Now that I’ve listed my gear, I may as well tell where I found it. Just about everything worth having is available online, but it helps to see stuff in the store. Anything requiring an exact fit — shoes and packs in particular — should be tried on first. These are places I’ve tried:

  • REI: Recreational Equipment Inc. is a co-op rather than a typical company. It provides dividends to members once a year to pay back some the cost of its gear, which is never cheap but almost always worth having because it’s built better. The Bay Area has a couple huge REI stores to check out gear before buying, but if you go online you can get free shipping if you pick up your order at a store.
  • Mel Cotton’s Sporting Goods: San Jose’s most venerable outdoor store … has a great shoe department and gobs of hunting and fishing gear, and the staffers really know their stuff. Also rents canoes and kayaks.
  • Sonoma Outfitters: A major source of sporting goods about 100 miles up the road in Santa Rosa. Good place to try on a Dana Design backpack.
  • Campmor: Just about everything is available at Campmor, often at lower prices.
  • Northern Mountain Supply: It’s based way up the California coast in Eureka, but it’s close enough to the Bay Area that cheap ground shipping takes only a couple days. Look for the Killer Deals.
  • Mountain Gear: Nice selection and customer service, and free ground shipping on orders of $49 and up.
  • Backcountry Gear: A no-frills site; high quality gear, dependable service. Lots of specialized climbing gear, if you’re into risking life and limb. Short on little amenities like order tracking, but the stuff I’ve ordered arrived within a few days.
  • Amazon: Usually provides links to dealers like Northern Mountain; good way to track down hard-to-find stuff.