The best outdoor gear stores in America

Featured the-best-gear-stores-in-america

A great outfitter does more than sell you gear. The best outdoor gear store will help you find the best equipment for your needs, while offering expert advice and insight for your next adventure.

Truly great shops, as you’ll see here, also go beyond individual customer service by reaching out and making their communities a better place to run, ride, ski, or climb.

Here are the 20 best gear shops in the country. Some specialized in one sport, others offer something for practically every endeavor, but they’re all making the outdoors a friendlier, more accessible, and better-stocked place.

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– Lauren Steele

Track Shack (Orlando, FL)

Photo: Lance via mills50.org
Photo: Lance via mills50.org
Track Shack is a smorgasbord of all things running and fitness, plus more. The store features a shoe wall, nutrition wall, and tech wall.

“We aren’t just selling gear, we are selling an experience,” says Chris Hughes, special events coordinator. “Our mission is to get you on your best run or best workout.”

To add to that experience, they offer how-to guides for remote runners who can’t attend their training programs, coaching sessions, and fun runs. They also have a guide of suggested routes and a virtually nonstop racing series. And on top of all that, they give back to the community by gifting grants to local programs that promote health and fitness.

More info: trackshack.com

Fleet Feet (Nationwide)

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Fleet Feet brings consistent, top-notch service to each of their 144 stores by relying upon their personalized “FITlosophy” approach.

They factor in any current, as well as past, injuries, multiple foot measurements, gait testing, fittings, and sport-specific needs to get you what you need when you are investing in a $100-plus running shoe. And they don’t care if it takes 30 minutes or three hours, they will dedicate to a customer.

“We want to listen to every person’s story,” says Izzy Begej, ‎Director of Marketing and Outreach at Fleet Feet’s flagship in Carrboro, North Carolina. “It’s always the small details in someone’s saga that helps us identify what gear will be most beneficial in helping them write the next part of their journey.”

More info: fleetfeetcarrboro.com

The Hub & Pisgah Tavern (Brevard, NC)

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If they didn’t close every day, you might never leave the Hub & Pisgah Tavern — except to ride. The triple-threat serves as a backpacking outfitter, bike shop, and craft beer bar.

All of the bike technicians double as bartenders serving six different drafts and 14 varieties of canned suds from local microbreweries while getting your bike ready to hit the trails.

Fortunately, the Pisgah and DuPont Forest trails, some of the most popular mountain biking and hiking trails on the East Coast, are conveniently in the shop’s backyard.

“Our motto was always ‘ride bikes, drink beer,'” says owner Sam Salman. “But we’re here for hikers, runners, campers. It’s just a superchill place to drink or hang out before and after getting outside.”

More info: thehubpisgah.com

Old Spokes Home (Burlington, VT)

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This off-color shop not only serves as a repair shop and retailer, but also as a bike museum, housing 1860s velocipedes and early-era MTBs that you can gawk at while picking out your own bike — which could be anything from a used beginners bike to a full-suspension fat bike.

“We really have something for everyone, no matter if you are competitive or riding at a recreational, utilitarian level, or if you have a large or small budget,” says Harris Bucklin, general manager. “Not many people get turned away.”

In fact, Old Spokes Home is on a mission to never turn anyone away. The store now also serves as a nonprofit charity that helps refugees, ex-convicts, and those with insufficient income to volunteer and work toward getting a bike of their own.

More info: oldspokeshome.com

Wheat Ridge Cyclery (Wheat Ridge, CO)

Featured the-best-gear-stores-in-america

Wheat Ridge Cyclery is the industrial-sized mecca of all things cycling.

Owned by former pro cyclist Ron Kiefel, the 30,000 square feet of sale floor guarantees that you will have the selection you want and need from Tour de France–worthy road machines to recently added electric bikes. There is a lounge in the fit mezzanine to wait in while your bike is serviced, a custom-wheels section, and clinic offerings.

“We love what we do,” says Kiefel. “So it’s not just about the product, but about the knowledge and the expertise that we can bring to it.”

More info: ridewrc.com

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Running Central (Peoria, IL)

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Nestled amongst the cornfields of Peoria, Illinois is one of he biggest and best running stores in the world.

And while the endless walls of shoes, spandex, and hydration packs are a huge draw, the service that Running Central provides is just as impressive.

Along with killer customer service (like custom-fitting appointments), the store organizes training programs, group runs and local races, and provides knowledge about running form, local trails, and injury prevention.

More info: runningcentral.com

Redpoint Climbers Supply (Terrebonne, OR)

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Coffee, beer, and climbing gear. That’s the motto at Redpoint Climbers Supply in Terrebonne, Oregon.

Customers and climbers can grab an Americano in the morning along with fresh climbing or camping gear and then roll back in for a pint of Boneyard Hop Venom post-climb. And to accommodate your late-night summer adventures, Redpoint extends their hours to 10 p.m. during the daylight savings-months so you can climb all day and still make it back to the shop for a summer sale or ale.

“When the store was opened back in 1988, it was really just a hangout. But somewhere along the way it lost that facet and became more commercialized,” says Gwen Hobbs, who co-owns Redpoint along with Eric Bostard. “Last year we reopened the bar and coffee shop and really recreated that original luster while maintaining authority in commercial gear. It’s the best of both worlds now.”

More info: redpointclimbing.com

Ski Haus (Steamboat Springs, CO)

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Ski Haus is everything you could imagine a snow sports store in Colorado ski country to be. But it’s multiple “best-of awards” (it was named 2014’s best ski shop and sporting goods store by Steamboat magazine) means that locals and visitors alike can vouch for its expertise.

Not only do they offer free ski shuttles, rentals, and repairs, they also feature a body geometry fit service so your gear feels custom-fit. They also change with the seasons.

During the summer months, Ski Haus changes over to paddle boarding, biking, climbing, and camping gear.

More info: skihaussteamboat.com

City Sports Store (Washington, D.C.)

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City Sports is a shining example of just how good outdoor fun can be in a metropolis.

City Sports runs the free-services gamut with gait analysis for runners and racquet stringing for tennis players, and the sporting goods store stays stocked up on almost every type of gear for any sport that you could want to play or any workout you want to do.

You’ll find Crossfit-specific shoes, ultimate Frisbee gear, triathlon apparel, volleyball, squash, boxing, golf, lacrosse, and swimming necessities. Chances are, if you want to find it, City Sports will have it.

More info: citysports.com

Arcadian Shop Berkshires (Lenox, MA)

Photo: Arcadian Shop via Google Plus
Photo: Arcadian Shop via Google Plus
Arcadian Shop is the only gear store in the Berkshire Mountains that boasts a trail system beginning in its backyard.

The 500-plus acres of trails on the facility grounds allow you to stay busy testing your new gear for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. When there’s no snow on the ground, Arcadian Shop sells and rents bikes, kayaks, and standup paddleboards along with any rack you might need to carry the gear on your car.

he store has been equipping vehicles since 1974 and been named a 5 Star Dealer by Thule. Arcadian Shop also offers pet, camera, nutrition, and travel necessities for any outdoor adventure you plan.

More info: store.arcadian.com

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Paragon Sports (New York, NY)

Photo: Yelp.com
Photo: Yelp.com
Since it was opened in 1908, Paragon has been a one-stop shop that covers all of your sporting gear needs — from stocking up on badminton birdies to full-size kayaks — which is impressive in Manhattan.

“We’re a multilevel store, but we still have departments and athletes and experts in each of those for every sport you could want,” says Zachary Blank, vice president of Paragon.

“It is the quintessential New York.”

More info: paragonsports.com

    

Happy Trails (San Angelo, TX)

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Happy Trails is a licensed carrier for all of the major outdoor brands that you’d normally have to visit REI to get (Marmont, Salomon, The North Face, and Patagonia), but the staff still serves you with small-store charm.

Your dog is welcome to come along when you’re searching for a new Hobie Kayak, and the customers always come first.

In fact, the staff at Happy Trails has been known to go out and find exactly what you need and bring it to the store if they don’t have it in stock.

More info: happytrailsshop.com

The Trail Head (Missoula, MT)

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You know a gear store is good when it’s the go-to of one of the most adventure-friendly towns in America. The gear ranges from the hiking boots for weekend warriors to the most technical backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and whitewater gear for hardcore enthusiasts.

Having such a knowledgeable staff is imperative when it comes to helping you shop specialized backcountry supplies — where price and brand name aren’t always the best measurements of dependability and quality.

The Trail Head also serves as a camping, fly fishing, kayak and SUP rental facility and puts on boat swaps and clinics, such as inflatable raft repair, regularly throughout the warmer months.

More info: trailheadmontana.net

The Outpost of Holland (Holland, MI)

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Husband-and-wife team Rich and Lisa Mosher opened the Outpost of Holland in an old Army and Navy Surplus in 1972, and they still pride themselves on serving outdoor enthusiasts with the same expertise they shared to the original creaky wooden floors 40 years ago.

The store hosts standup paddleboarding lessons at the local aquatic center and nearby Lake Macatawa, as well as hosting other sporting events.

More info: hollandoutpost.com

Summit Hut (Tucson, AZ)

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Summit Hut had grassroots beginnings and continues to embrace that spirit since two 15-year-old friends collaborated to bring Tucson a special-order gear service for backpacking and mountaineering in 1967. Since then, Summit Hut has expanded into an international retailer, shipping outdoor gear to adventurers to places as far off as Cyprus and Japan.

The store now holds the title of being one of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance’s 34 independent specialty outdoor stores throughout North America, and it recently implemented a community service program through which employees can volunteer with various community groups such as the Sky Island Alliance and the Tucson Audubon Society.

More info: summithut.com

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Uncle Dan’s (Chicago, IL)

Photo: roadtrippers.com
Photo: roadtrippers.com
Like many family-owned outfitters, Uncle Dan’s name has meaning behind it. According to the history of the store, 13-year-old Brent Weiss and his 15-year-old brother Mark worked for their uncle, Dan Weinberg, at his Chicago dry goods store, Boyce Surplus.

In 1971, their uncle passed away and the then 16-year-old Brent and his 18-year-old brother decided that they should open their own store. The next year, the boys used their savings accounts to purchase and open Uncle Dan’s Army-Navy store, in memory of their uncle.

Now Uncle Dan’s has grown to three stores in the Chicago-metro area, and specialize in equipment for camping, backpacking, hiking, and travel, so you can find everything from heart-rate monitors to anti-theft travel bags.

More info: udans.com

Wild Iris Mountain Sports (Lander, WY)

Photo: Wild Iris via Facebook.com
Photo: Wild Iris via Facebook.com
Wild Iris Mountain Sports is all about getting you out into the mountains with their simple mission of: go explore, share your experience, live your dream, repeat.

Its original mission was to employ climbers and supply them with gear, but the business quickly grew as people found they could come in and get tried-and-true advice from those who knew the local mountains better than anyone else.

Now the store not only stays stocked on gear for outdoor enthusiasts, but also has all the information and guides you could need to enjoy the local climbing, hiking, and mountain biking.

More info: wildirisclimbing.com

The Fifth Season (Mount Shasta, CA)

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The owners of the Fifth Season, Leif and Lacy Voeltz, have an opinion on the presence of online alpine and gear shops, and they make it known right on their website:

“The big box stores and mail order warehouses have been the bane of the specialty mountaineering shop. We mourn the loss of all the boot fitters, technicians, ski and board tuners and pack fitters.”

That’s why the Voeltzs have carefully hired their staff to be able to serve skiers, climbers, cyclists, and alpinists on Mount Shasta based on their experiences on and off the mountain.

The team includes a former professional mountain guide, a cross-country biker, and a Pacific Crest Trail through-hiker who found the store while resupplying and returned post-hike to join the staff.

More info: thefifthseason.com

The Backpacker’s Shop (Sheffield Village, OH)

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The Backpacker’s Shop is as well stocked as any premier independent outdoor retailer, but the store is separated by its passion for adventure.

The store keeps an extensive log of the current and past treks of their staff: from what they ate for lunch in-between summiting two 14’ers in Colorado to how they were able to scare bears away from camp on the John Muir Trail.

With every visit, you can learn from the staff’s experience to make the best of your own.

More info: backpackersshop.com

Playmakers (Okemos, MI)

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This running store occupies a former Barnes and Noble, but it’s not the size of the shop that makes Playmakers a beacon for athletes, but the community involvement and education.

Playmakers sponsors an elite racing squad, but also offers teams and training programs for all ability levels and goals.

The store also puts on free weekly injury clinics, runs a local foundation to improve community health, and partners on more than 100 races every year.

More info: playmakers.com

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