So maybe you’ve been actively stalking travel accounts on IG or have a new travel-bae that your crushing on super hard, who loves to hike and camp. Maybe, like me, you need a change of pace. A need to escape to the outdoors to take a deep breath and distract yourself from the stressors of attempting to live life as a moderately successful adult. I get it, I’ve been there and making the switch has been the best decision I could have made. But investing in new gear can be pricey. Here's one way I manage to save some moolah on my gear.
Once I got over my reluctance to visit an REI – fearing that I would be actively gawked at because I was the only person of color fumbling through the tent section, I became hooked on finding new gear for all of my adventures. As a bonus the staff always made me feel welcome and went out of their way to answer all the newbie questions I threw their way. After a few visits, I realized my original reservations were a bit excessive and silly.
I attended my first REI Garage Sale in October. After snagging items on my and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to write about how I save money on my gear for those looking to make the switch. After all, you won’t know how much you love being outdoors until you do it right. Having the wrong gear or a lack of supplies can really affect your experience. Your hiking or camping trip can be the best time ever or a trip from hell depending on how you prepare. Problem is, camping and hiking gear isn’t always the most budget-friendly and it takes some well-rounded internet stalking shopping skills to track down quality gear for the best price.
So what is the REI Garage sale? A price-savvy outdoorsman's dream.
Every few months REI hosts a garage sale at select locations for their Co-Op Members. It’s only $20 for a lifetime membership so it's well worth joining, and REI will announce member only sales throughout the year. This particular sale is their attempt to get rid of items that have been returned to the store under their EXTREMELY generous one year grace period. Items are marked with a tag that lists the following:
- Why the item was returned - The reasons range from completely ridiculous & amusing to practical where you should use your best judgement. If an item is broken you should consider if it is worth fixing or if it has a manufacturers warranty to cover it. Once it’s purchased it’s yours, there are no take backs so decide carefully. Some items, on the other hand will be barely used or in perfect condition. I scored a Backcountry LED headlamp for $5 because they said it didn’t have a flashing red light. It was because that model didn’t have the red light feature. (Reading is fundamental people.)
- Description of it’s condition - The tags will mention the state of that item's condition but it is still recommended to take the item out of the packaging and give it a thorough examination. I found a Passage 2 tent that was brand spanking new! The previous owners just said they simply “Didn’t like it”. I still made sure to removed the tent from the stuff sack and set it up in the parking lot (our sale was held outside) to check for rips, tears and any issues with my poles.
- Original price - Check the original price and quickly google to confirm that the price is correct. My tent was listed for $180 on my tag but only $157 online. They adjusted the price for me at the register.
- New sale price - Your tag will list the new sale price which factors in the condition of the item. I was told by a very helpful REI employee who help me setup and inspect my tent that I could try to haggle the price down cheaper. Turns out he was right, I was able to get the new $99 price down to $55 for a brand new tent.
I arrived at the Atlanta location at 7:30 am stressing that I would be far back in the line. I’ve been to a few Black Friday sales and I know the earliest deal-crazed birds get the best worms. That typically meant arriving at the store 4-5 hours before the doors open. Anyone who knows me is fully aware of my unwillingness to waking up before 6 am. Even while camping I am typically the last to rise in the camp, because to me sleeping is fun. I was shocked when arrived at my local store at 7:30 am to find a very short line, with only 10 - 12 people ahead of me. I took my place in line, ate my apple and read my kindle until the sale started at 9 am.
Due to my rush to get to the store I decided against stopping in the long line at Starbucks. I was fully prepared to be a cold caffeine-free grumpy mess squatting on the sidewalk. When you rather sleep an additional 15-20 minutes you get accustomed to skipping breakfast. To my surprise the amazing employees of the store were walking down the line with hot coffee and donuts for the customers. Love this freakin store!
As they handed out the life juice (coffee) they explained how the sale would work and where we could find what items. The rep asked us which items we were hunting for and let us know how many of that item they had and where we could snatch them. Fair warning, some people DID (*insert hand clap here) NOT come to play! One guy would not say what he wanted, he stalked the items from behind the rope barrier like a hungry animal before 9 am and power walked granny style straight to the first two Yeti coolers. Once he grabbed them he ran to the register to check-out. Everyone else, headed to the crates calm and orderly.
I’ll admit I was a bit disoriented at first. I expected the sleeping bags and tents to be in separate containers but they were stacked together along with other items like chairs, tarps, and footprints. In the rush, this caused some confusion because not all of the items were clearly marked. I wasn’t sure if I was grabbing a shade structure or a child-sized sleeping bag. The veteran in line before me suggested grabbing several items at once and sorting through it after. I felt this method was a bit greedy and feared I would grab a massive 4 person, 4 seasons, $400 tent someone else wanted instead of the 2 or 3 people $100 tent I needed. I realized that it helped to have a list in mind for items that I wanted if they were available. A backpacking tent and sleeping bag were both tops of my list. Each of these items could run you $300-$400 at a regular price and I could save mucho dinero on either if I could find one. Know which item is most important for you and go for that item first.
Somehow I got lucky and managed to grab a brand new Passage 2 tent for $99, haggled to $55 (original price $157.00) and a women’s large Marmot sleeping bag for $60 (original price $180.00). Next I moved over to the packs and scored a 30 liter Osprey Hydraulics day pack (sans water container) for $50 (original price $180.00). Lastly, I visited the well picked over containers in the middle and found my Back Country headlamp $5 (original price $30) at the bottom of the box.
One and a half hours of sitting in line sharing stories with other shoppers was completely worth scoring almost $500 worth of gear for $175! The REI staff were also very helpful with helping customer inspect and explain how the conditions of the gear could affect their use. I think trying to attend a Garage sale at least once a year can help you save while acquiring quality gear that will last. Happy hunting!
Note: This post is not sponsored but REI. I'm just a fangirl of their store :) and purchased all items with my own money.