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05/28/2024 10:19AM  
I was up on the north shore last week and stopped in to the Duluth Pack store. Years ago I used to love that store and could easily spend an hour there just looking at packs, paddles, axes and such.

This trip I walked in and thought I was in the wrong place. Standing inside the door I could not even see a pack or a paddle or a canoe. Looked like lots of high-priced clothes. Should have been in the Mall of America. The camping section looked like it was about 10' square, I didn't even walk over there. I walked around for 5 minutes, found a six-hundred dollar traditional canvas pack, and walked out. I don't plan to ever come back.

Bummer.
 
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BlakeDeadly
member (20)member
  
05/28/2024 10:32AM  
I can't speak much to the disappointment because I haven't ever been in that store. However, are you in need of a pack?

I grabbed a few packs from Cooke Custom Sewing about 4 years ago - Hybrid Pack (Guide), Bushcrafter Rucksack, and the Deluxe Food Pack. The quality is amazing and the price is really good. The Guide size Hybrid Pack is huge and I've loaded the thing with about 70-80lbs of gear for every trip and beat the hell out of it. Still, it cleans up really nice and shows no signs of wear to the straps. Dan makes great packs so I would suggest that if you do need a pack.

Sorry to hear about the store though.
 
Minnesotian
distinguished member(2353)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/28/2024 10:41AM  

Most outdoor stores have pivoted to a clothing store. They are following the REI model. And the way that REI is being administered lately, they might be going down the route of becoming like Mountain Equipment Company in Canada, a shell of its former self.

If you want quality made outdoor gear, start supporting your cottage companies like Cooke Custom Sewing, Durston Gear, Paria Outdoor Products, Sanborn Canoe, just to name a few.
 
05/28/2024 10:43AM  
Where's that store located in Duluth?
 
05/28/2024 10:43AM  
I can't imagine they sell much camping gear these days. It may be durable and nostalgic but the market for leather straps and pin buckles is probably pretty limited, especially at their prices. They likely needed to diversify to survive.
 
LukeMacGillie37
member (28)member
  
05/28/2024 11:04AM  
Yes, it’s a disappointment.

But Frost River is an akin to a pilgrimage to a holy site!!!
 
05/28/2024 11:18AM  
Minnesotian: "


If you want quality made outdoor gear, start supporting your cottage companies like Cooke Custom Sewing, Durston Gear, Paria Outdoor Products, Sanborn Canoe, just to name a few. "


I'd add Portage North (formerly Kondos) and Zre to that list.
 
05/28/2024 11:30AM  
I'm not really in the market for more gear - just enjoy being in an outfitter type of environment. Mostly good memories for me. Duluth Pack, by the way, is in Canal Park area.

I too have enjoyed Frost River stuff but I just didn't have time this trip.
 
Ahahn366
distinguished member (110)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/28/2024 12:42PM  
I, too, have been disappointed with Duluth packs. When I first moved up north the first things I purchased were a Minnesota three and two Duluth packs. I've had multiple failures of rivets and it seems like every time I take one of those packs up to the BW anymore I have another one fail. Anyhow I have learned through this forum of the cook custom sewing gear and have purchased a pioneer and a rucksack of which I have abused and had no failures.
Oh well I guess they'll just be relegated to car camping duffels
 
deepdish71
distinguished member (250)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/28/2024 01:05PM  
boonie: "Where's that store located in Duluth?"

Canal park area I believe. We walked there from the ship museum. I was excited to see the store as well but as the o.p. Suggested, pretty disappointing.
 
fun4dad2
member (37)member
  
05/28/2024 02:00PM  
I was there last summer, and I too was disappointed. I was also SHOCKED at the prices. I looked at a couple of packs - a small day pack type, and a canoe pack. Hundreds of dollars for some canvas, leather, buckles, and a name. And the tourists! Wow.
Ah well. I can not speak to the quality of their "modern" gear. I don't own any.
 
DMan5501
senior member (75)senior membersenior member
  
05/28/2024 02:11PM  
Yep.. Canal Park continues to evolve as quite the Tourist Trap.. I summer on Park Point and Winter in AZ.. and driving to "Get Off The Point" can truly be a adventure .. especially on the weekends as one must dodge J Walkers and Turons on Scooters.. The only time I go to Duluth Pack anymore is to get my permit and watch the videos.. Sadly it used to be a favorite store of mine..

DMan5501
 
AlexanderSupertramp
distinguished member (394)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/28/2024 02:21PM  
Frost River's store still utilizes nearly all of their retail space with their own gear, and while I think both brands are pretty impractical compared to modern fabrics, I can't see why anyone buys Duluth Pack anymore considering their inflated prices for lower quality goods recently, and the fact that their store is filled almost completely with boutique clothing targeted only at tourists.
 
05/28/2024 02:36PM  
It is pretty disappointing, but I think it's also unfortunately a reflection of how the whole Duluth/north shore experience/culture has changed as well. Tons of tourists, out of town folks buying inflated seasonal homes and renting airbnbs/condos, gift/'boutique' shops, overpriced restaurants, clothing stores, campgrounds full of $80k+ campers.

Just look at how Grand Marais looks on a summer day now... It's gone the way of many of the mountain towns out west.

 
MikeinMpls
distinguished member(1359)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/28/2024 02:53PM  
We stopped there on the 17th to pick up our permit and to visit a buddy at the Grandmas Marathon headquarters. I walked around a bit prior to watching the video and getting the permit. I commented to my wife about the weight and heft of Duluth packs compared to the products available now. Less comfortable and heavier and a lot of money.

I used Duluth packs in my teens and through my mid-30s. I had several. They were broken in with solid leather straps and put up with a lot of abuse. However, Duluth packs now appear to be more about nostalgia than functionality, especially considering packs made by CCS, Battle Lake, and the like. Duluth Pack has expanded into briefcases and clothing and like someone else said, is a shell of itself. Kind of reminded me of L.L. Bean: what used to be a camping store.

Their location in Canal Park is perfect for tourists who are likely to buy a Duluth pack briefcase.

Mike
 
AlexanderSupertramp
distinguished member (394)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/28/2024 04:50PM  
keth0601: "It is pretty disappointing, but I think it's also unfortunately a reflection of how the whole Duluth/north shore experience/culture has changed as well. Tons of tourists, out of town folks buying inflated seasonal homes and renting airbnbs/condos, gift/'boutique' shops, overpriced restaurants, clothing stores, campgrounds full of $80k+ campers.

Just look at how Grand Marais looks on a summer day now... It's gone the way of many of the mountain towns out west.
"


Can confirm, was up there over this last weekend for Le Grand Du Nord and have been going up there for better part of a decade for various cycling events. Grand Marais is now an official dumpster fire town. In 10 more years the entire North Shore will be like this. Say goodbye to traditional lodging and outfitting, say goodbye to the down to earth owned/operated campgrounds and resorts. I used to light up coming down that hill into town, now I just cringe and I dont want to be there.
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(2965)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/28/2024 06:59PM  
Traveler: "

This trip I walked in and thought I was in the wrong place. Standing inside the door I could not even see a pack or a paddle or a canoe. Looked like lots of high-priced clothes.

Bummer."


The Duluth Pack Store was sold at least 15 years ago. It is not the store that it was, just the name, as you can attest.
The current owner has no business interest in what the store used to be which catered to the wilderness outdoor enthusiast.

It won’t say anything good or bad about the store but I completely understand your feelings.

Good times back then.
Tom
 
chessie
distinguished member (368)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/29/2024 06:01AM  
We quit going to Duluth Pack store for all the reasons mentioned and more. Frost River, if I had the cash, would be where I'd shop. Mostly, I just make a quick sachet through Frost River if we're in town, and drool.

We have an heirloom DP pack that belonged to my brother-in-law who has passed away. I have a Monarch pack that was gifted to me. I cherish it, but the darn thing weighs seven pounds empty.

The heirloom pack was pre-waist belt so when we acquired it, I found someone local (to me) who sews canvas, and they added a sleeve for a waste belt for us. Turned out, they used to work at DP. Boy did I learn a lot!

I don't wish to wade into politics, but I do love a good David and Goliath story, and back in 2020, the small Native owned company that makes traditional Ojibwe designs, "Heart Berry," pulled their merchandise out of DP after DP hosted Ivanka Trump. Many thought this move would sink Heart Berry, as DP clearly was a prime outlet for Heart Berry products. It did not.
 
jsmithxc
member (46)member
  
05/29/2024 06:51AM  
I use my packs heavily and have not replaced them in decades, I do buy outdoor clothing on a much more regular basis. Things change, lots of competition is tough. REI started in a backroom climbing shop because there was not much climbing gear available in the US. Midwest Mountaineering did the same for Minnesota. Both had to change from their roots.

The North Shore is packed in the summer and most of those folks have never dipped a paddle in a lake. The really great thing is when you get just a few miles away from the shore, the crowds vanish and, even without an overnight permit, there are so many wild a remote places to visit.

Bottom line, we must continue to support and protect the BWCA and its environs. That's where the heart and soul of what we love is found. I don't buy much at the Duluth Pack store, but I often pick up my permits there. I find their staff knowledgeable and love the wilderness, and understand why I love wild places. You may not like where outdoor retail has gone, but it is the marketplace reality everywhere.
 
05/29/2024 06:54AM  
I don't understand why any consumer business feels the need to wade into politics. No matter who you support, you will tick off roughly half of your potential customers. And if you think that's OK because "your side" is more virtuous than the "other side", you're simply a fool whose expertise on political issues doesn't go any deeper than a 280 character Tweet or 60 second video short.

That said, Duluth Pack's main issue is obviously their antiquated product lineup.
 
05/29/2024 07:33AM  
I've been using Duluth Packs for over 30 years. Over the years I've sent them to Duluth Pack for repairs and I've always been satisfied. Last year I realized my packs needed to be retired so I started looking at new packs- food and gear packs. I was shocked at how expensive DP has become. While still expensive, I decided to buy Frost River packs. I think they are superior to DP in my opinion and I know I won't need to buy another pack for the remainder of my days.
 
Savage Voyageur
distinguished member(14435)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
  
05/29/2024 09:19AM  
I have been going to the store there for years and have seen a definite change in the merchandise, just like REI has. Walked in a few years ago and it was all clothing and packs that were 3-4 times the cost I paid for them. I agree it is sad to see.
Edit…I just looked at the price of the kitchen camp pack. $675.00. I bought mine for $195.00 when they first introduced it.
 
05/29/2024 09:25AM  
I'll continue to wear my ragged Duluth Pack hat into the BWCA, though I don't disagree with the sentiment in this thread. If you live long enough you realize time changes everything, but its still tough to see.
 
jsmithxc
member (46)member
  
05/29/2024 09:38AM  
YaMarVa: "I'll continue to wear my ragged Duluth Pack hat into the BWCA, though I don't disagree with the sentiment in this thread. If you live long enough you realize time changes everything, but its still tough to see. "


I wonder how many folks wishing for the good old days are paddling a kevlar canoe.
 
05/29/2024 09:46AM  
jsmithxc: "I wonder how many folks wishing for the good old days are paddling a kevlar canoe."

If aluminum and fiberglass canoes cost more than Kevlar, they would hardly sell any. That's pretty much what Duluth Pack is doing.

I do have a Duluth Pack wallet. That's something that gets used every day and is better quality than anything available in a department store. I'd probably buy a cap or shirt if I visited the store. But I doubt I'd buy any of their gear.
 
05/29/2024 11:51AM  
jsmithxc: "
YaMarVa: "I'll continue to wear my ragged Duluth Pack hat into the BWCA, though I don't disagree with the sentiment in this thread. If you live long enough you realize time changes everything, but its still tough to see. "

I wonder how many folks wishing for the good old days are paddling a kevlar canoe."

Or posting from their cellphone.

I used a Grumman until I was in my 30s, I never want to portage one of those again. Kevlar for the win.
 
SaganagaJoe
distinguished member(2116)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/29/2024 12:31PM  
While I agree with much of the sentiment on this thread, I bought a Duluth pack at the DP store with money from my high school graduation and still have it and love it.

I also have an aluminum canoe, lol.
 
05/29/2024 06:18PM  
Savage Voyageur: "I have been going to the store there for years and have seen a definite change in the merchandise, just like REI has. Walked in a few years ago and it was all clothing and packs that were 3-4 times the cost I paid for them. I agree it is sad to see.
Edit…I just looked at the price of the kitchen camp pack. $675.00. I bought mine for $195.00 when they first introduced it. "


Sometime after the ownership change (old owners are Frost River) they essentially double and tripled their prices. I really wanted a shotgun case. It was $185 and I just couldn't afford it. Saved, asked for duluth pack store gift cards, finally one day it was time to buy...that same shotgun case was $450 I believe.

The good part is I bought a Gransfors Bruks small axe from them on sale (love that thing) and then found a Boyt shotgun case on SIerra doe $20. Both still going good!!

Not sure how they are in business, but it's been 10 years and they seem to be fine so hey more power to'em but I am out.

T
 
scottiebaldwin
distinguished member (213)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/29/2024 06:42PM  
This seems like an appropriate place to mention that I started a ‘Cooke Custom Sewing’ message board but it is extremely lonely. I think I’m the only one who’s posted and only one time. Please feel free to stop by and discuss any of Dan’s great products on there.

I need a little advice as I own a Hybrid Pioneer pack but I’m thinking of getting the smaller Hybrid Explorer for solo trips. Anyone that has any experience with the Explorer, please drop by the post and let me know if it’s a good size for a solo.



Cooke Custom Sewing message board
 
billconner
distinguished member(8654)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
  
05/29/2024 06:56PM  
I feel your pain. We used to frequent LL Beans Freeport store in 70s and early 80s. Was a great place, especially at 2:00 am. Loved the basement bargains - returns and closeouts. Now it might as well be called Mall of America.
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1980)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/30/2024 12:36AM  
Minnesotian: "
Most outdoor stores have pivoted to a clothing store. They are following the REI model. And the way that REI is being administered lately, they might be going down the route of becoming like Mountain Equipment Company in Canada, a shell of its former self.


If you want quality made outdoor gear, start supporting your cottage companies like Cooke Custom Sewing, Durston Gear, Paria Outdoor Products, Sanborn Canoe, just to name a few. "


Adding Garage Grown Gear
Enlightened Equipment
 
05/30/2024 08:51AM  

I noticed the emphasis is on clothing versus gear too. Sled Dog themed leotards and tops have replaced harnesses and sleighs.
 
05/30/2024 09:56AM  
Wow. I said earlier I'd probably buy a hat or shirt there. But I guess not.
 
HowardSprague
distinguished member(3437)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/30/2024 09:58AM  
That is disappointing. I haven't been in the store since Grandma's in 2006, I think. It was still nice, as is my #3 waxed canvas DP. Since then I did get a briefcase bag type thing, and they did repair it for me once, quite nicely. Too bad it seems to have since gone the way of Eddie Bauer, back when Spiegel Catalog purchased it and went after volume over all else.
 
05/30/2024 10:09AM  
I went into this store recently for some window shopping. I noticed their kitchen pack was over $600. This is out of my price range.

I ended up buying a souvenir pint glass.

I have two #3 Monarch packs that I bought used a few years ago. I dropped one off after a trip a couple years ago. It was still damp from being in the bottom of a canoe in the morning. They took it in, repaired it and mailed it to my home address.

 
whiskeyharvester
  
05/30/2024 11:04AM  
First world problems. Over the past few years I bought several items from their factory seconds area and am satisfied. To each their own.
 
05/30/2024 12:49PM  
Well, Whisky, you are right about that and it is good to keep things in perspective. The world changes and some of the changes are sad and some of them are lovely. I am so pleased that I can visit via facetime with my daughter and her family in England but if I could turn back the clock 50 years for the whole north shore I would. Maybe not if I lived there! I suppose I am just part of the problem. Oh well.
 
05/30/2024 05:05PM  
I love Frost River but I will give Duluth Pack one Kudo, they are dog friendly, have dog water bowls inside and the staff hands out dog treats. I go inside just for that when I hike Canal Park with the pups.
 
KawnipiKid
distinguished member (210)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/30/2024 06:56PM  
I think that Amazon and the like have contributed to this issue a lot. REI still has lots of equipment but it's not always in the store. If you want a specific tent or stove or lots of other gear, you order it and it comes to the store or your home. I've not given up on REI but I have long given up on Duluth Pack and most all of Canal Park. I will say that Duluth's Trailfitters in the Fitgers complex has a wide variety of good gear in addition to clothes. In the pandemic, they had MSR fuel canisters when everyone else was out. Last month, I was passing through town and asked about an MSR Dragonfly stove maintenance kit (there were none on the shelves). The clerk went in the back and came out with both the annual and expedition maintenance kits in hand to pick from in stock. I was happy to buy it from a local store instead of online. The more we buy local in the store, the more incentive they have to meet the need.
 
NotLight
distinguished member(1268)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/30/2024 10:38PM  
LindenTree: "I love Frost River but I will give Duluth Pack one Kudo, they are dog friendly, have dog water bowls inside and the staff hands out dog treats. I go inside just for that when I hike Canal Park with the pups."


Plus you can cut through the Duluth Pack store as a shortcut to get to Northern Waters Smokehouse. Bet that's half the foot traffic off season.

 
05/31/2024 01:23AM  
whiskeyharvester: "First world problems. Over the past few years I bought several items from their factory seconds area and am satisfied. To each their own. "


Every single thing on this site is “First World Problems”…doesn’t change the fact The Duluth Pack store has raised their prices by 200-300%… That’s their right…it’s also ours to actually notice and make a comment. They can do whatever they want…just don’t come crying to us if they don’t make it in the end. The reason will be obvious.

T
 
05/31/2024 06:34AM  
timatkn: "
whiskeyharvester: "First world problems. Over the past few years I bought several items from their factory seconds area and am satisfied. To each their own. "

Every single thing on this site is “First World Problems”…doesn’t change the fact The Duluth Pack store has raised their prices by 200-300%… That’s their right…it’s also ours to actually notice and make a comment. They can do whatever they want…just don’t come crying to us if they don’t make it in the end. The reason will be obvious.

T"

To be fair, at least they still make their gear themselves, unlike another nearby brand that outsourced everything to China. American manufacturing is tough right now and there are no easy answers.
 
05/31/2024 08:02AM  
NotLight: "
LindenTree: "I love Frost River but I will give Duluth Pack one Kudo, they are dog friendly, have dog water bowls inside and the staff hands out dog treats. I go inside just for that when I hike Canal Park with the pups."

Plus you can cut through the Duluth Pack store as a shortcut to get to Northern Waters Smokehouse. Bet that's half the foot traffic off season. "

I use that short cut often, however Northern Waters Smokehouse has moved to the other side of the building where the old Amazing Grace Cafe was located.
 
whiskeyharvester
  
05/31/2024 09:07AM  
timatkn: "
whiskeyharvester: "First world problems. Over the past few years I bought several items from their factory seconds area and am satisfied. To each their own. "

Every single thing on this site is “First World Problems”…doesn’t change the fact The Duluth Pack store has raised their prices by 200-300%… That’s their right…it’s also ours to actually notice and make a comment. They can do whatever they want…just don’t come crying to us if they don’t make it in the end. The reason will be obvious.

T"

I promise I won't cry. ;)
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(2965)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/31/2024 09:45AM  
Oh yes, Trailoutfitters in the Fitgers complex. Excellent store for all things outdoors and a huge selection.
Tom
 
05/31/2024 11:50AM  
plmn: "
timatkn: "
whiskeyharvester: "First world problems. Over the past few years I bought several items from their factory seconds area and am satisfied. To each their own. "

Every single thing on this site is “First World Problems”…doesn’t change the fact The Duluth Pack store has raised their prices by 200-300%… That’s their right…it’s also ours to actually notice and make a comment. They can do whatever they want…just don’t come crying to us if they don’t make it in the end. The reason will be obvious.

T"

To be fair, at least they still make their gear themselves, unlike another nearby brand that outsourced everything to China. American manufacturing is tough right now and there are no easy answers. "


Yes, that is a good point.
 
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