Need something to do this weekend? Here are five local sporting goods stores where you can prepare for your next outdoor (or indoor) adventure.
Cheapskates, 3644 West 16th Avenue
Picture 30 pairs of hiking boots in ascending size order, fifteen baseball mitts, several metres of ski jackets, four soccer balls, and a whole array of golf clubs, and you’re getting close to imagining the interior of Cheapskates on a sunny April weekend.
Accepting pre-loved sports equipment that hasn’t suffered any serious structural damage, the store sells lightly used athletic gear on consignment and gives its previous owners 60 per cent of the profits. After being assigned its starting price, the cost of each item falls every week until eventually reaching zero dollars—which means that the causal browser can get extremely lucky. (As a benchmark of just how much money you can save, on our last visit to Cheapskates, we managed to pick up two pairs of like-new soccer cleats for a combined price of $4.50. Which is cheaper than a packet of cheese.)
Despite being full of rustic charm—we refer you to the ancient Habs jersey and retro 1920s skates in the window—the store is likely to have a number of flashy new items inside. Hockey equipment is a big draw from August until March, baseball comes into its own from March and throughout the summer, and year-round fashionable individuals can pick up bargain-priced Lululemon and Ivivva athletic wear.
More than worth a regular rummage, Cheapskates is the only place where you can leave with shin pads in one hand, a baseball bat in the other, and a new soccer jersey for less than $10. And yes—they do sell cheap skates.
LadySport, 3545 West 4th Avenue
Shopping for a new sports bra is a mysterious and intimidating endeavour, especially if you are just starting to dip your toes into Vancouver's ultra-athletic community. But have no fear LadySport is here.
The community-minded sporting goods shop has been providing active women with an extensive selection of athletic wear and shoes since 1983. They carry a wide spectrum of shoes from size 5-13 (in widths from 2A to 4E) and clothes ranging from XS-2XL.
Beat the weather blues with LadySport's Run and Walk clinics that encourage active living for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes in a fun and supportive social environment. Beginner joggers, rejoice!
3 Vets, 2200 Yukon Street
Billing itself as the Great Outdoor Store, 3 Vets has been exactly that for the past 70 years, which is to say long before hiking and camping become all about newfangled gadgets like solar-powered iPad chargers and the Handpresso Wild Hybrid Espresso Machine.
The business was founded by three military vets (as opposed to three veterinarians), which might explain why, even today, it’s probably the only place in Vancouver to find a Bulgarian army blanket or vintage Swedish officers’ jacket.
But over the years 3 Vets has also evolved into a go-to place for items designed to make that weekend camping trip or Sunday day hike feel a little less like roughing it. We’ve popped in to discover all manner of things we never realized we couldn’t live without, the shortlist including foldable wash basins, inflatable pillows, and grilling racks for everything from s’mores to salmon fillets.
A large part of the attraction at 3 Vets (which will be closing later this year for all the usual Vancouver reasons, including sky-high property taxes) is the, um, rather ramshackle nature of the place, which is actually part of the charm. Step one way over the ever-present store dog and you’re staring at a rack of freeze-dried sweet-and-sour pork and beef stroganoff, go the other and you might find yourself thinking “I could really use that parachute”.
As for that Handpresso Wild Hybrid Espresso Machine, sorry, wrong store. Instead, ask yourself what your inner pioneer would do, and maybe spring for something that truly says the Great Outdoors like a classic blue-enamel coffee pot.
MEC, various locations
Founded as Mountain Equipment Co-op and based in Vancouver, this is the grand-daddy of all local outdoor and sporting goods stores. For a five-dollar membership—the place functions as co-op where all shoppers are considered members and owners—you get unlimited access to MEC’s staggering plethora of running apparel, camping gear, snowsporting equipment, and everything in between.
Looking for a snazzy, lightweight board that will take your stand-up paddleboarding ventures to the next level? A knit, grandma-chic chalk bag that will help you conquer that after-work bouldering sesh in style? Or perhaps you’re after a pair of ultra-thin, moisture-wicking socks decorated with images of candy corn to keep your feet cool during your next marathon-training run? No matter how specific or obscure, MEC’s got it, plus a range of outdoor goods that are available for rent if you’re not looking to commit.
But really, none of this should be new information: if you’ve lived in this city for more than three weeks and haven’t stepped foot in an MEC, it may be time to turn in your Vancouverite card.
Sports Junkies Clearance Centre, 102 West Broadway
For an entire generation of Vancouver kids, this has been the starting point—the first baseball glove, the first two-wheeler, the first skis, bindings, and poles. But adults make this two-storey Mount Pleasant mainstay their go-to, too, because they know it's usually more satisfying to dig around for a deal.
Set aside some time to root through the racks at this no frills shop, where the Rossignols and Burtons are now giving way to tennis racquets, soccer cleats, bicycles, and golf clubs by the bin. The vibe is cozy rec room meets your dad's shed. Most stuff is used, samples, or clearance stock, meaning prices can be about half of retail.
Recent name-brand bargains spotted have included rad Billabong wetsuits, a stylin' aluminum-frame Opus Ivan bike, and Nomis cleats. You can service your bike here in the summer, your skis here in the winter, and best of all, you can offset your costs by trading in your old gear.