Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.
A solid outfitter is the lifeblood of an adventure mecca. It probably won’t come as any surprise that each of our sixteen Best Towns finalists has an awesome place to get geared up.
Chattanooga, Tennessee: Rock/Creek Outfitters
Rock/Creek Outfitters has been the epicenter of adventure in Chattanooga for more than 25 years, growing from a single shop to five distinct stores throughout the city. Climbing is king in Chattanooga (Rock Creek is a big sponsor of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series), and Rock Creek carries a big selection of climbing gear from Black Diamond and Patagonia, as well as favorite local company Granola.
Port Angeles, Washington: Brown’s Outdoor
Brown’s Outdoor started as a consignment shop almost 100 years ago. Four generations later, it’s still owned by the same founding family, who give locals a well-curated selection of hiking and backpacking gear so they can hit Olympic National Park. The rain jackets from Outdoor Research are obviously popular because, you know, it’s Washington, so there’s rain.
Pagosa Springs, Colorado: Ski and Bow Rack
There isn’t much that you can’t get for the outdoors at Ski and Bow Rack, which has been keeping Pagosa Springs geared up since ‘85. MSR tent for exploring the San Juans? Check. Fat skis for a powder day? Check. Custom cut arrows from Beman? Check. It makes sense considering you can pretty much do anything you want in the mountains of Southwest Colorado.
Middlebury, Vermont: Middlebury Mountaineer
Long-time anglers and skiers Steve and Marion Atocha run Middlebury Mountaineer out of a primo location in historic downtown Middlebury. From the shop, you can hire a guide to take you climbing, backcountry skiing, or fishing. In the summer, you can rent a Wilderness Systems kayak decked out for hunting pike. In the winter, geek out on the massive selection of cross-country and backcountry ski gear.
Lake Placid, New York: Lake Placid Ski and Board
Everything you need to know about Lake Placid is in the name of this shop, which is located in downtown across the street from Mirror Lake. Ski or board? Those are your options, regardless of the season. The shop has been offering locals and tourists killer ski service and gear since ’84 (it was called Maui North back then) and is best known for its massive ski selection, but in the summer, it’s all about hitting the lake. The shop has you covered there too with water skis, tubes, and a huge fleet of SUPs.
Annapolis, Maryland: Annapolis Canoe and Kayak
If you’re in Annapolis, you better be on the water—and you better check in with Annapolis Canoe and Kayak first. The store has been serving watermen (and women) since ’90, and has a primo spot on the edge of Spa Creek and the Annapolis Harbor (check out the weekly shop paddles). Peruse the huge selection of touring and recreational kayaks and SUPS, as well as all of the accessories you’ll need to make a paddle happen, whether it’s a short cruise around Spa Creek and Ego Alley or a massive tour of Assateague. Their sea kayak specialist even builds his own “skin on frame” kayaks. Now that’s legit.
Bar Harbor, Maine: Cadillac Mountain Sports
Named for the towering pillar inside Acadia National Park that rises more than 1,500 feet from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Cadillac Mountain Sports has become an adventure pillar in its own right, serving Bar Harbor since 1980. Locals dig the shop’s selection of cross-country skis from Fischer and Salomon in the winter, and the broad range of kayaks during summer.
Spearfish, South Dakota: Rushmore Mountain Sports
Rushmore Mountain Sports started as a bike touring company in the back of another outfitter in 1999, and grew into a full-service shop of its own, then grew into a full fledged outdoor shop after the company took over an old gas station on Main Street in downtown Spearfish. The shop still stocks plenty of bikes, but also snow gear and climbing equipment, because that’s what you do in Spearfish. You ski, bike and climb.
Iowa City, Iowa: Fin and Feather
The Fin and Feather was founded in 1967 by Roger and Linda Mildenstein as a family-run fishing and hunting shop (all of the Mildenstein kids held jobs counting night crawlers at the store when they were young). The store still has a robust hunting department (complete with an archery range), but it’s expanded into a complete adventure outfitter, with a killer selection of backpacking gear and everything you need to paddle local lakes.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin: Riverside Bike and Skate
Riverside Bike and Skate was established in 1972 as a hockey gear store (it doesn’t get much more “Wisconsin” than that), and you can still get your hockey blades repaired at the shop. But you can also get your bike tuned up and throw down your hard-earned cash for that Mad River Canoe you’ve been drooling over.
Rochester, Minnesota: Tyrol Ski and Sport
You might think Tyrol Ski and Sport is only about winter sports, but the shop makes the most of Minnesota’s short summers, carrying a massive selection of kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards from Wilderness Systems, Dagger, and BIC (among others) and holding regular demo days. In the winter, take your pick of downhill and touring gear from everyone from Blizzard to Volkl.
Beaufort, South Carolina: Higher Ground Outfitters
Helping to anchor Beaufort’s Town Center, Higher Ground is all about the water, with a huge selection of KC kayaks and Odyssey SUPs (among other brands). There’s plenty of camping gear too, in case you’re considering an overnight on Hunting Island State Park, but be sure to dress like a local and pick up a pair of Southern Marsh Dockside fishing shorts, because they look cool, and they’re made in the Low Country.
Boone, North Carolina: Mast General Store
Mast started as a general store for the small town of Valle Crucis in 1883—a place where you could get nails, cheese, and your mail. The original location is still there, and still the place where locals can get their mail, but Mast has grown into a comprehensive outdoor outfitter with several locations throughout North Carolina. At the shop in downtown Boone, you can still get overalls and candy from a barrel, but you can also find wicking layers and the latest hiking boots and water shoes.
Athens, Georgia: Half-Moon Outfitters
Half-Moon has been supplying the Southeast with gear since 1993, starting with a single location in downtown Charleston before quickly expanding throughout the state of South Carolina with multiple locations. The shop moved into Georgia in 2008, opening this location in downtown Athens, which is dangerously close to Mexican-food standby Taqueira Del Sol. Peruse the huge selection of hiking boots from Keen and Merrell, but definitely pick up something from Half-Moon’s own line of preppy Oxford shirts.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado: Treadz
Are mountain athletes stylish? Probably, if they shop at Treadz, which started as a shoe store in 1993 but has grown into a head to toe style monger for the mountain athlete. Timberland, Lucky jeans, Icebreaker and Nau…if it’s hot, it’s at Treadz, which makes sense considering the shop’s proximity to Aspen and Vail.
Flagstaff, Arizona: Peace Surplus
In 1973, when Peace Surplus was founded by the Chatinsky family, it was the place to go for military surplus like parachutes and ammo cans. Today, Peace Surplus is Flagstaff’s comprehensive gear shop with everything a skier, hiker, climber, or paddler could need. The shop also has a killer rental program, where you can pick up big-ticket items for backpacking trips during the summer and ski sessions during the winter.