5045 E. Speedway Blvd.
READERS' PICK: Whatever you need, Summit Hut's got some version of it. High-quality hiking, camping, trekking, climbing, bicycling and birding gear are the local store's specialty, but The Hut's expanded its inventory in recent years to include casual sports wear (by the local standards, these cotton shirts and khaki pants border on dressy), novelty gifts (cozy slippers, botanical notecards) and an array of free brochures on local outdoors clubs and activities. The main store on Speedway is a great place to browse or strike up a conversation with the staff or other customers, all of whom in our experience have had some tale of adventure, discovery or environmental intrigue to tell. You can also check out The Hut's hub inside Rocks 'n' Ropes climbing gym, 330 S. Toole Ave. (selling climbing paraphernalia only), and online at www.summithut.com. Their website offers updated info on sales, and special events like group mountain-bike rides and lectures. Great stuff, from great people.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Popular Outdoor Outfitters, 6315 E. Broadway; 2820 N. Campbell Ave.; 6314 N. Oracle Road. This Phoenix-based chain now has 22 stores in the Southwest, stocking all your basic needs for family camping, backpacking, hunting and fishing. In addition to discount prices every day, spend more than $100 here and you're automatically inducted into the "Happy Camper Club," which confers an additional 10-percent discount for the remainder of the calendar year. Popular's merchandise caters toward the enthusiast rather than the hard-core, with canvas tents as cheap as $20, and lots of nifty innovations like lightweight folding chairs, tables, and gadgets that'll make the outdoors feel just like home. (But they carry some of the hard-core equipment, too.)