Friday, May 20, 2011

Shopping Bonanza

The Interwebs and Retail Stores are amazing places nowadays. When Roald Amundsen was setting forth to try and discover the Northwest Passage, he had to sail up to Alaska, supply at the ports and bring Eskimo seamstresses along to make seal boots and other clothes. And that was just a 100 years ago!

Today you can walk into an REI or shop online at Campmor and basically be outfitted the same as Amundsen from the comfort of your own couch. Damn kids always on my lawn with their rock music turned up!

Anyway, because I have not been out on the trail recently (soon to be rectified, trip planned, super psyched!), I figured it would be fun to slap out some quick reviews of the stores I have bought things in recently. I have run the gamut from online to retail so I have a pretty decent sense of what's shakin in the gear world.


I start off with a favorite. While technically a chain, they really have only a few stores sprinkled throughout California so I liken them to my hometown outdoor store. Great staff and a pretty wide selection of outdoor apparel. Most of their stuff is competitively priced compared to other retail and online stores but where you can save is on their sales. They usually have weekly sales and right now in May, they have a great 3 week sale going on. Get in there NOW because a lot of stuff is 25% off.

I purchased many things over the last few months from them and always had a blast doing so. Funky stores, good times, a great way to spend a few hours if you aren't on the trail.


To be honest, I was not that familiar with REI because they were not that established in the East where I came from. There was a store about 1/2 an hour West of me in New Jersey but other than that, it was really about going to EMS or LL Bean stores. REI is like those stores ("corporate" outdoors) but with a MUCH wider selection. You go into the REI in Santa Monica and your an inundated with thousand of outdoor products. While the prices might be at or near the top of the chart, REI has this member program where (unfortunately) you pay them money and then you get deals. I am not sure how it all works but several of my friends have been members for a long time and they swear by the store.

REI certainly doesn't have the kitsch appeal as an A-16 but their quantity is impressive.


Its unfair to lump these two online retailers together but what can I say, I am a lazy, lazy man.

Backcountry has been my go to resource for many years, mostly due to their great breakdown of the specs on products. They not only have the specs but a great threaded Q&A section that gets down to the meat and potatoes of online buying. Are you 6'4, 250lbs and wondering if a size XL will fit you? Ask and it will be answered? Is that jacket REALLY waterproof? Backcountry will help you. They also have very good sales and random gift cards that can come your way so make sure to sign up for all the email lists.

Moosejaw has perhaps the most fun public relations of any online retailer. Their emails always have jokes. They constantly have points giveaways, shirt giveaways, etc. They are an online retailer with 'tude and it is different and appreciated. Dry wit almost makes you forget that their prices are the same or slightly higher than other online retailers but you have so much fun going through their site that you want to get "custy" (they have their own lingo). However, when MJ has a sale, watch out, great deals abound and they have the points system which can go toward cool gear. Like airline miles on credit cards, if you are choosing one online retailer, this might be the one to build up loyalty with.


The granddaddy of them all. I have many fond memories of my dad receiving Campmor catalogs at home and leafing through them.Very small, very papery, no color. They haven't changed in 30 years and why should they? Campmor consistently offers THE lowest prices on any camping stuff I have ever seen. Having lived in NJ near their one and only store, for an outdoor junky, it is like going to some mythical kingdom. Everything is there, the store takes hours to get through and the prices are all 10% less at least. One of the giants for a reason, one of the best for a reason. Their website has grown up over the last few years as well so their web presence is getting better and better. Sign me up though for the catalog as long as they print, some things should never change.

Have any other favorites? Let me know in the comments!


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