MEC - Mountain Equipment Co-Op, Vancouver
MEC is a cooperative, that is, you have to be a member to shop here. But that's worth it -the 5 CAD membership fee - even for a one-time visit if you are set to gear up for the trip into the wilds, getting dressed for rain, winter, whatever - or for the trip and activities back home.
MEC has a nearly full range of gear for any activity and season, most of it their own brand name, but thay happily take in other stuff too, if there are production gaps. If not satisfied, there is a concentration of outdoor gear shops on this part of Broadway.
What to buy: What you want to do you can want to gear up for and if you want you can have it here...
Ask the folks in the shop, the staff are very knowledgeable and wasn't hired for anything.
They have a good assortment of hiking maps, a great deal of sea kayaking equipment. I nortmally also bring a big bag of camping foods with me out the door and back to Norway from here.
What to pay: The general price range is lower than comparable brands, and the whole enchilada is a lot cheaper than in Europe and better quality than that available in Asia.
MEC is a big store originated, run, and maintained by 'members' (for $5 you can be a member too, and must to shop there).
Started as a way to provide quality clothing and equipment for outdoor pursuits, this is THE place to go for outdoor gear in Vancouver.
What to buy: They carry everything from Kayaks and backcountry skis, to carabiners, to cookstoves, bicycle pumps and thermal underwear. Also a nice selection of energy bars and books on anything outdoors.
What to pay: The staff generally live the lifestyle themselves and are good information resources. The prices are not bad (to elaborate, more expensive than most crappy quality stores, but for the top quality goods, it's the best price around).
Mountain Equipment Co-op is a collectively owned and democratically controlled retail consumer co-operative. You can read about it more on their website.
This shop has everything for the outdoors and really good quality.
What to buy: You can buy camping equipment, waterproof jackets, fleece, backpacks, etc.
What to pay: The prices are decent.