World-Class Outfitters


I searched the board and the web, generally, but didn't come up with much. Presumably, those in the know, know where to go. However, for those who aren't in the know, where do you go? Maybe you get lucky and meet a knowledgeable guy or girl at your local REI, climbing gym or an OvEx show, but that isn't scalable or repeatable. I don't generally cross-post, but I would be keen to hear the equivalent for paddling, cycling and so on. I realise these are quite different markets, but where do you go to find great gear, experienced, knowledgeable people, great customer service, gear repair, warranty, etc.? That is the $64,000 question.

I have been hiking, camping, mountain biking, back packing and off-roading for more than 30 years and have always just 'gotten by' using whatever gear I had, what was recommended or what I happened to find at a local bike shop or outfitter. While there isn't anything wrong with this use-case, if I don't know much about kayaks, how do I know if the 19-year-old summer intern at the local kayak rental shop knows ****** he is talking about or not? It seems to me that a 'world-class' outfitter, bike shop or equivalent, is the answer. I support this by saying that I recently visited a local auto parts store to find a 'kid' behind the counter who did not know the manufacturer of the (Toyota) Camry for which I was seeking parts. That isn't an obscure car by any means. There are millions of them on the road and Toyota has been manufacturing them for nearly 40 years. When that car was introduced in 1983, you found 'car guys' working at auto parts stores. Now, you just find a warm body who can touch icons on a screen, and one who knows nothing about cars.


I think "World Class Outfitters" will be increasingly hard to find as the vast majority of consumers continue to be most concerned with price. That 19 year old summer intern you mention costs a lot less to employ that someone with 30 years of experience who knows anything about all models of all cars.

I think it's a similar situation to a great idea for a component that takes some research, development and testing before being produced in country (your choice) by local skilled labor with good local materials. Then along comes a much cheaper copied version produced out of country with potentially inferior materials that can be sold for 1/2 the price. Spend some time reading through various threads in the Recovery Gear sub forum for all the reasons some folks will always buy the cheaper copy.

Quality service and quality goods cost more money (at least initially) and the proportion of the consuming public willing to pay for that seems to continually decrease.

Whenever you find a shop, manufacturer, or vendor who exhibits the dedication and knowledge you seek make sure to give them as much business as you can in hope that they'll be around for awhile.



Howard, I agree on all points and do shop locally, buy the best products that I can afford and go out of my way to make long-term purchases over $4 Chinese pliers that will break in a few months to "get the job done" and toss them "away" when done, wherever "away" is. Sadly, you are correct that most Americans, and likely much of the rest of the world, has been conditioned to buy price and subjected to cheap imports for decades now, so much so that the guy with 30 years of real-world experience, selling consumers on investing in quality gear, is considered anathema or a Luddite in the modern retail sphere.
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Finding knowledgeable and dedicated employees in person at outfitter shops is now a scarcity. And it will be for the foreseeable future. I think the way now, for better or worse, is the internet.

The unexperienced consumer has to find the information somewhere online. Then you have to vet that source as best you can.

The only other way is to talk with people out on trails and see what they do and what gear they've chosen.


Well-known member
It seems to me that a 'world-class' outfitter, bike shop or equivalent, is the answer.
This topic seems pretty vague...which domain of "outfitter" are you looking for? Biking? Backpacking? Kayaking? Hunting? Fishing? Vehicle-based travel? Mountaineering? There is no one solution but I'm sure you can find a few standouts in each domain.

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