Climbing gear: in-store vs internet

I’ve posted a number of times about my upcoming climbs in Maine (Mt. Katahdin) and Washington State (Mt. Adams). I’ve also talked about the different paths I’ve taken regarding the research and purchasing of gear for these trips: everything from boots to gloves and sleeping bags.

I bought the bulk of my material recently, and it wasn’t from an online retailer (as I had planned it to be). Instead, I found a store. A real brick and mortar establishment. Here’s how it went down.

I’m currently traveling, and the state I’m in has a family owned outdoors shop that’s been around since the late 1960’s. I found about it before I got here, and I planned to check it out while I was here. Today was my chance. I headed over with one real goal: try on boots to get an accurate sense of my size, then purchase said boots online (to save money). But this plan didn’t last.

The store was awesome, basically a toy store for the outdoor enthusiast. But what made it special was that the staff were knowledgeable. These weren’t kids working after school and on weekends for extra cash (like most sporting goods stores). These were folks that practiced what they preached. The guys I worked with were a professional climber and a professional skier. As soon as I told them what my goal was (the Mt. Adams climb) they got all pumped up and excited to work with me. As we were trying on boots, they walked me through the different sizing and types of boots, plus their features, making one better than the other. The particular boot I was trying on was a decent price (about $40 more than on-line), and it got good reviews. I decided that I was going to buy it in store. Yes, it was more expensive. But these guys put the time in to help me understand what I was buying and how to choose the right boot. Plus, it was an opportunity to support a local business.

Once I decided to get the boots, I ran through my gear list with them. I think they enjoyed the experience more than I did. I picked up my new boots, plus gloves, glove liners, socks, sock liners, sleeping pad, compression sack, caribiners, pants, and a few other choice items….roughly 90% of my list. For buying it all at once, they gave me a nice discount as well.

Ultimately, I probably could have saved another 15-20% if I purchased on-line vice in the store. And for some of the remaining items, that’s exactly what I plan to do. But it was great having these guys help me. Their knowledge was key to choosing the right stuff, and I’d prefer to help a local business.

It’s just a few weeks now till Maine and Mt. Katahdin….

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