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They are not the cheapest for camping equipment, etc... But on the other hand you get a generous warranty so that many times this ends up cheaper than buying from the places which essentially are "final sale" outfits.

So, in the long run, they can be cheaper and the staff are more knowledgeable than average (for retail) about the things they sell. That means they hire enthusiasts (hikers, campers, cyclists, etc., and not random JC student who do not care much about what they sell.

As an aside, one of the few stores that I miss from Europe in the US is Decathlon. They're a cut above the really low-end discount outdoor stuff places in the US - in some ways nearly on par with REI's store brand, but a bit cheaper. It's a great place to get cheap "pretty good" stuff for sports/activities you aren't that serious about. If you find you're really into something, you can always move on to more expensive, higher quality gear at a more specialized retailer.

Go to any campground in France and nearly 90% of the tents are Decathalon. Kind of like Walmart for sporting goods: reasonable quality a wide breadth (but narrow depth) of products and a great place to get gear for everyday-level outdoor activities. On Mont Blanc and the surrounding massif, you typically don't see as much Decathlon stuff however everywhere else, it's ubiquitous. I do like the store about as much as I like Target in the US. I buy some gear from REI on occasion, but it seems like the stores tend to lack the depth for serious gear purchases. For example, it was nearly impossible for me to find high altitude mountain boots. They suggested I order online and return them if they don't fit, however with mountain boots, your life (and toes) depend on a perfect fit, which often requires a knowledgable salesperson. That's where REI could (and used to) win, however their selection now just seems like a greatest hits collection of weekend warrior gear; not much I can do in an REI that can't more easily be done at a proper genre-specific shop.

If anyone is ever in Chanonix, the place to go is Snell Sports; three generations of the owner's family has ran the place and they literally have almost any piece of gear to take your from the Alps to K2. If you're a non EU resident you can even get the tax refunded. Snell is my model for what REI could have been. Instead REI is really just a Walmart for the Starbucks crowd. Admittedly, I do like REI and am a member, but it's really a shadow of what it could be.

Some of Decathlon stuff is excellent, especially their backpacks. When my Osprey day bag had worn through, I nearly bought another for ~£40 but then thought I'd try a £10 bag from Decathlon.

I absolutely can't fault the quality of it. As an added bonus, it seems to be waterproof even though this wasn't advertised.

Thank you for the recommendation, I'll give Decathlon a try. They have a store a few miles from me but I have never visited as their advertising brochures never appealed to me: nowhere do they mention the quality of their items, just very low prices that made me suspicious.

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