8 stores to buy camping gear and equipment in Toronto
Camping gear and equipment are a serious necessity in order to camp right. Sure, there's something to be said about roughing it with a few key survival items, but for those less inclined to camp with the bare-bones, Toronto has a wide range of shops offering every kind of supply that outdoor enthusiasts could possibly need.
Here's my list of the top stores in Toronto for camping gear and equipment.
Mountain Equipment Co-op (400 King Street West)
MEC leads the pack for outdoor enthusiasts. The co-op store requires a $5 lifetime membership in order to shop, but you'll find quality tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment and generally every other form of top-notch gear you could need. As a bonus, their employees are highly knowledgeable, and for those who camp less frequently and don't feel like storing equipment at home, their rentals are the perfect solution.
Europe Bound (383 King Street West)
Europe Bound lacks the size of MEC, its neighbour to the north, but their products are solid and they have two locations to choose from (the other is located at 47 Front Street E.). While MEC may be the leading outdoor store in the neighbourhood, stop by Europe Bound to compare prices before making a purchase, and check out their more specialized camping gear such as hiking staffs and headlamps. They also offer fantastic rental services.
Canadian Outdoor Equipment (199 Lakeshore Road East, Unit A)
This haven for camping fans used to have a location at King and Spadina, which closed down at the end of April, but you can still visit them in Port Credit for high-quality, hand-crafted gear and apparel. COE doesn't have its own product line or rentals (yet), but like MEC, they offer free shipping on online orders over $50 (Europe Bound is over $60).
The North Face (151 Bloor Street West)
There's no doubt that North Face offers some outstanding products online, as well as through other retailers and at their Avenue and Bloor location. Try a heavy-duty backpack for your multi-day hikes, and keep in mind that their camping gear is high-quality and priced accordingly, so don't expect your wallet to be too happy--but you're going to look mighty good in that eight-person, 2-meter doom tent.
Sail (137 Chrislea Road, Unit 1)
This Quebec import now has three stores in Ontario, with the closest locations to the downtown core found in Vaughan and Burlington (the newest entry). Sail stores compare in size to Bass Pro, and focus entirely on outdoor adventure products. You'll find a huge selection and plenty of good lines to choose from, including the above mentioned North Face.
Al Flaherty's Outdoor Store (2066 Dufferin St.)
Al's is way out at Dufferin and Rogers, but is a one-stop shop for everything from shooting, hunting and fishing gear to camping apparel and heavy-duty gear. The products are in line with what you'd expect to find at Canadian Tire and Bass Pro, offering prices that keep the VISA bill in check.
Canadian Tire (Various locations, including 65 Dundas Street W)
Look, I'm all about the high-quality gear purchased with the help of employees that know what they're talking about, but sometimes you want a sleeping bag that's on sale for $30. Don't get me wrong, some of the gear at the Tire is good, but it's a limited selection made for the masses, not for legitimate camping enthusiasts. Looking for cheaper last-minute items on your way to a campground? This is your stop.
Bass Pro Shops (1 Bass Pro Mills Drive)
Although Bass Pro Shops can be considered the Walmart of fishing stores, they also have a wide range of gear and apparel for camping, tools and accessories for hunting and even archery. For 905-ers wanting an alternative to Canadian Tire, Bass Pro will do the trick.
Writing by Matt McNama