Tonight I became a member of REI, an American cooperative selling outdoors and travel gear, in the same vein as Mountain Equipment Coop in Canada. Membership is $15, and lasts for life.

REI has one of their so-called “flagship” stores here in Denver, and it is truly a sight to behold: a giant old 1901 building that once held the power plant for Denver’s trolley system, filled with every possible gadget, kayak, tent, breathable blouse, mosquito-repelling shirt and buck knife you might ever have call for.

My needs were more modest: I replaced the IZOD-brand polar fleece jacket I bought in 1998 to go to Korea with a new one, much in the same style.

Had I desired, I could have also climbed their indoor rock wall, tested a bicycle on their buildingside outdoor mountain bike course, or sipped a Tall Iced Mocha from the onsite Starbucks.

The staff — as with almost all customer service employees we’ve encountered here in the U.S. — were friendly, talkative and helpful. I think I probably could have obtained complete directions for climbing Mount Everest from any of them should I have asked.

My $15 membership entitles me to a 10% dividend on all purchases, discounts on workshops, and a host of other benefits. Mostly I ponied up, however, because I think cooperatives are a Good Thing and deserve our support.

I’ve a feeling that if there was an REI location in Charlottetown, I would magically transform into an Outdoors Guy simply for its presence. As it is, I like my new jacket.