REI Used Gear Sale: Bargain Camper’s Paradise

If you like to do anything outside, chances are that you’ve at least heard of Recreational Equipment Inc., commonly referred to as REI. Whether you’re into hiking, camping, climbing, paddle-boarding, biking, hammocking, or even if you just want to look “outdoorsy”, REI has you covered. More than just an outdoors store, REI is a consumer co-op that provides outdoors training and adventures for its members as well as a yearly dividend. If you give REI a $20 bill, you’re a member for life. Pretty sweet deal right?

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Well the purpose of this post is to shed light on pretty much the best way for budget-conscious outdoor enthusiasts to get their hands on high-quality gear: REI Used Gear Sales.

Used Gear Sales

What are they?

  • REI has an amazing return policy. You can return anything for any reason within one year of purchase. Plus, if the item has a manufacturing defect, you can often return it even later. Enter the Used Gear sale. Used Gear Sales are a chance for REI to get rid of their stock of returned gear, and they’re a chance for members to get a 50-90% discount. Definitely a win-win if you ask me.

When are they?

  • Sales are almost always on Saturday mornings. However, the frequency and exact dates/time vary from store to store. So it’s best to get on your local REI’s email list to get a schedule of upcoming events in your area. This schedule will not only include upcoming used gear sales, but also cool classes and activities at your local REI.

How do they work?

  • Typically, the sale will start at 9:00am. However, oftentimes people come hours in advance to be at the front of the line. Sometimes, my buddies and I will even camp out all night just to be the first ones in line (granted this is more for the fun of camping out than anything else).
  • Why, you ask? Because at the beginning (in order to comply with fire regulations and to preserve everyone’s sanity) people are allowed inside the sale in small groups. Oftentimes, the best-priced and most sought-after items are gone after the first or second wave goes through. However, it’s definitely still worth it to go even if you aren’t in the first wave. Usually there’s tons of stuff, and I don’t think I’ve ever left a sale without finding some great deals.

Are the deals really that great?

  • Hundreds of outdoor junkies just camp out on the sidewalk for no reason.
  • Just kidding! You can score some amazing deals at REI. My personal best is 99% off!!! Yes, you read that correctly, 99% off. I bought a pair of Salomon hiking boots (originally priced at $220) for less than $2. Why were they so cheap? There was a small rip in one of the seams. But they’ve lasted me for years. I’ve also gotten loads of other deals at these sales from down jackets to backpacks to hammocks to tents and even a GoPro.
  • However, just so that you don’t have your expectation too high, the average markdown prices are typically 50-70% off depending on the condition and reason for return. Still, basically everything is a pretty good deal.

What are your favorite tips/tricks?

  • If you really want the best deals, you’ve got to commit. Plan to get there at least a couple of hours early so you’re at the front of the line. Seriously, this is the best way to score crazy deals! Also, it’s kind of fun waiting in line because usually the people around you in line are pretty rad.
  • Go in with a game plan. If you’re near the front of the line, the sale is madness. Everyone is obsessed with outdoor gear and they’re all trying to get the best deals. So the key is to know which items are most important to you. Do you really need a backpack? Or are you looking for a tent? Narrow it down and head to that section first.
  • Even though the prices are great, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. A bargain tent is a poor purchase if you’ve already got 3 perfectly good tents at home. I definitely had this problem with backpacks. At one point I had 10 (yes 10) backpacks in my closet! My wife graciously told me that I needed to narrow it down to 3. The first step is admitting you have a problem.
  • Be respectful. Typically, the REI crowd is a pretty cool bunch. Everybody has a shared love for the outdoors, and most people are pretty friendly. However, I’ve also encountered some of the rudest people I’ve ever met at these sales. Just remember that saving a few bucks on gear is not worth selling your morals. I once had a guy shove me against a table so that he could get past me a grab a backpack that I was reaching for. Ridiculous.
  • Carefully check the condition of everything you’re planning on buying. Each item has a little ticket that gives you basic information such as: the original price, the sale price, and the reason for return. Obviously, the items you buy at these gear sales can’t be returned. So it’s important not only to check the item carefully, but also to read why the original owner returned it. Oftentimes, items simply get returned because the owner didn’t like the fit/color/functionality, but other times you might be buying a jacket with a broken zipper or a tent with no floor.
  • Know your brands. While the REI warranty is void when you buy an item from a used gear sale, often the manufacturer’s warranty is still in effect. Sometimes you can buy something that it’s bad shape, send it to the manufacturer to be repaired, and then it’s as good as new.

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Well, there you have it: my basic guide on how to survive REI Used Gear Sales. Hopefully you learned something new and you’ll be able to score some awesome deals on great quality outdoor gear. Please share your favorite Used Gear Sale tips/tricks as well as the best deals you’ve scored in the comments below.

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