Kid crosscountry skiing with their parent

Thank you, members – these are gifts you’ve given this year

Being a member of MEC comes with hidden benefits: each time you buy something at MEC, part of your sale goes back into the community. That means the headlamp on your wishlist or the toque you’ve picked up for your sister is also helping others get outside.

MEC All Out (our community program) partners with groups across Canada on all kinds of projects. One way to look at it is that when you give your outdoorsy friend a gift, you’re actually giving a gift twice. Here are 10 of the best gifts you’ve given in 2019 – thank you, MEC members!

1. The gift of a first camping trip

Camping can seem a bit daunting if you’ve never tried it before. The solution? A program aimed at teaching people how go camping for the first time.

Your support as members has enabled MEC to work with Parks Canada’s Learn-to Camp program. These courses aim to instill confidence and new outdoor skills so brand new campers can discover the joy of tents and s’mores. In 2019, Learn-to Camp inspired over 100,000 people to go camping. MEC also partnered with Canucks Autism Network, Power to Be and Parks Canada to create a supported version of this program for families with children on the autism spectrum who need a different learning environment.

Kids learning to camp

Learn-to camp shows families how fun (and easy) camping can be.

2. The gift of getting close to nature

If you’ve bought something at MEC this year (or any year since 2010), you’ve helped support Parkbus. The Parkbus crew offers transportation from cities to parks across Canada to allow people of all backgrounds and abilities explore the great outdoors. Along with bus transport, Parkbus also provides fully guided hikes and outdoor education.

Another program you’ve helped support is the Save Our Seine River Environment (SOS). With help from an MEC community grant in 2019, SOS is constructing the first universally-accessible dock on the Seine River in Winnipeg. This dock will allow people with mobility, visual and cognitive disabilities experience the water, and will also be great for families, school groups, seniors, novice paddlers, and anyone who wants to connect to nature within an urban environment.

Parkbus on the way to Algonquin

Parkbus taking a crew of hikers, campers and paddlers to Algonquin Provincial Park.

3. The gift of safe bike rides

MEC members are big on cycling, so it’s only natural that we’d put some of your purchases to work by helping out bike-related groups like HUB Cycling (Vancouver), Cycle Toronto and Vélo Québec. One highlight from 2019 was HUB’s Bike The Night event, which saw more than 5,000 people riding in the dark (some of them for the first time) at the biggest party on two wheels in Vancouver.

On the other side of the country, Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre used support from MEC All Out to run their Welcoming Wheels initiative, which helps get new Canadians active on two wheels, along with Bike Again!, their volunteer-run DIY bike shop.

Bike to Work Day in Toronto

Bike to Work Week getting people out on two wheels, thanks to Cycle Toronto.

4. The gift of new adventure buddies

Adventures are better with friends – and the PlayCity app, launched by MEC member Hafiz Mitha, helps you find them. PlayCity can connect you with people who have similar activity interests and ability levels. Through our community grants program, MEC has helped the app expand across Canada, with its most recent launch in Montreal.

PlayCitizens hike at Upper Kananaskis Lake

PlayCitizens on a Hike Day event at Upper Kananaskis Lake. Photo: Tyler Burke

5. The gift of hut trips

You might actually be able to thank your parents for this community gift, since the partnership between MEC and the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) goes back at least 29 years.

Part of your purchases provide annual funding for the ACC, so this group can keep finding ways to help Canadians go climbing, mountaineering and get into the alpine. The ACC has an extensive system of alpine and backcountry huts, along with regional clubs and youth programming to make sure the next generation is even more active than the last.

Skiers at the Jim Haberl Hut in BC.

Spring skiing at the Alpine Club of Canada’s Jim Haberl Hut in BC.

6. The gift of clean campsites

Camping in pristine wilderness? Amazing. Camping with bits of orange peels or toilet paper around? Way less amazing.

It’s important to camp (and hike, climb, bike) responsibly, so MEC All Out has kept our partnership with Leave No Trace Canada going in 2019. Many years ago, we provided the organization with seed funding, and we’ve been delighted to see it flourish – we even have our first Leave No Trace Ambassador. Their training and programs show that even small changes in behavior can have monumental impacts on the outdoors.

Learning Leave No Trace principles

Playing the “trash timeline” game at one of MEC Ambassador Taryn Eyton’s Leave No Trace workshops.

7. The gift of getting youth outside

Your purchases helped provide Spirit North with gear and funding in 2019. This MEC community partner, led by Olympic champion Beckie Scott, is committed to improving the health and well-being of Indigenous youth through the transformative power of cross-country skiing, sport and play. Spirit North reaches more than 50 Indigenous communities and 8,000 youth across Alberta, BC, Manitoba and Saskatchewan each year.

In 2019, your support also allowed us to give a community grant to the Great Canoe Journey project by Waterlution. Their goal is to ensure the next generation is made up of outdoor-loving, environmentally responsible citizens with knowledge of the cultural history of waterways. Led by a team of 35 Indigenous and non-Indigenous Youth Advisory Board volunteers, the project engages school and youth groups.

Two people with a wood canoe

Through the Great Canoe Journey project, school groups learned about traditional Indigenous canoes and their local waters.

8. The gift of more powder days

Those ski socks you picked up do more than keep your feet warm. Part of the sale goes back to the community, and one of the community groups we supported in 2019 is Protect Our Winters Canada (POW). POW is dedicated to fighting climate change on behalf of the snowsports community. MEC was the founding partner of POW Canada, and is behind their mission of turning outdoor enthusiasts into climate advocates to keep the snow in snowsports. Snow days with the family are awesome and we want to safeguard them for generations to come.

Two people hold up a POW sign

POW Canada helped kick off the winter season with climate change chats at events across Canada.

9. The gift of safety in the backcountry

Avalanche safety training is so important for winter backcountry trips. Thanks to your purchases, MEC has been able to support Avalanche Canada, who deliver Avalanche Canada Training courses, since 2001. They also offer mountain weather forecasts and a free avalanche forecast app to help skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers stay safe.

A person on a mountain digs a pit in the snow

Digging a pit to do snowpack analysis is one of the things you’ll learn in an Avalanche Canada Training course. Photo: @avcansouthrockies

10. The gift of new trails

MEC member purchases have helped us create trails all over the country. One highlight from 2019 was the High Rock Trail building project. Thanks to your support, the Great Divide Trail Association was able to put on eight trail building expeditions to create 10 kilometres of new trail, and work on the re-route of the Great Divide Trail into the High Rock Wildland Park in southern Alberta. Along with trail building, volunteers learned about the plants and animals in the area, Leave No Trace and conservation of the Great Divide Trail Corridor in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

A map of the Great Divide Trail

Great Divide Trail route, with a star showing where new trail was recently built (map from greatdividetrail.com).

A big thank you to MEC members for making all these gifts happen (and lots more) – we’re looking forward to another year of community projects.

Ben Allen
Ben Allen

Wordsmith, paddler and serial traveller. Loves extended trips to the Middle East, his MEC Klettersack and eating man'ousheh.