Spend Locally: Moosejaw

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Alice Dreger for ELi

After being properly fitted with a backwoods backpack by Moosejaw's staff, this reporter hiked into Nordhouse Dunes (Lake Michigan) with her family and soon decided it was the most beautiful place on earth.

It took me over a decade of living in East Lansing to discover Moosejaw downtown – just across Grand River Ave. from the Broad Museum. The store has been here since 1994 – it is the oldest extant Moosejaw location! – but because it’s tucked in on a busy part of the strip, a lot of people just don’t notice it as they whip by.

They should. The people who work there are uniformly upbeat and helpful, and when you’re facing a Michigan winter, it is the place to go to get yourself wonderful warm clothes, from flannel shirts to long underwear to coats, jackets, hats, and gloves.

But Moosejaw carries lots more than clothes, and that’s what makes it a great place to do your holiday shopping. A lot of what’s in stock counts as “adventure gear,” but if you’re like me, you can use it all for “adventure lite.”

Moosejaw has “daily” backpacks along with serious camping packs, plus gloves that are great for driving, biking, and shoveling snow.

They have, for example, folding camping chairs that are terrific for taking to the outdoor music festivals (when they start up again). Their hammocks work just as well at home as at a remote camping location in the U.P. And their insulated cups are perfect for sharing hot toddies on your back porch in a socially-distanced get-together with those friends you’ve been missing.

They also have a lot of gear that’s just plain awesome. My family members are big fans of the BioLite devices, which allow you to burn sticks, leaves, and wood for a little heat that also gets captured and fed into a USB port that can be used to charge your phone. (No kidding.) On my latest trip to Moosejaw, staff member Joe Dewan let me know that the BioLite now comes in a firepit version, too.

Great Lakes rainbow stickers, chums to hold your glasses on, and lots more!

There’s also lots of items that would make great gifts for the tailgater in your life, including fancy coolers made by Yeti.

I know from experience that the staff at Moosejaw will custom fit you in a serious camping backpack, making it a lot easier not only to hike deep into the Michigan woods but also to walk the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac to get from Regan National Airport to your friend’s house near the National Zoo. (Been there, done that.)

Best of all, the folks at East Lansing’s Moosejaw are always happy to order items from the online Moosejaw system so you can check them out and try them on before buying.

Moosejaw carries Prana dresses and tops along with pants and more.

The shop is located at 555 E. Grand River Ave., and you can easily park behind it in the Bailey lot. Or, if you live within a few miles, you can walk down and then hike home with all your gifts in your sweet new backpack.

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