How To Experience Public Lands’ In-Store Offerings

Don’t be fooled by its suburban Pittsburgh surroundings—the Public Lands store in Cranberry Township, Pa., is far from just another big-box store.

With its rustic entrance and the sigh of its hands-free automatic doors, Public Lands beckons you into its vaulted foyer, where tactile wooden elements and well-placed skylights heighten the general camp vibes and brighten the ​​space.

And to start exploring the 50,000 square feet, it’s best to view each store department as its own entity. Though friendly staff (referred to as Guides) are ready to point you in the right direction, it’s best to approach Public Lands not as a single store, but as a collection of 8 specialty shops. “We try to look at each department as its own unique shop,” says Clare Clark, the store’s Education Lead, “such as ‘the bike shop’ the ‘fish and tackle shop’ or the ‘camp shop.’” There, Clark points out, is where a given shop’s enthusiast Guides can lean into their expert knowledge, enabling them to connect with guest explorers on a deeper level.

What’s the feeling of the sum of those shops’ parts? Entering a slower pace of life where there’s the opportunity to ask silly questions—where you can engage with a larger community of other active adventurers that share your passions.

Classes & Events

To start, the store’s staff curates classes and events each week seeking to highlight a different shop in the store. “I love planning classes and events to inspire outreach and engagement in our community,” Clark says of the free, hands-on classes that range from preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail to waxing and tuning your skis or snowboard.

Also on offer are information sessions with brand ambassadors who can explain the intricacies and out-there applications of their company's product(s), answer questions, and generally encourage participants to better utilize gear items they may be unfamiliar with.

Additionally, offsite meetups are available and generally combine an activity (such as hiking a portion of trail) with a cleanup or stewardship opportunity (say, cleaning the trail as you hike). 

Services

Climb

The 1,000-square-foot climbing Rock Wall represents the only pay-to-play class/event space in the Public Lands store. Think of it as just another individual outlet in a building full of them. Look for weekly themed climbs (Ladies Climb Night, Family Climb Night, Youth Climb) as well as monthly classes (Bouldering, Yoga+Climb).

Bike

With a full-service bike shop onsite, Public Lands has the capacity to handle any cycling repair or upgrade that guests may have. While the work might come at added cost, stewardship and shared knowledge supersede financial gains from the fixes. “There is an emphasis on transparency and education,” Clark adds. “We do all of our repairs in plain sight of the public and explain what we’re doing and why, often instructing the guests on how they can avoid coming back for the same problem by showing them the preventative maintenance required.”

Snow

From the BootDoc 3D scan machine, which provides accurate suggestions for arch support and boot inserts, to the full-service shop equipped for any upgrade or repair, the Public Lands ski and snowboard shop is as capable and robust as any chalet shop you might encounter near the slopes. 

Fish

In addition to the well-equipped tackle shop, this area offers free line-winding services (with purchase of line), live and frozen bait, fishing licenses and a wealth of angler information for those seeking out the secret spots of Western PA.

Fittings

From hiking boots to backpacks, bindings to board size, getting the appropriate fit is the difference between falling in love with a new sport and never wanting to do it again. Public Lands’ guides aren’t just folks who work in the store, they’re avid users ready to translate outdoor skills and experience in order to help guests make the best decisions for adventures ahead. 

Rentals

Not sure you’re ready to lay down $2,500 on a new trail bike? Need a high-performing camp cooler? Wondering if snowshoeing might help you enjoy the winter? Public Lands has you covered. And no, you don’t need to be at the store to take advantage; gear rental reservations are available via FedEx delivery to anywhere in the contiguous U.S.

Bikes & Racks

Check out the Public Lands rental fleet and decide whether the time is right to buy. In addition to a bike, or bikes, you can rent a rack to fit your vehicle and carry one, or multiple bikes.

YETI Coolers

Curious about all the hype surrounding this beastly brand? Rent one in a variety of sizes and find out why these rugged ice chests are so sought after.

Ski & Board

Skis and snowboards are available on a seasonal basis. For one flat fee, you can rent brand-new, top-of-the-line gear for the season—popular among those trying the sport(s) for the first time and also for parents who know their kids will grow. Price includes skis, boards, boots and poles (where applicable).

Snowshoes

Wondering if snowshoeing might help you enjoy the winter? Stop guessing. Go give them a try for a reasonable daily fee. Price includes snowshoes and poles.

Paddlesports

Kayak and standup paddleboard packages are available and include the boat or board, paddle and personal floatation device, along with some recommendations on the best places to float based on your level of experience.

Local Market 

Nestled on the right-hand side of the climbing Rock Wall are a selection of goods from local, Western Pennsylvania artisans. Look for unique items like coffee, tea, soap and pottery that reinforce Public Lands’ commitment to cultivating regional relationships and spotlighting worthy, lesser-known goods for their guests.

More Info

Visit publiclands.com for full details and additional services, from hiking permits and park passes, to sales of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which covers entry and day-usage at national parks and national wildlife refuges, national forests and grasslands, plus lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.