I Hate Shopping for Gear

Easy to pack, light-weight, but warm- I really like the silk long johns from Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI).  They have high quality products and an unbeatable, sometimes unbelievable, return policy.  But when I checked the shelf at the store in Hillsboro there were only small and medium sizes available.   Empty space on the rack indicated that the long johns do come in large and even extra large, but those sizes were sold out.

I was leaving on a trip in a few days, so there was not time to order online. I had to go shopping for gear in person.  I proceeded to the store in Portland, about 15 miles away to find the same thing.  Then to the Eugene store only to have the scenario repeated. Hmm, this was starting to seems like a pattern…

I don’t have a business degree.  I’ve never taken a class in inventory management, but here’s what I think:  If, in one store after another, the large-sized items are selling out and the small-sized items are sitting on the shelf collecting dust, then maybe, just maybe, it would make sense to stock more of the larger sized items.

Columbia Sportswear is a legendary company in the Pacific Northwest. Like REI, Columbia makes excellent products.  So, I headed into their flagship store in Portland.  On that particular weekend they were donating a percentage of their profits to the Audubon Society.  My friend is an Audubon member and  offered to share her 15% off coupon with me.  I desperately needed some durable, comfortable, quick-dry hiking pants.  But there was not an item of clothing in the store that would fit me.  Urg!

Here’s the thing.  I’m big, but not freakishly so.  You wouldn’t call me obese.  As a matter of fact, I’ve seen Gert Boyle, Columbia Sportswear’s matriarch, and I would guess that she is as large as I am.

Of course, sporting goods stores are not the only places where a woman like me has these experiences.  I understand that I may not fit the desired demographic of a particular retailer.   What pisses me off is that there is an implied  assumption that large people don’t do outdoor sports, and an implication that if we did do sports than surely we wouldn’t be so large.

So here’s what I would like to say to all the corporate buyers (or whoever they are) that are making that assumption – Screw you!   Here’s a news flash.  It is possible to be active and big at the same time.  There are fat people who do exercise, who hike, camp, bike, boat, run and swim.  And just like our lean and lanky counterparts, we need clothing to do it in.

By the time I leave these stores, I’ve usually decided that shopping for gear is the worst part of adventure travel.  Worse even than those endless hours on the plane.  I’m often so pissed off that I don’t want to give them my money anyway.  But I do need new hiking/travel clothes from time to time, so if anyone can recommend a retailer who is interested in outfitting those of us who are bigger than Barbie, I’d love to hear it!


Published in Gear Guides and Tips

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Meet the Author

Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker and wannabe Spanish-speaker.


  1. Tiffany

    Oh yes, I’m with you on this one! I’m not freakishly large either but when I’m sweating all day I want to at least be comfortable in the clothes I’m wearing and a medium isn’t so friendly to my lady parts. After all, shouldn’t larger people be the ones exercising more?

  2. Louisa

    And on the same theme, the way manufacturers have downsized sizes to spread the illusion that shoppers are thinner than they are, is stupid and insulting.

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