There was a time before Goretex, GPS and freeze-dried meals. In those days, those of us who adventured outdoors wore wool and flannel. We knew how to use a compass, and we knew how to start a fire. Bostonians in those days shopped at Hilton’s Tent City.
The store was founded in 1947, and has moved from its original location in Boston to Cambridge. It is a proud bastion of an older city, and despite the presence of newer, sleeker retail outfits like REI and EMS, Hilton’s still holds its own. It is densely packed with outdoor and travel gear, and the lobby is like a museum with vintage gear and postcards from expeditions who were outfitted here before going to Patagonia or the Himalaya. You can certainly find high tech gear here — your SPOT transmitters and GPS systems, but you can also find classic brands, like Filson and Barbour, which still work in fabrics like wax cotton and canvas, and stand the test of time.
Yet, beyond the gear, the staff at Hilton’s are a brilliant slice of New England outdoorsman. They’re a bit gruff, a bit quiet, but never pushy and always helpful. They give advice based on a lifetime of living outdoors and helping others prepare for their own adventures.