I'll be honest, I have shopped at EMS for years. There name brands hold up well and their prices are affordable. I do have beef with them though. When you go into any EMS, you are approached my a salesperson. That person "knows" the product and "recommends" what you need for your adventure. Sometimes they try to "push" a certain product that they may get them an incentive if they sell. A few years back I needed a pair of hiking boots. The "shoe guru" showed me a pair of Vasque "something or other" and said this was the best boots they had for me and what I was going to use them for (a one day pemi-loop hike...not a little jaunt around the lake). I said cool, I'll take em.
We kill the hike. I kill my boots. 31 miles round trip and my boots are falling apart. I bring them back and they give me a new pair. I hike a few more mountains in the whites and bang, the same style boots fall apart. I asked the "guru" if this is happening to everyone and she says no, it must be just you. I leave the store and still wonder why kept going back.
Enter New England Backpacker, a store that is locally owned and run by some of the best people in the business. Wayne, Bill and Bob are all solid guys who know their equipment, have tested it in the field and can give recommendations on what you need for your adventures. They carry everything from backpacks to hiking boots to kayaks and canoes and everything in-between. Check out their site when you have a chance, they have a huge sale right now on North Face outerwear (30% off!!!). If you're ever in the Central Massachusetts area, stop by New England Backpacker at 6 East Mountain Street in Worcester, MA. You won't be disappointed.