Not Your Parent’s Outfitters

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Last night, I stopped by the newest big attraction in Anchorage — Cabela’s.  Chances are you fall under one of two categories: a) You have heard of Cabela’s or b) Going to Cabela’s is like visiting the holy land as marked by the numerous items throughout your house/garage/deer camp/duck blind/boat with their logo on it.  This retail store chain is most known for being a premier hunting and fishing outfitter, loved by many in the upper Midwest for just that reason.  It has it’s roots in Nebraska, but a major warehouse was built in my home town of Prairie du Chien, WI (I still remember when I told someone where I was from, and they gaped at me like I lived next door to Elvis).  Their stores are well loved because they seem like a mega fun land for the outdoorsman.  Not just because what they sell, but because of all the things to see – like huge fish tanks or mounted animals and various things you never think you would need but now all of a sudden can’t camp without.

The Anchorage Cabela’s is brand new, opening just last month. Since the warehouse was back home, and since (contrary to what some of my ex-girlfriends suggest) I am male, I have been to a few Cabela’s before this one opened in Anchorage.   It is just a mile south of where I live, and has had the reputation of being packed to the gills with customers in the first few weeks. Since I had little to do last night, and I am planning a camping trip this weekend, I went in to check it out.

Now granted, every chain store of every chain is different from place to place, but visiting this one jumped out as a reminder of what makes things different.  When I was at the Cabela’s in Wisconsin, there was a lot of items for deer hunting and duck hunting and the like.  Visit the one near Kansas City and it’s about the same, maybe not so much ducks but pheasants.  Both had fishing stuff.  Both had camping stuff.  Heck, both had mountaineering stuff, and you wouldn’t find Mountains anywhere near either place.

What made the Anchorage Cabela’s different was that it was clearly geared towards outfitting people for Alaska.  Sleeping bags started at a 15° rating, and they were NOT made for light weight priorities.  Boots were thick enough that you could let a bear bite your foot and leave your sock unblemished.  All that rain gear you see on those Deadliest Catch shows, they sold that too. They sold three different sizes of crab pots, some you could get in colors to match your clam digging shovels.  There was a section for trapping.  A Section … For Trapping.  Not a little cubby wedged next to the duck calls and the beef jerky where you could find a few small game traps – a whole portion of the floor for all your trapping needs, big or small, bears, beavers, heck even bigfoots.

Cabela’s didn’t come here to make life for the Anchorage Townies feel like you can rub off a little bit of the wilderness on your jeans you bought at Nordstroms.  They came here to outfit those people who lived in the wild, lived off the wild, and loved what was wild.

And I only got to see half the store.

I walked out with my pocket $300 lighter thanks to a discount pair of waders, mud boots, polarized glasses, and a new camelback water bottle.  Sure, I am never going to be mistaken for a rugged backwoodsman, but when you walk into a place that caters to all the possibilities this state can offer you can’t help but to be inspired.

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