It looks like we are going to be seeing some major changes in the coming months at Canada’s largest outdoor co-operative retailer, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC).

CEO, David Labistour announced this morning in the Co-op's blog that they will be undertaking a massive brand revitalization program. The announcement is a little vague but there are a couple clues scattered throughout:

What they said: Starting this summer, we’ll begin to roll out a revitalized brand platform. It begins with a new version of our logo on MEC products released in July. In September, you’ll see a shift in the style of photography and the design of store interiors, elements that will complement the freshness of our product lines.

What it likely means: The familiar mountain logo is gone and replaced with something less "rough and tumble mountainy". This will allow them to cut their ties with the past as the place to get only mountain gear and give them the ability expand into new outdoor sports down the road.

Change is coming...This also means that the old way of how they did things and the decisions behind types of gear they sell is finished. It’s clear at MEC is feeling the competition from big box stores like Bass Pro, Sail and some Canadian Tire stores that they need to change or become quickly irrelevant.

So what does that mean? My guess is that they are going to be making very hard choices to what they will focus on. Hard choices mean that money losing departments like the rock climbing section will probably be cut back drastically (or moved out of the store and available online only) making room for more urban activities like expanded cycling or running departments.

I think we are also going to see a subtle shift in the clothing line-up away from purely wilderness designed clothing (ugly but functional) over to more lightweight “outdoor lifestyle” clothing to compete with the clothing departments found at Sail and Marks (which is owned by Canadian Tire).

Are all these changes bad? Nobody likes change so the knee-jerk reaction is to think the sky is falling but I think this could be a good opportunity for MEC to get themselves out of the corner they have painted themselves into.

As much as we like to think that Canadians actually do stuff in the wilderness; we don’t. We have two weeks of vacation and typically too busy to do anything more than a quick weekend adventure somewhere. Canadians are interested in being active but not interested in being outside for long periods of time and our buying purchases reflect that in everything from yoga pants and running shoes to stand-up paddling and recreational kayaks. The problem is that if you only sell expensive gear aimed at the shrinking market of hard-core adventure kids you will be out of business quickly.

I always knew that Seahorses were awesome but the video below puts my love for them over the top.

Friday, 14 June 2013 11:15

A Map of Every Single River in USA

I stumbled upon this very cool map this morning showing every single river in the lower 48 states.

It’s all part of a new vector map project released on GitHub by Nelson Minar so if you are techy, you can install the software on your own server and depending on your project, configure it to display the river information slightly different. Or, you can be like me and just play around with a live map here and dream of future trips.

Rivers of USA Vector Map

All I know is that there is a whole lot of water out there to paddle on.

In an effort to help those who are researching a future kayak purchase the website, findthebest.com recently rolled out a new section specifically for kayaks. Their system makes it really easy to filter the results by category, price, weight or even suggested type of paddler.

With each boat they also provide links to stores online where you can purchase the boat online. That being said, don’t forget to also visit to your local paddling shop check out what they offer as well. Buying a boat online isn’t quite the same as purchasing the latest Dan Brown novel. Making sure the boat fits and experimenting how it handles on the water can’t be overstated.

To help keep things simple, I embedded the tool directly into the page below. Just click the "Filter" button in the upper right to narrow down the choices.

The nominees for the annual Canoe & Kayak Awards have just been announced and who do we find buried in amongst a wave of whitewater paddlers? Why none other than fellow Paddle Canada sea kayak instructor and Hurricane Rider, Rowan Gloag.

I don't want to tell you how to vote but when checking the radio button for your favourite, don’t forget, his name is Rowan Gloag.

You can vote here: canoekayak.com

Image credit: thrrowan.blogspot.ca

Why are there no Salmon in the Upper Columbia River? What can we do about that? What are the options?

Sea to Source is the first episode in a series of short films following the journey up the Columbia River in 5 dugout canoes that were hand carved by 1000’s of students.

The journey is about getting people reconnected with the history and culture of the Columbia River as well as the salmon that was once prolific before the creation of the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams.

Hap tip goes to Conor for the lead.

More info: voyagesofrediscovery.blogspot.ca

Scary bird on backyard...

Sign #122 that you don’t spend enough time in nature: You don’t know the difference between a bird and a barbeque cover.

Credit: criggo.com

This is not a story you want to have happen on your trip. Students on a class canoe trip paddling down the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon got a shock last Tuesday when they discovered a body in the river.

The chief coroner is working to identify the remains and foul play is not suspected.

The local public school board has offered counselling to any student on the trip who needs it.

More info: nationalpost.com

Flickr Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by damiengabrielson.com

If your looking for a unique gift to give to a paddling buddy or yourself, check out this sea kayak keychain cleverly named the Keyak.

Manufactured in Europe and made of PVC, they come in 5 colours, blue, green, orange, red and yellow. The great thing is that the MSRP is only $5.99 so it won’t break the bank.

Along with being a pretty nifty key chain, I think they would also make a great compact teaching aid for topics like navigation, surfing, currents or really time you would naturally look for a small stick to illustrate your lesson.

Keyak Keychain on a Nautical Chart

My buddy, Alan Drummond is just in the process of setting up distribution so if you own a paddling shop, you should drop him a note and bring them in.

If you are interested in buying one you can also buy direct from Alan at or visit the Keyak Facebook page for more info.

If you thought that the campfire you built last summer was big, check this out.

The photo is from an attempt to build the world's biggest bonfire in 2012. I’m not sure if they beat their old record from 2010 in which they constructed a monster 40 meters high. Apparently nobody was hurt in the photo but everybody seems to be standing a bit close for my liking. Maybe it's the Viking way.

Looks like the people of Ålesund, Norway have been fans of burning stuff on midsummer's eve since at least 1954 as evidenced this by this very cool photo history page.

BTW - Good nerdy quote found on the video youtube page by MrEdJepson: THE BEACONS ARE LIT! Gondor calls for aid.

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