Who We Are
Your Neighborhood Outdoor Store
Our adventure began in 1972 with a simple goal: help outfit the great people of Chicago to explore the outdoors. What was once a small army navy surplus shop has grown to become so much more. We believe in carrying the best products, hiring passionate people and treating you as more than a customer, but as our neighbor and our friend.
Whether it’s navigating cold winters, camping in the mountains, or backpacking through Europe, Uncle Dan’s Outfitters is for everyone. All are welcome from travelers to hikers to walkers to campers to glampers to commuters to dog walkers. From path to pub, mountain to museum, we will outfit you from everyday urban adventures to exciting excursions abroad.
We don’t just sell the latest in clothing, footwear and gear, we’re all about quality. From partnering with the best brands in the industry to handpicking our collection each season, everything we recommend is something we would wear and use ourselves. We pride ourselves on our great team who really know the ins-and-outs of all things outdoors. They’re a bunch of passionate outdoor enthusiasts who want to share their knowledge and help you find exactly what you need.
The Uncle Dan's Story • Chicago based since 1972
The year was 1969. A free-spirited teenager, our founder, spent 4 weeks at overnight camp in Wildrose, Wisconsin sleeping in a canvas platform tent and hiking in the backwoods. When he arrived home mid-summer, his mother made arrangements for him to work part-time for his Uncle, Dan, who owned a surplus goods store on the north side of Chicago.
Under “Uncle Dan’s” guidance, our founder worked various positions around the shop. He shined surplus combat boots, sewed shoulder bags by hand from army backpacks, and frequently visited the neighborhood cafe to fetch coffee for his boss and the shop crew. He began to admire his Uncle Dan’s strong work ethic and started to build tight relationships with the army surplus vendors who would stop by the shop to sell their goods.
Two years later, Uncle Dan passed away unexpectedly, but he had instilled in his nephew big dreams. In the fall of 1972, our 16-year-old founder decided to open his own store. He named it Uncle Dan’s Army-Navy Surplus in memory of his uncle. The first Uncle Dan’s was a 900 square foot shop on Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago’s Hollywood Park neighborhood. He hired friends to work the sales floor, created the first catalog, and starting selling an array of goods including canteens, combat boots, tents, sleeping bags and bell-bottom blue jeans.
Throughout the 70s, he spent a few weeks every summer road tripping out west. He visited National Parks and camped out to see a new band, The Grateful Dead. His passion for retail and adventurous travel flourished over the years has seeped into the DNA of our team as the business has continued to grow.
By the 90s, up-and-coming outdoor brands started to focus more on style and versatility when designing their outerwear and gear. The latest travel gear was built to be more packable, lightweight and comfortable. As this new outdoor industry emerged, Uncle Dan's opened more stores in family-friendly neighborhoods and introduced the newest premier outerwear, apparel, footwear and accessories to our curated selection.
While our product selection has changed over the years, we are still a locally owned business with a dynamic Chicago-based team. We only feature products in our stores we would use and wear ourselves and we love to share advice and stories to inspire your own adventures. Today, we have grown to 4 stores (and counting!) throughout the Chicago area and run a website, udans.com, where you can buy online, pick up in store or ship straight to your door. Whether you’re backpacking in the mountains, traveling through Europe, or navigating cold winters, we’re committed to help outfit you and your family for all of life’s adventures.
We’re still a small company, but we make sure we’re available for you wherever you need us - in the store, on the phone or on our website’s live chat. All of us here “live” Uncle Dan’s everyday to make it the place that connects you to your next adventure.