I cannot pass any bookstore without entering, spend hours inside and leave with some kilos of books. That's a law, my law :-) And what I love in any US bookstore is that there are definitely more books on "unusual" topics than I would ever find in my own country. But even if I have been in several US bookstores throughout my travels and even if my shopping in Back of Beyond is now more than 10 years ago, this will be always my favourite. They had so many books about Utah in general, about geology and rock formations, about very much off path hiking that I could have spent ages inside. To my utmost pleasure I discovered now that they are still there, that they have a website and browsing through it, I know I must rent a plane to bring all the books I would like to buy back home....
It is so good to see that they are still there. Yes, I know, I repeat myself, but in a world full of consolidation - maybe the term I hate most of all the trillions of existing words - it is so good to see an independent bookstore keeping up with the big tigers.
May Back of Beyond live forever!!
They treated customers with free coffee and I think they still do it. And from the actual website photos I can see nice sofas with the so typical and so beautiful southwestern prints.
What to buy: Books, hiking books, geology books, books about arches and bridges, rare books and of course Edward Abbey books. They even have a section devoted to him. Make sure you get at least his Desert Solitude!
What to pay: (depends on what you want to buy)
Every tourist town has its traders of tchotchkes and Moab seemed to have acquired few more of those than when we were here 7 years earlier. Yessiree, the stuff was everywhere and much of it stuff I'd seen everywhere else in the Southwest. Spare me another dishtowel, paperweight, shot glass, coffee cup, whatever-the-hell-it-is with Kokopelli slapped on it? Eeesh.
This region of the U.S. is blessed with talented artisans of beautiful jewelry, pottery, basketry, textiles, leather and woodworks. It's well worth the effort - and a few extra dollars - to find and choose handmade items that are unique and carefully made. In most cases your purchase will also be contributing to the local economy and/or to keeping the art of traditional craft alive and well.
So don't buy the first thing you see. Take the time to browse the shops; the same trinkets you see over and over again are the same mass-produced trinkets thousands of other people already own, and were probably made in heaven-knows-where so turn them over and look for where that was. The best pieces will either be be signed by the artist or sold by reputable dealers able to tell you who they were crafted by and provide printed proof of authenticity.
Hint: if it's behind glass, it's more likely to be the real deal. This, of course, doesn't apply items too large to be protected as such.
What to buy: Handcrafted kachinas, silver jewelry, traditional tribal pottery, handwoven rugs, locally-made baskets, etc.
What to pay: Under $100 to many thousands (where Navajo rugs are concerned)
The best souvenir ever for anyone who has spent time getting good and filthy in southern Utah's red dust is a Dirt Shirt. They are permanently dyed with the same soil you'll be dragging home in your boots, and come in a range of sizes, types and irreverent slogans. You can get Dirtcaps and Dirtbags, too. Find them at some shops along the main drag; the Moab tourism site doesn't waste any space on pansy shopping nonsense so you're gonna have to hunt them down on your own.
What to pay: $25 or so
Utah author Frank McCourt's entertaining stories about Moab's colorful past make for great coffee-house reading on a rainy afternoon. Find it at Back of Beyond Books on Main street: great little bookseller that specializes in regional and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. Subjects range from archeology to poetry, and they have maps, guidebooks, newspapers and other useful stuff.
Recommended reading for anyone with an interest in the old West/Southwest, and a fascinating tale of what was a rough desert outpost not so very long ago.
What to pay: Book mentioned is under $20
We had purchased a hand-decorated gourd here in 2004 and made a beeline to the showroom for another one in 2011. This is the place for a nice memento of your trip to Moab; we'd probably been in every shop in town and this one has the largest selection of quality works by local or regional artisans. Stock includes pueblo pottery, jewelry, gourds, furniture, wall decor, katchinas, paintings, baskets and lots of other goodies. Prices are all over the place depending on size and amount of work/cost of materials going into them but there should be something here for all but the most skimpy of budgets, and they have some good sales. Friendly, knowledgeable staff will be able to tell you about the artists and guarantee the authenticity of tribal pieces.
I wish I had more photos but places that deal in original artwork can be touchy about that so these two were all I was able to quietly snap.
Great little store that has all your health and organic, vegan and vegetarian needs. A good location to also find out whats going on in town. Very convenient. I shop there often.
What to pay: Well, it is organic so it is slightly higher than other markets.
This is a really good outdoor equipment shop. Everything you need is here. Especially good if you forget to pack something. A full range of packs, maps, camping, clothing and shoes are available. They do have a sale rack for clothing with some good deal but a little limited on sizes.
A stand out here is the filtered water that is free to fill up as often as you like with as much water as you like. This is great if you don't want to go to Matrimony Spring.
They also sell organic nuts, snacks and dried fruit.
What to pay: Retail prices are on average as other outdoor stores.
There's not a great deal of shopping in Moab (that's not why people go there), and much of what you'll find consists of tacky tourist traps. But Hogan Trading is a fascinating store, packed full of local and regional art, pottery, home decor, furniture, fountains, and the coolest wind sculptures I've ever seen. If you're looking for a memento of your visit, this is definitely the place to find it.
What to pay: Prices are reasonable, but can be high for some of the items. It is a gallery after all.