person tent with plenty of room for two adults, two kids and two dogs. The floor is made up of sturdy, lightweight material that passed Hank’s scratch-and-roll test. The large zippered doors allow for easy entry and exit when opened. When closed, they present a problem for our furry friends without thumbs. After we woke up and made breakfast, Hank decided he needed to take a nap on his favorite sleeping bag and pillow. The tent door was closed, but the mesh screen was at just the right height for a doggy door. Hank fixed this access problem by jumping through the screen, making a perfect Labrador-size hole in our new tent.

So, if you are going camping this fall with your family and four-legged friends, I hope you can learn about what type of testing your gear really needs for a great trip. It’s not all about rip strength and breathability. Some of the best lab testing is “Lab” testing.

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