Do it Right
It only takes one click and the next thing you know you’re on some far off website watching a video of baby animals burping. The key to efficient online shopping means staying focused and following these suggestions:
- Know what you want: It’s one thing to browse at a bookstore, but online it’s a huge time suck. Hone in as much as you can on exactly what you want and need beforehand. Without a salesperson as a guide, you’ll have to do the research yourself. Many of the big outdoor gear stores post educational content to help you understand what kind of product you need for your purposes. (Click “Learn” at mec.ca and rei.com or backcountry.com/explore.)
- To get more specific — like what model — find a few trusted places to get advice on gear. (I think the reviews on this website are solid, but I may be biased.) Reach out to your sport’s community. Ask a friend or members of a local club or post questions on forums. MEC and many other brands tap their sponsored athletes to recommend tried-and-tested products. Once you settle on a couple of options, read the reviews usually linked to each product. Browse a bunch to get a feel for pros and cons, but also remember this is the wild Internet. Be wary and skeptical.
- Shop Smart: If you still haven’t settled on the perfect item, it’s time to get strategic. Most good stores have search engines and group products in categories to help narrow down options. Use as many filters as possible. When shopping at mec.ca, we went from 77 hiking daypacks to 13 simply by narrowing the search to “men” and “under $100.”
Get the Right Size
- Easy returns: This is vital. For starters, check out the site’s return policy. Key words here: free and simple. We like shopping at Canadian-specific sites — many brands have them — where we don’t have to worry about duty. When it’s not possible, look into how they handle cross-border shipping.
- Get measured: Any online store worth your bucks will include a sizing chart link with each product. Before you get there, pay a tailor, seamstress or a friend with measuring skills to take your vitals: shoulders, chest, torso, hips, waist, inseam and width and length of feet, etc. Keep this data handy and compare when shopping.
- Read reviews: Take a quick browse through the reviews, looking for any mention to how the item fits.
- Ask and Answer: Still not sure? Many stores have a spot for posting questions. Don’t be shy.
Vital: Support Your Local Stores!
Online shopping has its time and place. We also love our local outdoor stores and do everything we can to support them. When we’re missing a key piece of gear hours before leaving on a trip, we can’t wait for an online order to arrive. Plus, there’s the service. Just try to get a web forum to mount your ski bindings properly or find that annoying creak in your bike’s bottom bracket while you wait. We encourage you to support your local stores when it makes sense. The rest of the time, don’t “use” them. Don’t be the person who sucks up an hour of the salesperson’s time trying on boots only to walk out and buy them for $15 less online. Want a deal? Just ask. Many stores will price match.
The Future of Online Gear Shopping
Buchachon | Dreamstime.com - Online Shopping Concept Photo
The death of the checkout line and shipping to 7Eleven: this is the future Robin Avery sees coming. First, says the online shopping specialist at MEC, the web and in-store shopping experiences will merge.
“Rather than competing with each other, Wi-Fi in the store will make them complimentary,” he says. Within a year, he figures we’ll be scanning hang tags with our smartphones to pull up online reviews, product videos and ask-and-answer content that tells us everything we need to know about a product. A few years further along, and we’ll be able to make purchases right in aisles, scanning an RFID tag with our phone.
“It’s shocking how fast it’s progressing,” he says. “I think within 10 years the checkout line will be gone.” As for online shopping, not only will the experience become easier, more mobile and more customized to our needs and wants, but in the future we will never have to wait for the courier.
“Everything will ship to a locker at a convenience store where you’ll be able to pick it up with an access code on your phone, whenever it’s convenient to you,” he says. “It’s exciting.”