READERS' PICK: If you're a bargain-hunter rather than a gear-head, the wonders of Summit Hut may be lost on you. But if you're at all susceptible to the quiet come-on of quality goods looking oh-so-sexy on the display rack, enter this store at your own risk. This is the sort of place that doesn't just sell sleeping bags; it purveys "sleeping systems." Oh, sure, there are truckloads of tents and backpacks, and Gore-Tex galore, but the showroom holds many unexpected delights: "high performance" underwear, dehydrated Katmandu Curry, power putty for strengthening your rock-climbing grip, a full line of USGS topo maps (on paper or on CD-ROM), trendy leisure wear in earth and water tones when Army-castoff khaki and olive drab just won't do, and more--more--more! Where else can you go for a pair of hiking boots and have your foot subjected to more scientific measurements than when Sonorasaurus' tootsie popped out of the dirt? (Don't miss the instructive foot skeleton in the boot department, nor the 200-milliliter bottles of water representing the "amount of sweat produced by an average foot during a day of high activity.") There's also a fine selection of books, including what looks to be the entire Lonely Planet travel series. Despite having so much merchandise to move, the staff is informative but never pushy. And you know you've come to the right outdoor store when what you want to do most is not linger all day, but pick up what you need and get right out into the wilderness.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Popular Outdoor Outfitters For Less, three locations. The name says it all!