At least it felt like one, based on all the reading and research I’ve done regarding this whole transition to hiking/backpacking thing. I joined a co-op. Or should I say THE co-op for the wilderness set. Yep, I’m talking about REI. For the $20 lifetime membership fee, it does seem like a bit of a no-brainer, even if I’m typically committed to supporting my local outfitter first. I’ve so appreciated being able to go into my area stores and “ooh” and “aah” over some of the gear that I’ve seen online. And their prices have been surprisingly competitive as well.
But my local stores are still pretty empty of merchandise. I was told by one owner that they typically gear up (pun intended) for the hiking season starting now, which is a bit behind most others, according to him. Maine is pretty much a Memorial-to-Labor Day season, so that makes sense. But I need some basics to begin hiking, and simply can’t sit on my hands for the next two or three weeks waiting for my local stores to stock up, assuming they’ll even get in all the things I’m looking for. And when I begin to travel out of state beginning next year for spring section hikes, I’ll need item availability even sooner than I do now.
That’s where REI (and other online outfitters) will come in. But I’m still open to giving my local businesses first shot. If they have it, I’ll buy it there, assuming reasonably competitive prices. If not, well…to the co-op I’ll go…
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” – John Muir