Of Hiking Gear and Roof Racks

First stop today was Mountain Equipment Co-Op. I have mixed feelings about my shopping experience there, my first at MEC. On the one hand, they had everything I needed but on the other, service was abominable. I’d suggest to novice gear hunters that they call ahead and ask if it’s possible to request a personal shopper.

I started off with boots. I’d done a bit of research before hand and knew that I needed their backpacking boots. I only buy Italian ‘full grain’ leather hiking boots, so that narrowed the choice down even further. Perhaps I sounded too sure of what I wanted, but the clerk just dumped three pairs of boots in front of me and never spoke to me again. Thankfully, this wasn’t my first time buying hiking boots and I knew what sort of fit I needed, so I’m fairly confident I made the right choice. Hiking boots are probably the only thing for which I never consider price. You can be soaking wet and cold out on the trail, but if your feet are comfy, life is good. Also, good boots will last you a long time. My last pair lasted through eleven years of real use, including a month of backpacking around Scotland in 1998.

Next up were socks. I couldn’t believe that the exact same socks and liners I’d bought for Scotland expedition were still available!!! I loved that combo and have, in fact, only just recently worn through my last pair! I had no qualms dropping sixty dollars total for two sets!

Then, I moved on to clothes. I walked around the ladies department for at least a half hour looking through everything and waiting for a clerk to show up in this section. Just as I was about to just walk out without anything, a clerk walked right by me and I must have given enough of a sigh or a LOOK for her to spin around and notice me. She guided me through my clothing options and was helpful enough, but soon as I was ready to examine my options on my own, she left and didn’t come back to see if I had any further questions.

It’s really hot out today, so much so that I left home in capris, sandals, and a short-sleeved top for the first time this season. So, let me just say that it was very uncomfortable in the changing room wearing the following:

-cotton underpants and bra;

-polyester longjohns and undershirt;

-hiking pants and lightweight top;

-fleece jacket;

-wind/rainproof Gortex-style pants and shell

*laughs* I didn’t need to buy all these layers, of course, but I wanted to try them all on to make sure that the shell layer, which I was buying, would fit.

I left MEC much, much poorer than I’d entered, but I was long overdue to renew my hiking gear, so much so that I’ve actually passed up on some hiking trips due to lack of appropriate equipment. Now, I’m all set to do the West Coast trail whenever I get to Vancouver Island, or to try any number of other trails I’ll pass on my way north. In fact, I have to try a few trails so I can break in those boots!

I’ll pause here to mention that MEC has a (pay) parking lot accessible from an alley behind the store. This lot is the equivalent of two stories above street level. The view from up there was stunning; I was surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Vancouver’s beauty never ceases to astound me.

Next stop was Rack Attack, just a few blocks from MEC. Their site boasts that they carry every Thule product in stock, so it seemed like the place to go to get geared up to carry the bike and kayak. My experience there was great! Service was excellent, with the clerk being very knowledgeable. I just about passed out when I got the total bill for the roof bars (400XT Aero Foot), the kayak rack, and the bike rack, though! The bike rack cost was exorbitant and I decided to pass on it for the time being. I’ll just stuff the bike in the trunk for now. The kayak rack, though was reasonably priced.

Being a DIY kind of gal, I passed on installation.

I wish I hadn’t.

First, the Swedes have got to start hiring proper translators!!!

Second, this rack was supposed to take 15-30 minutes to install. 3 hours later, I’m not even close.

I am not impressed with Thule products. Some parts seem very shoddy and flimsy; I kept thinking I was going to break something! Moreover, I bought a fitting kit made specifically for my car that specifies the bar span between the two mounts. The dimension is incorrect. If they can’t get that right, what can I trust? Lesson learned: just because a brand is the most popular doesn’t mean it’s the best, just that nobody’s invented anything better yet. I feel like I got scammed. 🙁 Hopefully, I can figure the stupid thing out before Saturday morning. I’m almost afraid to think of what the kayak rack is going to be like…

The race to departure is on. Four days left!

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