When you buy outdoor gear, the most important things to remember are quality, reliability and functionality. If it is good quality, it will last longer and be very reliable. If it is highly functional and easy to use, you will use it more often. We outdoorsman fall in to two traps. We either buy low quality and aim more for quantity or we fall for the next multi-functional, newfangled item on the market, because it's cool rather than truly funtional. Remember, quality doesn't have to be expensive and simple functionality usually trumps complex gadgets.
As adventurers, we spend a lot of time and money on our escapades, that we can stand to choose better gear, which in the long run typically means saving money. You really need to be particular when choosing gear, because having quality, reliable and funtional gear in the outdoors means being safer and more comfortable.
How do you find the right gear without being able to fully test it? Unfortunately, most people don't get to test gear before they buy, but there are ways to get some good info about items before you do buy them. First, there are reviews and blogs available on just about every item there is. Many people have tried out the items before you. But remember, reviews are subjective and you really need to read as many as you can and from different media sources as well. Certain blogs and magazines can be biased for many reasons. Discussion boards are another line of communication, but the above warning applies here as well.
Second, there are face to face communication with dealers, fellow outdoorsman, etc. Again, these are subjective, but I find you can get a lot of useful information from the person you happened to meet on the trail. And, just remember, they are usually looking for information as well!
And finally, use your common sense and self control! Remember that you know what works well for you. You know what feels like good quality and what feels cheap. And you also know what is most likely just frivolous bells and whistles. Hence, self control. We sometimes have to hold ourselves back and think about what we truly are looking for and what it's purpose really is.
Our adventures are fun and exciting by themselves, but without appropriate gear they can be frustrating and dangerous. By truly taking our time and doing the research we can use the correct gear to enhance our experience. But remember, quality gear needs to be cleaned and maintained properly so it's always functioning reliably and consistently.