Hikers, campers, climbers, trail-runners, snowboarders, skiiers, kayakers – they all share a love of the outdoors, which more often than not results in their carry gear taking a fair beating while they pursue their passions. Good outdoor carry therefore has to be tough but also comfortable to wear and ideally as lightweight as possible whilst still fulfilling the first two criteria. If your carry fails you, it’s always inconvenient but sometimes it can be life-threatening – consider your backpack ripping or the zip getting stuck during a gentle half-day hike compared to being halfway up a cliff face when your pack gives way and half your climbing gear and food supplies go tumbling down, never to be seen again.
Whatever outdoor pursuit you follow, you want to have some retail options in order to make sure you’re getting a good bag at a good price (not necessarily always cheap, but good value for money). So where do you hunt for your gear? Well the outdoor carry retailers below may have just the solution you’re after…
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)
MEC began in 1971 as the Canadian answer to REI. It was hard to find readily available climbing gear in Canada at the time and many climbers used to bring in gear purchased from REI in Seattle (though using it before bringing it across the border in order to make it appear used, thereby avoiding having to declare it – legal, not exactly, but cash-strapped students who are climbing enthusiasts tend to get creative). When the police started to catch on, a group of climbers came up with the idea for a consumer co-operative that would sell outdoor gear. The co-opeartive has an unlimited number of equal membership shares ($5 per share) and offers a wide selection of brands such as Boreas, SealLine, Gregory and Patagonia, as well as MEC’s own carry products such as their Mountain Fountain 9 Hydration Pack (pretty basic but can’t argue with $29, can you?). There’s a wide choice of packs, with outdoor styles such as hydration packs, daypacks, avalanche packs and camera packs.
The consumer co-operative REI has been within FORTUNE Magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” since 1998. Started in 1938, REI offers gear and apparel for a range of outdoor pursuits, including hiking, camping, cycling, snowsports, running, paddling sports and climbing. REI supports a number of outdoor initiatives aimed at introducing young generations to the outdoors and encouraging preservation of the environment. Brands available through REI include the likes of CamelBak, Arc’teryx, Gregory, Osprey, Mountain Hardwear, REI’s own pack products and The North Face. The North Face Recon is a pretty versatile pack that can go from everyday use for work or school to traipsing around in the outdoors when it’s time to play. The laptop pocket doubles as a hydration pocket and the wide straps, chest strap and hip belt help with stability.
The Tokyo-based retailer vic2 caters to a range of categories, one of which is outdoor equipment supplies. Their website offers a huge range of outdoor carry brands, including Mystery Ranch, Klättermusen, Boreas, CamelBak, Arc’teryx, MEC and Gregory. The Klättermusen Ran 45 below weighs less than a kilogram though it has a volume of 45 liters. The pack is made from recycled material and has an adjustable back length, shoulder straps and hip belt. Plus it has storage for an internal hydration system, making it a handy pack for hikes.
The Department of Goods
The Department of Goods offer awesome gear for a range of active outdoor categories including surfing, skateboarding, biking, camping and hiking, snowboarding, skiing, watersports, trail-running and climbing (yup, some pretty wide coverage). They’re owned and operated by backcountry.com and in addition to their extensive range of gear, one of the key benefits offered by the Department of Goods is the chance to score some great discounts on backpacks. For example pick up the Gregory Tarne 36 Backpack (with features such as two hydration ports and an interior reservoir sleeve, as well as adjustable ice axe/trekking pole loops) for 50% off the retail price.
Created in 1997, Altrec.com is a website focused on offering outdoor gear and clothing. For instance, the Osprey Aether 70 backpack (specifically for men – ladies may want to check out the women-specifc Ariel series) may be just what you’re after for a weekend adventure. Altrec is US-based but does ship internationally to many countries, though some brands have restricted their products to sales within the U.S. only. You can find out more about international orders here.
Paragon Sports has been around since 1908 and with a history spanning over a century, they’ve got to be doing something right. This retailer sells sports and outdoor equipment and clothing both online and within their New York store. A large selection of backpack brands are on offer, including the likes of Osprey, Arc’teryx, Patagonia, Filson and CamelBak. It’s not all backpacks though. Snowboarders for instance may want to get their hands on the Burton Wheelie Locker Snowboard Bag 2013.