Mountain Equipment Co-op

9:22 a.m. on July 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Mountain Equipment Co-op is Canada's premiere outdoor store. Based on the same cooperative ideals as REI, it has gained a firm foothold in the marketplace by selling 'real' outdoor equipment at competitive prices. Product lines include big names like MSR/Cascade, Gregory, Black Diamond, Scarpa and Keens, and a growing list of their own products.

However, in the last couple of years there has been a disturbing trend away from their core group of 'Mountain' products, first to include peripheral 'outdoor' activities like urban cycling (as well as mountain bikes), canoeing/kayaking, and car-camping (big tents and coffee-presses). The latest additions include big sections on 'Run and Train', 'Travel' (swimsuits, luggage and alarm clocks),  and (horrors!) 'Yoga', and a heavy emphasis on 'looking the part' by offering an extensive clothing line in every area. Looking for cool clothes to wear to the gym, or a jacket to look sharp in while walking around town? Try MEC for Patagonia and Prana.

While they still carry some climbing gear, tents, sleeping bags and backpacks, the store, when asked, justifies the marketing changes as being meant to appeal to an 'active lifestyle'. Unfortunately that means that professional equipment is being replaced by yoga pants, and that backpacks are being steadily squeezed out by commuter bags and laptop cases. Already some important professional gear is being left by the wayside, apparently to make room for more consumer-oriented products. 

Mountain Equipment Co-op has been a Canadian institution for a couple of decades, and while this is just a rant about its decline, it's sad to see the store morph into something so far from its roots. If it's all about making money, nothing I say here will have any effect, but I had hoped it could stay more true to the people and products that got it there. Not much point is just another 'Urban Equipment' big box store. 

3:12 p.m. on July 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Another sad and worried Canadian here to echo all that. Saw the new logo a while ago, with mountains removed, and thought "Uh-oh."

All these years, I've been able to say, "When in doubt, buy MEC." Because their stuff was designed by people who USED it, and it showed. I knew I was paying a weight penalty for durability and function, and that was a trade I WANTED to make. I would, and have, trusted my Tarn 2 tent in hurricanes. The backpacks will outlive me. My pants are grey and unflattering and I can't imagine ever finding anything better for hiking. Etcetera. All these things have details and features that show the designers themselves actually hiked and camped, and knew what worked.

I really don't know what they're thinking. Competing with Lululemon and the urban bike shops? What the hell for? Isn't the market for hiking/climbing/kayaking/snowshoeing/skiing still growing? Why kill your roots to focus on a shiny new branch?

Well there's my rant. Thanks Peter, I got to vent too! I have a feeling that this will backfire terribly, and if MEC survives, we'll be seeing a 'back to basics' strategy in a couple of years. Here's hoping.

9:26 p.m. on July 5, 2013 (EDT)
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I just hope REI doesn't go that way! although you are seeing some changes, they still make good backpacks and bags. they're not there yet, here's hoping they never do.

11:22 p.m. on July 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Unfortunately, this is a sign of the times. There are many reasons for this, too. An aging demographic, a changing economic landscape, to name a couple. Just look at how The North Face and others have morphed into their present incarnation of selling the outdoor look to urban folks whose lifestyle never seem to match their fashion.

I have been a member of MEC for over 30 years (my membership number has 4 digits) and I purchased my first real backpack, Lowe Alpine Systems Lhotse, from the Calgary store when it was a tiny room above some other tiny rooms near the Calgary Tower. The mail order department in Vancouver would send me hand written notes, "have a good trip!" with every order. They always gave a personal touch to everything they did. But, in today's world of Global markets outsourcing everything, where competing products are made in the same unregulated Third World sweat shop, companies such as MEC, like every other retail business, had to expand their market. Lost was much of their original product line.

There is really nothing new here, though. Just look at Abercrombie and Fitch. Started in the late 1800's, it was labelled "The Greatest Sporting Goods Store in the World" by 1920 and outfitted the likes of Ernest Shackleton and Peary. Now, however, it is little more than a high end clothing store for the 20-something crowd.

As for MEC, I could see the end coming when they stopped selling wool knickers.

5:48 a.m. on July 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Unfortunately, MEC has become the playground for the upper-middle-class 20-something image conscious pseudo-outdoor-enthusiast. Which is great for MEC as that segment of the population has a lot of money to spend on "outdoorsy" looking items for their walks in the park or their "rough" weekends at the cottage. This is rather unfortunate for actual outdoors enthusiasts looking for quality items at good prices.

Having lived in Europe for a year now and seeing some of the fantastic outdoor items for sale here, I couldn't help but be massively disappointed by most of what I saw on my last visit to MEC (two stores in two cities) this past May. The design and quality in a lot of their items was seriously lacking compared to brands like Mountain Equipment, OR, Mountain Hardwear, Haglofs, Berghaus, etc... however their prices were unreasonably high.

That is not to say that its all bad. There are still some great items, unfortunately those seem to be overshadowed by a lot of the subpar stuff currently filling most of their stores. Their Kokanee II gore tex gaiters are fantastic, and still at a fair price ($40). Their MEC duffels cant be beat for quality and price, and a lot of their technical gloves are fantastic values, and they certainly have a lot of good rucksacks in the mix as well.

One thing is for certain, when I return to Canada, I will miss the amazing selection of truly high end (but fairly priced) outdoors gear available in the UK.

12:44 p.m. on July 8, 2013 (EDT)
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brands and stores becoming less 'hard core' happens all the time.  mountain hardwear, the north face, rei, eastern mountain sports all started out catering to a much narrower segment of the population.  and yet we survive.

6:36 p.m. on July 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Trailjester said:

I just hope REI doesn't go that way! although you are seeing some changes, they still make good backpacks and bags. they're not there yet, here's hoping they never do.

 Sorry, TJ, but REI became a Yuppie clothing store in the 1970s, as did EMS. REI started in the 1930s as a cooperative importing climbing gear from Europe when climbing gear was not available from US manufacturers (Chouinard, which spun off Black Diamond, didn't start making hardware until the 1960s). During the 1960s and 70s, college students dressed the "lifestyle", with REI adding Novara bikes to their line at that time, along with kayaks and canoes. EMS stayed pretty much with outdoor gear until the mid to late 1970s, but also succumbed to the greater profitability of clothing at that point (I was teaching at Boston University then, with an EMS store opening just down Commonwealth Ave - I think the first one outside NH - with students in my classes showing up attired in TNF jackets and carrying their books in Kelty packs). Skis started showing up about then in REI and EMS as well. That was also about when Eddie Bauer changed from a real mountain outfitter to a Yuppie clothing store.

Here in the SFBay Area, we have about 10 REI outlets. The total climbing gear - ropes, harnesses, rock shoes, etc - among the 10 would not match the amount and variety of climbing gear in just the Berkeley store in the 1960s (the Berkeley REI was the first one outside Seattle's Pike Street store).

Another big change over the years - Though REI is still nominally a cooperative, it is run more like a commercial shop than a cooperative these days. EMS has always been a commercial shop. MEI also is run more like a standard commercial store, though nominally a coop.

The small specialty shops, like Gerry, Holubar, West Ridge, Berkeley's Ski Hut, and Marmot Mountain Works, are long gone. Here in the SFBay Area, only Sunrise Mountaineering remains.

8:27 p.m. on July 8, 2013 (EDT)
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too sad. the REI I go to has a lot of clothing, but they still sell hiking/backpacking gear. they have a good tent, bag and boot selection. I guess I was raised in a yuppie clothing store as opposed to a real mountaineering co-op.

5:53 p.m. on September 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Just back from a weekend outing. Of about 50 campsites ours and one other had a tent, the rest were motorhomes and big trailers. Even at Junior Forest Warden national campouts which cater to young families most are in hard shelled trailers and motorhomes. I would have thought that demographic could not afford such vehicles. We tented when I was a child, and trailers such as Airstream were for a different class. It seems tenting has become a decidedly minority activity. Perhaps that is why MEC et al have to cater to this group in order to survive.

8:36 a.m. on September 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter1955 said:

and a heavy emphasis on 'looking the part' by offering an extensive clothing line in every area. Looking for cool clothes to wear to the gym, or a jacket to look sharp in while walking around town

 For this very reason, I don't own any gear labeled "North Face." And I haven't bought any Mountain Hardware gear in years.

I've also found myself buying more and more from the of the cottage industry vendors. Sure, you don't get the clearance sales, but the products are superior.

10:29 a.m. on September 2, 2013 (EDT)
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I agree with Bill S. The American counterpart, REI has changed dramatically since about 1980. There seems to be an almost endless demand for outdoor fashion, but limited demand for outdoor equipment past the entry-level stage. A case in point, would be the boats offered by a store like REI. It is hard to find a real boat in their catalogue much less in person. They are geared toward the first-time, uneducated consumer. It is the largest market segment with the most growth potential.

The Eddie Bauer store in Seattle invented down clothing. They used to have used bamboo fly rods for sale. Then they were bought by Spiegel and became a sportswear company. They are trying to reclaim their position before their fall from grace.

11:22 a.m. on September 2, 2013 (EDT)
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G00SE said:

For this very reason, I don't own any gear labeled "North Face." And I haven't bought any Mountain Hardware gear in years.

I've also found myself buying more and more from the of the cottage industry vendors. Sure, you don't get the clearance sales, but the products are superior.

I personally do not care what everyone else is wearing. Function is 100% my main priority. 

Hence the reason that I am not getting sucked into the UL spiral.

Anywho, I have a few TNF(synthetic) bags, convertible pants, and a few Mountain Hardwear products(shell, gaiters, etc)

Both companies make solid gear. Then again this is solely dependent upon the product(can't speak for the entire line being I don't own & use all that they offer) but I will say that what I do own from these companies performs quite well used within the scope of their individual intended purpose.

12:38 p.m. on September 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Wow! This is all getting dang snobby. Now, i am a coffee snob so snobby isn't all bad. But god strike dead all the beginners who patronize these wider markets! We would hate to see thousands, nee zillions if grown men get off their couches, put down their gamer controls and actual MOVE for a change. And god damn the woman who buys one of those boats and then actually decides keeping up with the kardashians isn't as worthwhile as paddling a flat river. I know some if you have a great deal of experience And share it freely with those of us who are not mountaineers or hard ore backpackers. But we start somewhere. And REI might sell to people who never do put their game controls down but they sell to plenty of people who are well experienced. Who cares who they sell to? Or is it you are afraid someone might mark you a noob if they see REI on your pack! Ad far as North face, written them off is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Sure was happy to have my North face tent at Mt Everest. Sorry for the rant, boys, but do you really have such disdain for the rest of us?

11:20 a.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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You probably weren't around 35 years ago when we anxiously awaited the new REI catalogue for new down sleeping bag designs, and the latest ice axe. No they show the latest exresso maker and bicycling tights.

11:29 a.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I was around and am no less appreciative of the fact REI has a lot to offer. My first pack. My first boots. My first parka...all from REI. So ppine...is there something wrong with me? Sometimes I go to a nice restaurant and order coffee. I will have had a great gourmet dinner but the coffee comes out and it is Boyd Bro's. Nothing special. As I sit and contemplate my snobbery, do I say I will never go again because these guys serve swill for coffee? No, I order the stuff they do well and pass on the coffee. Said another way...don't throw the baby under the bus with the bath water. OH...I think the guy in my prfile picture is scowling at you. He, of course, wears Eddie Bauer first ascent now, but that shirt was not Eddie Bauer. And he spoke highly of REI and we had quite a chat, he and I. Every opportunity to bash them as we have mutual friends and he seemed quite comfortable hatting at the Yak n Yeti.

11:47 a.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I have been a REI member since 1978. I just sent for some new accessories for my mountain bike. I like their dividend deal and usually use mine to buy a fuel canister for my stove.

11:49 a.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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i grew up hiking in very basic gear.  work shoes, basic external frame pack, coleman peak 1 stove.  nothing fancy or expensive.  winter hiking and climbing took me into areas where i needed higher-quality and more specialized gear.  (clearly, a trip to Everest base camp, which i gathered from giftogab's fine blog was an amazing experience, would require a little more than the basics) a good-paying job gave me the opportunity to upgrade to gear that i thought would last longer or be more comfortable/useful over time. 

But, i contend today that most people would still be fine hiking with pretty basic stuff, plus the essential safety things.  All of these mainstream outdoors stores are more than adequate for most people. 

as far as brands are concerned, i don't think it matters too much.  the north face, patagonia, and some other popular brands are not by definition undesirable because they make and sell things a lot of people might use casually or that are deemed fashionable.  some of their gear is great.  i don't care for some of what they do, but everyone is entitled to an opinion, right?  if someone needs highly specialized gear, they are usually relatively able to identify what they want and comparison shop in ways that a mainstream store may not offer.  and that's OK too. 

ps - the down parka i wear for really cold weather trips is one of the efforts by Eddie Bauer/First Ascent to build back that reputation ppine was talking about.  it is very warm, very functional, and was an insanely reasonable deal - i could have bought three of these parkas for the price of one comparable Valandre parka.   

12:02 p.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I'll get back to MEC, just because I was the one who complained about it in the first place. I'll go ahead on the assumption that MEC is similar to REI in concept, and that it's undergoing a lot of the same changes. 

My hiking group has a number of sponsors, from stores devoted mostly to car-camping equipment to companies with expensive, professional gear. While I might personally prefer Outdoor Research or Black Diamond, I would be remiss if I didn't refer people to MEC as well. Setting aside the concerns about yoga pants (:-D), the stores provide a better range of good hiking gear, at better prices, than the commercial big-box camping stores. 

One of the biggest attractions about hiking is its accessibility, and a big part of that is that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get going. Especially when starting out, people don't want to spend $450 on a pair of Hanweg boots or $150 on a daypack. At places like MEC (and I assume at REI) you can get good, solid equipment at a reasonable price. You may, at some point decide to upgrade, but the gear is in many ways actually no better. A MEC Gore-Tex jacket is made of exactly the same material as one from the pro shops, and the prices are often better.

Another good thing is that a store like that exposes people to many more options than they would find at other places. If you only go to Cabellas, you might consider an 8 lb tent to be lightweight. just because you're comparing it only to the others they carry. At MEC, you'd be able to compare car-camping tents to backpacking tents, and the big name tents to the MEC house brands, and make a more informed decision. 

1:51 p.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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My first outdoor gear when I traveled 10,000 miles by thumb and backpack were some steel toed boots I bought for working at a saw mill, a 20 dollar orange external frame pack from a department store along with a I pole tent same color that cost me $30. My sleeping bag was my 10 year old rectangular Boy Scout bag from the late 60's. I didn't have stove and cooked on campfires. Didn't even have a pad to lay on. I was on the road 3 1/2 months from June to September traveling all around the USA. Ending up in Anchorage AK

When I was in Alaska in the winter of 1977-78 I bought my first true outdoor gear from REI consisting of, The North Face (Gore-Tex jacket) Jansport (D3 backpack), Sierra Designs (Gore-Tex pants), Eureka (Timberline 2 tent), and Eastern Mountain Sports (-30 degree sleeping bag) I also had a Ice Axe, Tubbs Snowshoes, crampons, can't remember the boots brand. I had a butane stove name also can't remember, and a cook pot of some brand, and my still in use Ensolite pad.

2:17 p.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter. It does sound similar. REI has a huge heritage in the PNW. Many of us feel about it the way Wisconsinites feel about the Packers. It's OUR company and we are part of it. Especially those if us around long enough to identify with it's relative smallness in the first few decades. They now are nation wide and many locations have very experienced outdoor enthusiasts. Admittedly some are simply retail sales people. It' s been a long marriage, and REI is old and fat now some would discard and get a new husband. Not I. Because in the old fat husband is the same heart that beat in the 30s 40s 50s and so on. But even in this condition, REI has classes for rock climbing, kayaking, canyoneering, stand up paddle board, all sorts of stuff. They loan their meeting rooms to all sorts if non profits at no cost. They encourage photography of all the wonders their customers go out and find. They give. That may give you an idea if they are the same sort of company. OH! And they take returns of everything no questions asked. I ripped the whole back out of my hiking pants sliding down a sand shute and they took them back. My climbing shoes were missized an i didn't know it for about 8 months. They took em back. Pair of hiking boots just didn't work. They took em back. Full price of what I paid every time.

3:06 p.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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Ten years ago or so, MEC introduced me to a whole world of gear. I had no idea some things even existed (lightweight axes? silnylon tarps?). All the stuff I knew and used seemed to have been made with the assumption that carrying it on your back was just a necessary evil, no way around it. Because Outdoors = Work. Unless it was Fun, and then you had a truck/boat/ATV to carry it anyway, right?

So very grateful to MEC. All the fun toys and conveniences (tiny candle lanterns, collapsible waterbottles) I'd have done without if I'd kept outfitting myself at places catering to hunters and fishermen.

I honestly don't care how much yoga gear MEC puts on the shelves. Unless it means their entire Product Development department is evaluating spandex and the best sleeve cut for Downward Dog poses. And nobody is left to make me a pair of pants that will dry fast after I leave the bog, but still hold up to scootching over a granite outcrop on my arse.

So what I'd say to MEC if they asked is, "By all means do more in those areas. Just please don't do less in mine!"

4:36 p.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I prefer that my loyalties lie with family and friends rather than businesses and brands. As I had mentioned above, MEC used to personalize their correspondences with me whenever I would purchase a product. But, I was never fooled into thinking that they actually cared about my well-being; they were there to sell a product and receiving a hand written note was simply part of the overall package that I was spending my money on at the time.

Now I understand that the outdoor retail business has changed considerably from when I first started hiking, but whether this is a bad thing or not, I can’t honestly say. Mind you I have not bought any big ticket items for decades; the gear I first purchased years ago, much of it patched and darned, is still fully serviceable, so why replace it.

This, of course, is just my opinion and people are welcome to disagree if they wish. The overall beauty of such forums is that they allow dialogue in a civil manner.

9:56 p.m. on September 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I still buy some gear from REI.Like headlamps and socks.But you have to know what your looking for.I guess Iam still a Newb..

3:38 p.m. on September 4, 2013 (EDT)
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People wearing MEC are usually astonished when I mention that I can tell they are Canadian.  MEC is almost never seen "down" here. 

I always wondered how Yoga clothes ever found its way into climbing catalogs?  Since when is yoga even an outdoor pursuit?  Isn't yoga usually done in place?

3:54 p.m. on September 4, 2013 (EDT)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

People wearing MEC are usually astonished when I mention that I can tell they are Canadian.  MEC is almost never seen "down" here. 

I always wondered how Yoga clothes ever found its way into climbing catalogs?  Since when is yoga even an outdoor pursuit?  Isn't yoga usually done in place?

 OOH MY Sage! Haven't yu seen the gazzilion pozed Yoga-on-the-rocks-by-a-waterfall pix? Those yoga-ites HAD to get there somehow. Look behind the rock wehre they stowed their gear! HA. I notice some of my climbing friends with yoga shirts on. Maybe theya re just confortable. The pants, however, seem like they would shred on teh sandstone here. But lots of my outdoor friends, especially younger ones, also do a lot of yoga. So maybe the idea is while theya re picking up new canyoneering gear, they grab some yoga junk too.

10:03 a.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

People wearing MEC are usually astonished when I mention that I can tell they are Canadian.  MEC is almost never seen "down" here. 

Games to play in international resort towns: Which country are they from?

Quechua: France or Spain

Jack Wolfskin: Germany or northern Europe

Kelty or Lowa: US (rare in Canada)

Berghaus: Germany or England

10:58 a.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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I’m sensing some definite anti-yogatiscm here. I almost asked what a Downward Dog pose was but I’m not sure I want to know. Sounds painful.

12:14 p.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Having worked for EMS and the North Face, I'm very familiar with inclusion of "lifestyle" products into what began as hard-core backcountry companies. I'm not opposed to this evolution, and not even very bothered by it. I see the inclusion of "lifestyle" gear and equipment as great entry points for the inexperienced into backcountry exploration. Additionally, a lot of the t-shirt and yoga pants sales finance research and development for the edgier technical gear and equipment, which often don't sell enough to justify their production and development costs.

But seriously - I'm with giftogab. One has to draw the line somewhere. Yoga pants still look like skin-tight bell-bottom sweatpants to me!

3:06 p.m. on September 5, 2013 (EDT)
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great entry points for the inexperienced

This is a good point, Seth. Gear as a gateway drug. "Hey man, you think that yoga mat is cool? Check out this Thermarest over here and find out just how awesome closed cell foam can be..." 

I can dig it. :)

2:52 p.m. on September 6, 2013 (EDT)
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i stopped rock-climbing years ago, except for an occasional trip to a local indoor climbing wall to get a workout, but i think there is a fair argument that there is significant cross-over between pants you would wear for yoga and rock-climbing.  

honestly, though, stocking yoga stuff is consistent with the larger mission of serving an audience of active people.  REI sells a lot of bicycles that aren't intended for trail-crashing, and loads of stuff for car-camping - is yoga really that different? 

i can't speak to MEC, not a store i have visited, but despite REI's more mainstream offerings in many of their stores, i think they have still remained somewhat true to their original DNA.  you could still go online on their website and gear up for a serious mountaineering trip.  a few different kinds of ice axes, several pair of mountaineering boots, several sleeping bags rated to -20f or colder, a number of full-on winter expedition tents.  true, they don't stock some of the smaller/more innovative brands, but i'm not sure they ever did. 

11:39 a.m. on September 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Very true. The change is indeed one of trying to appeal to the 'active lifestyle' market versus the 'outdoor' market' and MEC freely confesses that that is their rationalization for the changes.

As Islandess says, "By all means do more in those areas. Just please don't do less in mine!". The big question is which outdoor gear will fall by the wayside because of the new marketing policies.

8:28 p.m. on September 9, 2013 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

you could still go online on their website and gear up for a serious mountaineering trip.  a few different kinds of ice axes, several pair of mountaineering boots, several sleeping bags rated to -20f or colder, a number of full-on winter expedition tents.  true, they don't stock some of the smaller/more innovative brands, but i'm not sure they ever did. 

 Therein lies the problem - "a few different ice axes, several pairs of mountaineering boots, several -20F sleeping bags". REI and MEC years ago had a pretty good selection of outdoor gear for what are now considered "hard-core" backpackers and climbers. Now it is just a token amount, and if you look at the offerings of the manufacturers, it is the lower end of the lines. In part, this is because they need the floor space for the "lifestyle" goods, and in part it is because even if they stocked the more serious gear, not many items would be sold.

I do have to disagree with the statement the they carry "a number of full-on winter expedition tents" (they have a half dozen listed on their website that qualify as serious expedition tents, sooo ok, that's greater than 3 or 4). I used to spend summers climbing in the Alaska Range. The REI store in Anchorage, gateway to the Alaska Range had NO/NADA/ZERO climbing gear, including no expedition tents and one sleeping bag good to  -40F/C that is backpackable (though that one is not a make I would choose for Denali or Antarctica) during that whole time. You want to climb Denali? Then bring all your gear with you. The specialty shops in Talkeetna pretty much all closed, since everyone brings their own gear, knowing you can't get outfitted there (and the 6 commercial companies who are licensed to take people up the hill have their own gear). The REI on Northern Lights had canoes and Novara bicycles, and in winter, downhill skis (no AT, no tele). Luckily, Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking, diagonally across Northern Lights from the REI does have knowledgeable personnel and an excellent selection of gear.

I do know sources for the gear I need, whether for expedition mountaineering and polar expeditions on the one hand or true ultralight on the other. But that's because I know the people who do such things and have learned over the years. Someone wanting to get started has a hard time finding the gear suitable for more than weekend hikes and a little local scrambling. (hey, if you came to Trailspace, you can get a lot of that information, even though it is filtered by the exigencies of the internet!)

10:08 p.m. on September 9, 2013 (EDT)
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all fair, Bill.  i'm not suggesting that REI is or should be one's primary source for winter gear, but it's a passable starting point. 

we all have our favorites.  i'm partial to IME (international mountaineering equipment) in north conway, nh.  great selection, and it has nice proximity to elvio's pizza. 

 

7:23 a.m. on September 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Elvios pizza?! More like Moat Mountain brewpub!

All kidding aside IME has the equipments, staff and experience. Taken a couple courses with Brad (owner of the school upstairs), awesome guy.

8:51 a.m. on September 10, 2013 (EDT)
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we're side-tracking, but Elvio's has been the post-trip meal for me since i was fifteen years old. 

11:28 a.m. on September 10, 2013 (EDT)
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OGBO is that store soarce because they had to stop offerings that people were not buying becauae they brought it all? I would hate to get there and have something not available. Or did they just never offer it?

1:36 p.m. on September 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

REI and MEC years ago had a pretty good selection of outdoor gear for what are now considered "hard-core" backpackers and climbers. 

To give credit where it's due, MEC at least still has a decent selection of good 'hard core' equipment from reputable companies, and the products are not necessarily lower-end. 

11:03 p.m. on September 10, 2013 (EDT)
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giftogab said:

 And they take returns of everything no questions asked. I ripped the whole back out of my hiking pants sliding down a sand shute and they took them back. My climbing shoes were missized an i didn't know it for about 8 months. They took em back. Pair of hiking boots just didn't work. They took em back. Full price of what I paid every time.

 REI recently changed their return policy.  It is no longer a lifetime no questions asked return policy.  Now it is a one year guarantee (30 day for items purchased at REI Outlet) and does not cover misuse or normal wear.  I don't think they would replace those pants now.

This has been an interesting discussion.  I  grew up in upstate NY long before REI became a nationwide chain, and the eastern stores like EMS were a long drive for us.  In fact, I never heard of any of them.  I got my gear at local stores, some at department stores and some at a local store that would qualify as hard core climbing/hiking.  At that hard core store I bought my first pair of vasque boots (the really heavy leather variety), a climbing rope, and even my first backpacking stove, an Optimus 199.

Having never experienced places like REI, Eddie Bauer, MEC, EMS, etc before they started catering to the more genteel outdoor folks, I guess I just don't know what I am missing.  But I don't view the shift as entirely bad, I agree with the idea that some of those items can be a gateway to more serious outdoor adventures.

9:32 a.m. on September 11, 2013 (EDT)
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REI's currently honoring a "grace period" for items purchased over a year ago, while they're transitioning into the new return policy. That said, if there's anything you have even for a second considered returning, now's the time to do it. I've had no problems returning some of my gear but it always comes back to me as store merchandise credit.

As an REI member, it's a little disappointing they're making the shift, but I can understand why they would, and that there always will be those who abuse and take advantage of such a policy.

It's a necessary evil around here. Their prices are competitive (if not better than, say, Dick's or Sports Authority) and they've a much more comprehensive selection of specialized outdoor gear. When you hail from the Chicago suburbs, well, beggars can't be choosers, as the saying goes.

9:37 p.m. on September 11, 2013 (EDT)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

G00SE said:

Hence the reason that I am not getting sucked into the UL spiral.

 I hope you don't think I'm sucked into that spiral???

Lightening my pack was my only chance of continuing to hike with arthritic knees. I'm too cheap to buy real UL stuff. I just carry what I need. Try to take advantage of multiple use items, and try to not carry things I use to think I "needed."

9:43 p.m. on September 11, 2013 (EDT)
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HornRimmedHiker said:

As an REI member, it's a little disappointing they're making the shift, but I can understand why they would, and that there always will be those who abuse and take advantage of such a policy.

Just finished reading the book "Hiking Thru." The guy hiked the AT after his wife died. The breaking point for him was he was a restaurant manager for 20+ years, and one day he had had enough of costumers consuming all, but a few bites of food, and then bringing it back to the counter as "no good" and demanding a refund. 

10:19 p.m. on September 11, 2013 (EDT)
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Anything I returned to REI went unused but had the tags detached. Harder to turn a profit on eBay without original tags, so store credit was the next best thing. One store I went to, here, actually had a corner of the store dedicated to items you'd usually find at their "Garage Sale." 

Traded-in an XXXL duffel.

Wound-up buying a 3-pack of ultralight ditty sacks. 

Gotta love Christmas gifts from well-meaning family.

Cool as heck you're gonna make that AT thru-hike, Goose. Office grind has me scratching at the walls and I'm about to the point of setting my own fund up for one. 

11:26 a.m. on September 12, 2013 (EDT)
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It is understandable that a company like REI would go thru an evolution over the years from an oufit started by climbers in Seattle in a garage, to a big deal corporation. Since they are a business first, they respond to the market place. That is why there has been such a shift in their merchandizing. Let's hope that they will always carry suitable equipment for more rigorous and longer trips that can be relied upon.

4:31 p.m. on September 12, 2013 (EDT)
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Just went to MEC's website, shopping for a new daypack (I own 15L, 20L, 37L, 50L and 60L packs. Obviously I need one 25-30L to complete the set.)

I used to be able to browse packs by size. Know what they have now instead? Colours. If I want, I can see all the purple ones, or all the green ones...sigh.

6:06 p.m. on September 12, 2013 (EDT)
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So now you're an outdoors fashionista, Islandess? Funny - I never thought of you that way.

3:13 p.m. on December 10, 2013 (EST)
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When MEC tried to change the logo they go a huge volume of negative feedback about losing their roots and adopting Yuppie urban chic. If they were ever anything else but the latter it was before my time. I remember my first MEC store visit in Ottawa. I had culture shock. You see I grew up in an isolated bush community where the only store was the venerable Hudson's Bay Company. No polished wooden floors and fancy displays, just basic goods that worked at prices the locals could afford sometimes. When I saw the MEC store I wondered if I was expected to take off my outdoor boots, the place was so polished and spotless. Who were the customers who could afford such products, and where did they find the time and place to use them?

When my father was found to be using an old wooden handled Mora knife to cut up moose he was given a high-end "modern" knife as a present. Frankly I prefer the old soft metalled Mora knifes because sharpening frequently gave me a plausible break from the harder work of cutting up a moose. I don't have that excuse any more thanks to the advance of knife technology. You can now even get knives with disposable blades. What will they think of next?

As for MEC I guess they just have to go with the flow and provide whatever sells, no matter how over-innovative it is.

July 25, 2014
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