Yeah, I kinda thought right.
REI and EMS are both Chain Stores, and all that implies. REI is, like, in a mall near Fenway, and EMS is in Harvard Square, both looking perfectly at home next to The Gap and Urban Outfitters and etc. They are also both general sports stores, supplying bicycling, running, climbing, snow sports, and various other things, meaning they have less space/attention devoted solely to wilderness sports. No tents set up (though REI did have those adorable model tents that would be just perfect for my cat to take backpacking), no space to try on the sleeping bags, no backpack techs. The salespeople there seemed like typical retail employees, rather than people who have done a lot of the kinds of things I'll be doing. Also, Hilton's prices were a bit cheaper--really, only symbolically cheaper, given the total price of the stuff I'll need, but still. That'll add up. While all three stores carry pretty much the same stuff and from the same brands, Hilton's just felt a lot more serious, and the staff was way more helpful.
So all in all, I went to EMS and REI and all I got was this fetching 50s dress I spotted in a vintage shop on the way from one to the other:
Hooray locally owned outfitters!