How the Arizona Hiking Shack made me a repeat customer

Local businesses can really rock sometimes. Case in point: the Arizona Hiking Shack.

The Arizona Hiking Shack is what you might expect from an independent outdoor retailer jammed into an awkward, ill-conceived corner of a strip mall dedicated to antiques and other worthless items. Once inside, you’ll find the trend continues. No sexy display racks, ADA compliant pathways, and not much effort given to displaying or stocking merchandise—just plain and simple, like your uncle’s attic. They don’t have much of a selection, and the items they do have seem more expensive that you might otherwise find them.

They clearly don’t compete with REI for the trendy gearhead crowd.

[Side note: I overheard the REI new employee training the other day, and distinctly heard them encourage employees to recommend the AZ Hiking Shack: “We’re a Co-op, we’re here to help our members, even if it that means passing along a sale to what others think is a competitor.” I love REI.]

Nonetheless, they are genuinely friendly and laid back, and they rent kayaks for cheap. And that’s what had brought me to the store, which is conveniently located just a couple of miles from my house.

Single-person inflatable kayaks—including pfd, pump, paddle, and throw bag—are $25 a day. Well, kinda. The rental also includes a “travel day” for getting to and from your destination, so it’s in effect a 3-day rental.

For only $25.

That’s one helluva deal. They also have two person kayaks (more commonly referred to as “divorce boats”), rafts, and other outdoor gear for rent.

But that’s not the only reason that I’ll return as a repeat customer.

I had planned to spend last Sunday kayaking up at Barlett Lake. It was finally my chance to bring my kayak out for its inaugural voyage. I rented an inflatable for my friend Laura who was joining me on Saturday (and will be joining my other friend Tiffany and I on a river trip next week). Unfortunately, I had some significant trouble getting my kayak secured on the Forester, even after trying multiple carrying systems. The morning was quickly disappearing, and we ended up bailing on the outing.

I showed up to return the kayak and gear—which never even left my vehicle—on Monday and was asked the obvious question of how my paddle had gone. I explained that I had to cancel, and without hesitation, the guy said that he wouldn’t charge me.

I had the kayak and gear for three days, but he wasn’t going to charge me because I didn’t get to have any fun with it.

Awesome.

And that’s why I’ll be back to the Arizona Hiking Shack the next time I need to rent a kayak—even if it’s going to just sit in my vehicle all weekend.

My first kayaking adventure

Well, I’m not sure it technically qualifies as much of an adventure, but I still had a blast during my first kayaking outing. I’ve wanted to go kayaking for years but Kim hasn’t, so I had never gotten around to it until Rebecca organized this short excursion. We spent just a couple of hours out on the water at Lake Pleasant, kayaking out to a cove with a floating bridge, where we do a little swimming. Lake Pleasant isn’t exactly pleasant for kayaking – there are plenty of motor boats and jetskis around – but it was close enough to give us a taste. It certainly whet my appetite – I’ve been seriously considering buying my own kayak. We’re talking about an overnight trip to Prescott next; I’m looking forward to paddling around the Granite Dells of Watson Lake.