Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Online Hiking & Backpacking Gear Retailers

Online Hiking & Backpacking Gear Retailers

Equipment is the cause of much discussion among practitioners of many leisure pursuits, and hillwalking or backpacking is no different. It is why you get crowdsourced gear review websites like Trailspace, together with gear testing sections in many an outdoors magazine. However, lists of retailers like what was once found on OutdoorsMagic seem to be thin on the ground and I yet have to meet up with aggregators like what Bikesy does for cycling gear. The latter may stop you from looking for specialists like Chain Reaction Cycles or Merlin Cycles, but lists of cycling kit retailers are another thing I have yet to seek.

The aforementioned absences may make what I have here more useful. In addition to U.K. stores, it also features ones found in Ireland, so that adds something that you may not see elsewhere. Details of purchases have been added together with other perhaps useful comments, so there is more to this than a mere list.

This is an Irish operation with two shops in Dublin and one in the centre of Cork too. It all started with one store, so it amazed me to see them expand in the middle of a recession. Even now, high street retailing in the western world remains a difficult enterprise.

This is an independent retailer specialising in an eclectic range of lightweight backpacking gear, as the name suggests. There is a personal touch too, and what came from an attempt to exit the hectic humdrum of normal working life has brought plenty of work all of its own. Maybe, it’s a case of swapping unappealing busyness for what is the more satisfying.

Part of the same group as Millets but serving a slightly different market sector, their brick-and-mortar shops have seen me more often than their online variant. My North Face Nuptse jacket was bought at their Manchester branch, but I have been known to buy at other ones too, like in Aviemore when I acquired rubber tips for my walking poles to replace easy-to-lose plastic caps.

It has been Paramo gear that I have been acquiring from this Settle-based concern in Yorkshire. Service is prompt and efficient too, and there’s the personal touch that you get from an independent retailer as well.

When I became in need of new boots a few years ago, the Manchester branch of Cotswolds was where I sourced my now resting pair of Scarpa ZG10’s. Their online store has yielded some items too, though I cannot recall what they were from the top of my head.

It may be because they don’t do discounts as a matter of course, but I can’t say that I have bought much from these people. For ages, my only purchase of note was a pair of North Face trail shoes, but 2008 saw me pick up an Osprey Aether 60 rucksack that accompanied me on my escapade taking in Skye and the Western Isles. They also operate brick-and-mortar stores for The North Face in the U.K. so it shouldn’t have been a pleasant surprise to see them stock The North Face’s replacements for their ever-practical Paramount Cargo trekking trousers. In their own shops, there’s a good selection of brands, and a return visit to their Castlefield store in Manchester has remained a dormant thought in my head for a while now. It was their online emporium though from where I added another pair of TNF Hedgehogs (on my first use of it as it happened) to complement the stalwarts that I already have from elsewhere; sometimes a tidy pair of a favourite shoe is good to have.

Though this operation mainly focuses on insulated items like down jackets and sleeping bags, they also have a store in Seattle that might be a calling point if I ever get there on another North American outdoors escapade.

For a few years, this was an online emporium that I frequented more than I care to admit or remember; their real-world stores seem to be away from the sorts of places that I tend to frequent. Apart from the non-delivery of a Magellan GPS receiver by Royal Mail, most mail-order items made their way to me without incident. Two pairs of my favourite hill trousers, North Face’s Paramount Cargo, have come from them as were a now long-gone pair of Salomon Nubuck leather boots (they fitted well and performed likewise while they lasted; leather boots from Meindl have done better for me though).

These people sold me my (blue) Osprey Atmos 50 after a spot of tick-tacking with them. Then, I found the service friendly and efficient, with the pack arriving with me within days of my putting in the order.

This bunch exploded onto the outdoors scene, with new shops popping up in all sorts of places. The range includes cycling, horse riding and running too, so the range is extensive. Both their online and physical emporia have seen some business from me. The mix of items includes a North Face jacket bought for my brother’s birthday, an inexpensive North Ridge Col one-person tent that has yet to see any real use, pairs of socks, a Garmin GPS receiver and a pair of Meindl Bhutan boots. Recently, though, I have been sent the wrong item on two consecutive orders, so my confidence in their ability to deliver is not what it was. In fact, I am less likely to order from them for now even if I kept the last thing that they sent me because it was close enough to what I wanted.

It’s a name that appears over the door of several outdoor emporia, so it needs to be said that this one is in Dublin, Ireland. The site is the online branch of a pair of brick-and-mortar shops.

This shop was spotted near the marketplace in Buxton and this is the online version of it. It’s an independent store that has been going since 1972. As ever, the personal touch has to count for a lot.

It may be American, but it will ship orders to the U.K. and even waives the cost of delivery at the time of writing if your order is worth £75 or more. It was a foreword to a book called Fifty Places to Hike Before You Die that was enough for me to add them to this collection, and one of their stores may make a useful calling point during a U.S. trip.

This lot is everywhere in the U.K. and, though they may not have much outdoor credibility in the eyes of some, I must admit to picking up a few items from their stores, one of which is in Macclesfield. These days, I limit my shopping there to things like water bottles, socks, laces and other odds and ends, but they supplied a pair of TNF Hedgehogs that proved their worth.

This bunch is Canadian and popped up during my ongoing project to get to know a little more about the place through guidebook perusal. On my Vancouver visit, I dropped into one of their stores for some books, bear spray and other items. Everything from hiking to canoeing gets covered, and that just shows the range of outdoor activities in which Canadians and others can engage.

The name may suggest otherwise, but this is an Italian concern that may have a use if you are based there or need to shop locally after uncovering a packing oversight after arrival for a walking trip.

Most of their stores are in Portland, Oregon, but there is one situated outside that city. Since Portland looks like a good base for exploring the wilder places like Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge, so it probably is worth keeping these in mind for any needs that arise while in the area.

Their shop in Fort William has seen me a few times over the years and is more than an outdoor gear emporium with a bar, a café and a souvenir shop under the same roof as well as the outdoors stuff. A Sprayway Comanche jacket that has seen use when going to and from work in the wet came from here, as did a pair of overtrousers that often bale me out when the heavens open. On a more recent occasion, I fulfilled a lighting need with my purchase of a new Petzl head torch, only for the older one to resurface afterwards; you never can find anything in a last-minute rush…

This might be a Seattle-based gear manufacturer, but they also sell their wares online. The range covers much of what you would expect for outdoor activities, and the 2020 pandemic also encouraged them to make face coverings too.

Shops belonging to this equipment manufacturer are to be found in many places, and this is the online store. The company makes much of its environmental credentials, as you will see from their recycling efforts, and that applies as much to equipment bought from them when it reaches the end of its useful life as what they sell in the first place.

In some ways, this is an unusual entry to have on here. However, it was the source of a Meindl boot care product that I sourced via Amazon. As such, this Hereford emporium might be worth a look depending on what you need.

This is an American counterpart to Canada’s MEC, and came to my notice while perusing guidebooks in advance of plotting another visit to the Pacific Northwest region of the continent of North America. If I manage to replicate something like my trip to Vancouver, then it is good to know that there is such a thing in their home town of Seattle, as well as other cities across the United States.

It is only recently that I started buying online from this independent retailer. The need to cover one’s face in various places because of an ongoing pandemic caused me to buy Buffs from them and a 25-litre Lowe Alpine backpack. The service was efficient, and they delivered what I ordered, so I may try them again.

Their shop on Rose Street in Edinburgh was where I purchased my first-ever footwear for outdoors escapades, a pair of Columbia trail shores that now reside at my parents’ house in Ireland and still see use whenever I am over there. Other purchases include a Low Alpine Walkabout 35 rucksack found at a knockdown price in a sale in the same shop; it has been taken on journeys across the Irish Sea and on local jaunts in Cheshire and Derbyshire too. There is a store in Leith too and a Craghopper shirt came from there and their online store has been the source of a pair of trail shoes from The North Face as well as a few other bits and pieces.