This past December, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Yes, this was a truly amazing and challenging experience that I will forever cherish, but I want to share my experience preparing for the climb. One of the caveats in taking part in this adventure is the investment you need to make in having the right equipment. On day 3 of the 9-day climb, you don’t want to find out you bought boots that give you blisters. I admit I began researching online at the beginning of my shopping experience for the trip, but trying to understand what gear I needed and what was superior was a lot easier (and reliable) when visiting local retailers. There was just too much information online and I didn’t know who to believe.
Throughout this “on-boarding” of gear (and unloading of my wallet), my wife and I quickly learned the retailers and staff have a wealth of knowledge regarding what was needed. Constantly hearing from the retailer that comfort is their number one priority was exactly what we wanted to hear. As far as stores we shopped at, we did a mix of bigger stores like REI and Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS), along with smaller local shops like East Coast Alpine and Marathon Sports here in Boston. I should make it clear that the group of us who went on this climb should definitely be categorized as “beginner” to the hiking world, and were taking as many insights as possible from retailers. Before I knew it, I was on mailing lists from many retailers (my receipts were being logged into my accounts from my email address), and I was receiving correspondence about different climbing gear and related content happily.
These emails also linked me to retailers’ social channels. These retailers had gained my respect as they were pushing educational content and informing me on new products and upgraded materials. As I look back now, I feel like these retailers (and the brands they sell), were only scratching the surface at this opportunity. Here I was, constantly watching to be sure I was getting the right products for the trek (as you can probably tell by now, I had major fears having the wrong gear stuck on a freezing mountain for 9 days), and the brands really didn’t seem at all responsible for the content that was being pushed out…it was all on the retailers.
Going in to an adventure of a 9-day climb, besides knowing there would be no showers, I was having major anxiety about having the wrong boots. I can pretty much say price wasn’t a real issue here (but I was hoping to keep them around $200), but by far my biggest priority was comfort. I must have done five visits to stores, trying them on, walking around the store, taking them home… always debating which was the right fit for me. I am sure I was overthinking it, but I wanted assurance that one boot was superior to me compared to another. Sure the retailers were giving good advice in person, but I wanted to read something online to convince even more. As I was already looking at retailers’ online channels, I just kept asking myself why couldn’t better info be on there!
Shopping for this kind of trip was definitely one of the first times I really found myself relying on the retailer to learn about products compared to learning on my own, and I don’t think I am alone in this shopping-state. With consumers relying so heavily on retailers to provide insights on the many decisions you need to make in preparation for a climb, brands have an opportunity to really jump in and play a part in educating the consumers through their retailers’ promotion channels. Believe me, I was looking for it!
For those interested, yes our group all made it to the top (and it definitely wasn’t easy). If you ever get the chance to take part in this trip, I highly recommend it, although my next big adventure will definitely involve beaches and warmer climate compared to going 6 km high in the sky!