It’s the season of holiday shopping, and I’d wager that most of you are doing a fair bit of it online. Online shopping has many benefits: a wider selection of gear, the ability to compare prices, convenience.
But don’t forget your local specialty outdoor store. A good one with knowledgeable salespeople can offer an extraordinary level of personal service. They can help fit you with the right gear for you and your adventures, answer questions, and help with customer service.
I was reminded of this on Saturday afternoon. I’ve needed new skis for a long while and was in the market for an AT ski setup. This meant selecting skis, bindings, boots, and skins—pretty serious, and expensive, gear choices in my book. I did not want to mess this up.
I’d done my research beforehand, consulting numerous reviews and manufacturers’ info, and while I was leaning toward a certain pair of skis, I knew that buying ski boots meant a trip to a specialty store. Plus, I wanted to run my gear inclinations by some experts. So I headed to Aardvark Outfitters here in Maine.
Both the very knowledgeable salesman and owner of Aardvark Outfitters spent several hours with me—asking and answering questions, measuring and fitting, having me try on different boots and liners, all to ensure a proper fit and the right gear for me. They were willing to call company reps for more info on specific bindings and despite my monopolizing a large chunk of their time, put no pressure on me for a sale. They also promised that they’d fit me, no matter what. So if, despite all our best efforts, the boots they've ordered aren’t quite right for my feet when they arrive, they’ll make them right, or find me another pair that is.
I left the store confident in my choices, and very excited and eager to get into the mountains and put my new equipment to use. That’s what buying outdoor gear should be like.
So, if you’ll be buying any gear gifts this season, consider taking a trip to your local outdoor store and supporting the local economy. The men and women who own and work at these shops are often the same ones you’ll see at your local mountain or trailhead. And if you get good, or even great, service, tell others.