Whether you're an avid hiker, cyclist, trail runner, or climber, or a novice to the outdoorsy scene, proper gear is important. The terrain is especially diverse here in Arizona, meaning you might need different gear depending on where, how far, and what time of the year you are hiking. Preparation is key to a fun and safe outdoor adventure — and knowing the right gear to wear and bring will help ensure an enjoyable time.
With that in mind, here are five great places in metro Phoenix where well-versed staffers will help get you set up with the right gear.
Sunday Cycles Bike Shop
This small, family-owned bicycle shop caters to the “anyone cyclist” with a down-to-earth team that can pair you with a bike that fits you and your cycling needs. “Everyone that comes into the store has a story,” shop owner Joe Berman says. Whether riding is your only form of transportation, you’re an up-and-coming cyclist, or you're just looking to hit the trails, “it all comes down to people wanting to ride bikes,” he says.
For Berman and his staff, cycling in one form or another is a passion they all share, and creating an environment that feels like home and supports any style of rider is the foundation on which the shop was built. Aside from a variety of cycles displayed throughout the shop, custom builds are also an option, and there is a build-and-repair shop located within the store. Sunday Cycles also offers an array of gear to support any trip, from road biking to bike-packing with hydration packs, clothing, headgear, gloves, eye wear, tool kits, jet boils, and nutrition such as dehydrated meals, bars, protein powders, and gel packs. The shop also hosts a Wednesday night mountain bike ride. Find details at the Sunday Cycles Facebook page.
Arizona Hiking Shack
This mom-and-pop shop has been serving outdoor junkies since 1972. Originally located in Cave Creek, Arizona Hiking Shack is now more centrally located at 3244 East Thomas Road in Phoenix. AHS focuses on hiking, backpacking, and climbing gear, generally catering to intermediate adventurists and above. It's apparent upon entering the store that customer service is a huge focus. Beyond knowledgeable staff, the store offers great opportunities to try out new outdoor experiences without having to drop a ton of cash, as it has a large array of rentals. Backpacks, snow shoes, trekking poles, climbing gear, kayaks, and paddleboards are among equipment available to rent at all times.
AHS also offers an array of classes such as first aid and CPR certification taught by certified members of the Mountain Medix staff, as well as in-store and field-training classes on desert safety, backpacking, map and compass reading, and canyoneering, all of which can be found at the AHS website. Oh, and if they don't have a particular item you're looking for in stock, they'll special order it.
What started as a nationwide online outdoor rental site in 2002 has turned into Tempe’s very own outdoor retailer. Now located at University Drive and the 101, Lower Gear has been specializing in lightweight backpacking must-haves for the past 14 years. The store offers rentals on everything from sleeping and cooking gear to hydration packs and kayaks. While you'll find experienced staff in-store, the website also offers a series of articles on what to pack, how to prep food on the trail, pointers for proper usage of GPS, and the basics of backcountry hygiene, just to mention a few.
They offer discounted lightly used gear to help recycle out rental inventory with the arrival of new stock, which means shoppers can get a lot for their money here. Lower Gear is also a mini store for Wide World of Maps, meaning it stocks an array of topographic maps along with an assortment of GPS equipment. Described by owner Dallas Shewmaker as a boutique outdoor store, Lower Gear offers specialized brands, representing small, high-quality retailers not offered elsewhere around the city. From innovative footwear to an extensive collection of backpacks and sleeping gear, this store is equipped — so you can be, too.
Fueled by owner Mark Cosmas' passion for ultra running, Phoenix's iRun is a great place to find essentials for picking up some miles either running, walking, or hiking trails. Cosmas ran 2000 miles of trails last year — and can recommend a path that fits the adventure you're looking for. Aside from a grand variety of trail-running shoes, many of which you will not find in other stores, iRun also carries hydration packs, trekking poles, and maps, as well as clothing, headlamps, and nutritional items such as bars, protein drink mixes, and chews to keep you going.
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Located at Indian School Road and 48th Street, the store also offers weekly running groups that are free for anyone to join. You can also join the Aravaipa Running Group, which offers 18 trail-running events per year, with summer runs held in Flagstaff and parts of Colorado. These runs span all distances, providing opportunity for all levels of runners. iRun offers the chance to train with some extremely experienced — and passionate — trail runners. For more on this shop, see iRun's website.
REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) is the nation’s largest consumer co-op dating back to its small beginnings in 1938. With a long history of quality products and plenty to choose from, this shop can suit any level of outdoor enthusiast. With staff members trained for specific departments, you should have no trouble finding experts to outfit you for your next adventure. REI has two Valley locations: one at 1405 West Southern Avenue in Tempe; and the other at 12634 North Paradise Village Parkway in Paradise Valley.
Staff members are also in charge of teaching classes on topics including biking, hiking, and backpacking. Such courses are held monthly at all locations throughout the Valley, and can be found at REI's website. Soon, they'll offer a series of field classes, which will include hiking, paddling, and cycling, to name a few. These are slated to begin in March or April of this year. While rental capabilities have become a thing of the past for REI, you will find that they stand firmly behind their 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on all products. They also offer easily attainable, lifetime memberships for a one-time fee of $20, good at any location. Some additional perks to having a membership include end-of-the-year dividends, members-only coupons, and invitations to member-exclusive "garage sales," which offer up to 75 percent off returned gear.