Gear reviews can be helpful, but only if you can find it when you want to buy it.
How would one find and purchase an item from the Camp Manito-wish "What to bring list"? Let’s take the hiking boot for a summer camp canoe trip as an example.
What am I looking for?
According to the "What to bring list" I am searching for "boots with good ankle protection and support and a durable sole." For a 3-7 day canoe trip in Northern Wisconsin, you do not need a top of the line boot. In fact, you don't even need a water-proof boot as they will get wet regardless.
The boot should be relatively comfortable as it will be used all day on the canoe trip. They will be carrying packs and maybe canoes from lake to lake on various portages. As long as the boot/shoe has ankle support and will last through the trip, you should be fine. This could even be your old basketball shoes if there is some life in them.
Where should I look?
You have a few options, online shopping, local shops and big box sport stores. There are a ton more stores than are listed here. If you know of one, comment here or on the discussion tab on our facebook page, www.facebook.com/campmanitowish
On-line Shopping: Huge selections, potentially lower prices, lack of much customer service.
By searching for a hiking boot at Campmor.com and sierratradingpost.com, I found a good option at each for under 50 dollars.
Campmor.com Campmor started out selling gear from their garage and now have large mail-order and internet business. They sell Campmor brand clothing and are known for having a large sale section. Hi Tec Midland Mid Men's Hiking Boot for $49.99 is shown to the left from campmor.com.
Sierratradingpost.com Sierra Trading Post is another great warehouse style retailer. They used to be mostly focused on outdoor related clothing/gear, but now you can buy just about anything. They are worth checking out to compare prices, but sizes may be scarce. Ex: Vasque Ranger Hiking Boots for $47.96 is shown below.
REI.com or REI Outlet Rei carries the REI brand and most top brands. They carry a good selection and also have local stores in Milwaukee, Madison , Chicago and the Twin Cities.
Backcountry.com and moosejaw.com More options that have great selection and worth a look.
Smaller Local Stores: High potential for knowledable staff, know that you have the right fit.
Erehwon has locations in Glendale, Madison and various locations near Chicago. Each time Erehwon is brought up, someone likes to point out that it is "Nowhere" spelled backwards.
Rutabaga while running Canoecopia each year, has a great little shop in Monona, just outside Madison. They have mostly paddling gear with some camping stuff as well.
Laacke and Joys is based out of Milwaukee with a few locations in that area.
Midwest Mountaineering is based out of the Twin Cities near the University. They also have a great outlet on the second floor named the Thrifty Outfitter that also fixes broken gear.
Big box sporting goods stores: They usually have a decent selection, decent prices, but not always knowledable staff.
Fleet Farm/Farm and Fleet: I have heard that if you can't get it at Fleet Farm, you don't need it. They may have a few good alternatives to some of the more expensive options listed above. Until you start going on longer trips, this may be worth exploring.
As with all items, you can spend as much or as little as you would like. My first few years of canoe tripping, I used Chuck Taylors. They were inexpensive, dried quickly and provided mediocre ankle support.
Don't stress out about getting the latest and greatest. One of my tripmates on a month long trip wore the bright yellow vinyl raincoat and had a fantastic time.
Good luck with your shopping. Call or email us if you need any help.