For those of you who aren’t backpacking billionaires, you’ll want to have a plan for your budget that won’t break the bank. Holy B-words, Batman!
This is why when we’re in need of a few odds and ends where we’d preferably avoid taking out a loan to further our gear needs, we turn to our friendly neighborhood REI:
You might notice there’s a giant tent fully set up in front of the store. It isn’t for sale, as it belongs to one of the many customers camping out for the latest REI Garage Sale.
Typically, we try to roll in at around four in the morning, as a line will quickly form beyond our line of sight between the hours of 5-8 and we don’t usually pitch a tent. Instead, we bring a couple of chairs to sit and chat with the other crazies up before the crack of dawn to get a decent spot in line, as this helps to place us near the front in order to claim first dibs on the best deals.
If you want to be part of the REI Garage Sales, you need to purchase a membership. Not to fear, as $20 grants you access for life and you can usually land a sweet deal just for signing up. This will also net you an annual dividend on all of your standard purchases made throughout the calendar year, which you can then use to either acquire more gear or cash out to spend elsewhere.
Keep in mind that REI currently doesn’t carry much from the popular ultralight brands, so if you want to be able to snag that new Zpacks tent or Hyperlite backpack you’ve had your eye on, you won’t be lucky enough to do so at these garage sales. You will, however, find some amazing deals on everything from clothes, to shoes, and even lightweight tents. Big Agnes comes to mind for being one of the most sought-after brands in this category. We own the Copper Spur HV UL3 and we love it, despite it not being the most lightweight tent on the market. It’s still a winner for us.
On our most recent trip, both of us were able to snag a pair of Altra trail runners for about $30 a pop. These shoes normally will run you around $120 if you buy them straight off the shelf, so we landed a monster of a deal on them. Both pairs were in perfect condition, only being used on one previous outing. This happens a lot, as customers at REI have up to a year to return a piece of gear and will normally bring something back after a single trip if it doesn’t fit their personal needs or comfort level. All of this culminates to help hikers and backpackers snag exactly what they’re searching for at some ridiculously good prices.
We also walked away with brand new trekking poles for a fraction of the price. Due to being near the front of the line, we were fortunate enough to be able to walk out with hundreds of dollars worth of gear for nowhere near the retail dollar amount.
All of the garage sale items will have a big tag on it similar to the one pictured above. These will detail the reason for the return, the retail price, and the discounted garage sale price. Hopefully the product you’re interested in hasn’t been cut off of another hiker’s body. Not cool.
The big ticket items tend to disappear quicker than Roseanne’s sitcom return, so again, it’s important to get to REI early enough to make it worth the trip. The big garage sales usually happen quarterly, with a few smaller sales for just footwear and clothing items mixed in between. As a member, you’ll receive an email before the sale to alert you of any upcoming dates. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can keep an eye on their site and monitor their store events.
We are not affiliated in any shape or form with REI as far as business is concerned, but we have scored enough gear and saved a stuff sack’s worth of money, so we wanted to share this method to help others obtain their equipment while keeping their wallets from crying.
There are other gear swap sites and discount outfitters that fit the bill, but we have not used them enough to offer an intelligent opinion. If you have any other budget friendly finds, feel free to share in the comments!