With a population of just 1,080, Keene, New York is considered small by most standards. However, it’s located right near the High Peaks Wilderness, a part of the Adirondack Park which has the famed 46 high peaks and sees up to 10 millions visitors each year.
Nestled just on the outskirts of the small village is an A-frame-style building that wouldn’t look out of place somewhere like Cape Cod. It has clapboard siding and the words “The Mountaineer” are written prominently in slab font. The exterior does little to belie its importance. The family-run sporting goods shop opened in 1975 and has been serving the greater Adirondacks ever since as the region’s premier outdoor gear shop. In fact, its influence reaches far beyond the Adirondack region. The Mountaineer is one of the best outdoor gear shops in the country.
The Shop was founded by the McClelland family, and Vinny McClelland helped hammer in the nails and put up the wood walls. However, shortly after the shop opened, he moved up to Alaska in search of another family story. He had always been fascinated by his grandmother’s stories about his grandfather’s mine in Prince William Sound, so he ventured up there and ended up staying for about 12 years. Eventually, he grew to miss the seasonality of the Adirondacks. “The mountains, the people; they really are wonderful and deeply ingrained in my ethos and spirit,” McClelland told Lynsey Dyer on Tent Talk.
The shop sells everything for the adventure-inclined. Hunt for top of the line mountaineering, hiking, fly fishing, camping, rock and ice climbing, trail running and backcountry skiing products in the shop. The team of ten has outfitted adventurists that travel everywhere. “We’ve developed relationships with people from all over the world, literally,” McClelland says in Tent Talk. “We send people out into extreme conditions and not everyone goes to the top of Everest, we send people to shop in Montreal, but we need to be comfortable if we send somebody out in equipment, or boots or clothing, that it’s going to work for whatever the condition is and they’ll be comfortable.”
If you’re lucky enough, you might just get one of the Mountaineer bandanas. The accessory has been on each of the Seven Summits. It’s been to the top of Everest and Kilimanjaro, as well as each of the Adirondack’s 46 peaks. Happy customers send thank you notes and pictures back to the shop (in fact, there’s even a thank you note from Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard), which used to be prominently displayed… until the store ran out of room. You can spot them along the back walls, in the bathrooms, even going up the stairs. To help showcase more of the bandanas, the team posts pictures on the Instagram account, The Mountaineer Bandana.
What gear are the team members at The Mountaineer stoked on right now? We asked them to pick out their top gear picks right now.
Dynafit Hoji Pro Tour Boot
“The one thing in ski department I think is pretty cool is a boot from Dynafit, called the Hoji,” Mike ‘Kaz’ Kazmierczak says. Typical alpine touring boots are expected to ski well, be light, warm and more, whereas a regular ski boot does one thing — “it keeps you attached to the binding and you ski.” When you get into alpine touring, the list of must-haves gets longer. “[Dynafit] worked with athletes and developed a boot that is the best compromise of weight and ski performance that the industry has probably ever seen. The unique thing is the touring mechanism on the boot,” Kaz says. Normally, you buckle up the boots, go uphill and then have to undo buckles to set yourself up. Most boots have a ski or walk mechanism on the back with lots of moving parts, but with the Hoji boot, you buckle it once to go skiing and then simply lift and close a lever at the top of the boot. “It’s pretty genius the way they do it.”
MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoe
“We should talk about the MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoe,” Dustin Ulrich says. “That’s the only one that we sell here, and it’s also the snowshoe we have in our rental or demo fleet. If you want to go up into the High Peaks during winter and there are more than eight inches of snow in the woods, a snowshoe or ski is required. Lots of people don’t have that, so we rent out snowshoes.” Pretty much every weekend in winter the snowshoes are on loan, Ulrich says. “They’re heavily abused. We equate a season of renting to five years of use. [We] have some of the same snowshoes in our rental fleet for five years,” which basically equates to about 25 years of use. “We stand by that product because it holds up so well. It’s lightweight, durable and the only one we’ve been able to find that holds up in the demo fleet.”
Fishpond Bitch Creek Tech Pack
While we’re a bit out of fly fishing season, Kazmierczak likes the Fish Pond brand. “They make all soft goods for fishing, but out of recycled commercial fishing nets.” The design and simplicity receive high marks from Kazmierczak — the brand knows what its customers want. “One pack we’ve carried off and on is the Bitch Creek Tech pack. The neat thing about it is that it’s modular and you can change out pieces on the pack,” Kazmierczak says.
Black Diamond Ultralight Ice Screw
Nick Gulli has been at the store for 22 years and handles most of the rock climbing and ice climbing sales. These “ultralight ice screws are new this year and pretty cool,” he says. “It’s a lightweight aluminum ice screw with a new aluminum hanger on it, a new ratcheting system to start and take out. It’s definitely an update, but different than old steel screws. It’s not a replacement, and not everyone needs these.” Since it’s so lightweight, they do lose a bit of durability in the long run, and they won’t replace your old steel ones, but “[they are a] great option when weight really does matter, and you need to cut ounces and pounds,” Gulli says.
Black Diamond Camalot Ultralight
Gulli also recommends these ultralight cams from Black Diamond. “It’s very within the line of what we’re talking about — they’re not a replacement, but ultralight.” They are made with aluminum for the lobes of the cam, but it’s constructed in a way that cuts down on weight. “At end of the day, saving a pound on everything you normally carry [can] make a difference on a big trip. A pound hanging off your harness is a lot,” Gulli says.
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