Why I Buy Travel Gear From REI: You Can Return Old Underwear

There are a million and one places to buy travel gear, but I think there’s only one that will take back year-old pairs of used underwear: REI. This might read like a paid endorsement, but it isn’t. I almost never write about products or stores that I like but I’ve got to give props to REI, my one-stop shop for travel.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of positive experiences buying, and sometimes returning, travel gear – luggage, camping equipment, clothing and the like, from REI, but a recent experience I had at one of their stores in Virginia absolutely floored me.

More than a year ago, I purchased three pairs of $20 ExOfficio briefs before going on a trip and immediately hated them. Twenty dollars is expensive for a pair of underwear, but when you’re traveling with only a handful of pairs, high quality underwear is worth its weight in gold. Without going into much detail here, let’s just say that these pairs of underwear were constantly riding up on me, leaving body parts exposed.I found myself constantly having to make adjustments, and doing that in public makes one look like a pervert or worse. I resolved to send the underwear back to the manufacturer with a nasty note but never got around to it. But then one day a few weeks ago when I was forced to wear a pair of the horrible underwear because everything else was dirty, I resolved to go back to the REI where I bought them and make a complaint.

I had no expectation that they would actually take the things back, but I wanted to vent my frustration. Perhaps this seems ridiculous to you, dear reader, but I grew in a household where returning things was par for the course. My dad is an expert returner. He’ll eat half a meal at a restaurant and decide he doesn’t like it, so he can send it back and get something else. And there is no product or store that he won’t try to return something at, no matter how long ago he bought the product or whether he has a receipt. The man is unstoppable, and, amazingly, no one ever questions him.

When I was about 12 year old, I smashed my tennis racket in a rage after losing a match. It was one of those black, wooden Bjorn Borg Donnay models, and after my fit, the entire top of it was warped so the head looked oblong rather than round. Undeterred, my dad marched us to K-Mart, warped racket in hand, and managed to return it, claiming the thing was defective.

To my horror, the store employee put the darn thing right back up on the shelf, even though my name was written in magic marker on the cover. At that age, no one wants their name advertised at K-Mart.

All of this is to say that in returning items, I’ve learned from the best, though I am not nearly as brazen as my father. Still, I have expected the customer service person at REI to grab the pile of used underwear I unfurled onto the desk and throw it back at me. But he didn’t.

“Do you want to return these?” he asked, after listening sympathetically to my complaint.

“Can I?” I asked, a bit in shock.

“Absolutely,” he said. “All of our products are guaranteed for as long you have them and if you’re not satisfied you can return them.”

“You don’t have a receipt do you?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said. “But I am an REI member.”

He tapped my name into the computer and found my membership.

“Ok,” he said. “I see that you bought two pairs of these a little over a year ago, does that sound right?”

“Um, yeah,” I said sheepishly.

The young man couldn’t find a record of the third pair but gave me a store credit anyway. He was ready to give me my money back for the two pairs he did find in the system, but I felt too guilty to take it. They were horrible underwear, but I had purchased them more than a year ago!

You might think that this was just one fluky experience but I don’t think it was. A few years ago, I bought a pair of hiking shoes that turned out to be very poorly constructed and I returned those too – no questions asked – a good six months after purchase.

The truth is that I buy a lot of gear from REI and I love most of it, so there is usually no need to return items. But it’s awfully nice to know you can bring things back – even old underwear – if you need to. And unlike K-Mart, I’m pretty sure they didn’t put my used underwear right back on the shelf.

[Photo by Seansie on Flickr]

REI Adventures offers winter weekend getaways

Looking to add a little activity and adventure back into your weekends now that the football season is officially over? Then REI Adventures may have exactly what you need. The company, which is the travel arm of the REI gear stores, has introduced several new winter weekend getaways that will get you out playing in the snow this February and March.

These excursions are short – most are just three or four days in length – but pack plenty of activity into the itinerary. Local guides lead groups of active outdoor enthusiasts into some of the more remote, and beautiful winter playgrounds in the U.S., giving them the opportunity to visit those locations at a time when crowds are non-existent.

Amongst the new trips for 2012 is a three day snowshoeing excursion into the Adirondack Mountains, where travelers will stay in a rustic log-cabin while spending a long weekend hiking some of the more scenic trails in the region. Similarly, REI offers a four day snowshoeing trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during which visitors will trek past frozen waterfalls and visit caves along the shores of Lake Superior. And for those looking for something even more adventurous and active, there is a three day escape to the Catskills to do some ice climbing.

These short, but active trips are proof positive that we don’t have to stay inside all winter waiting for the warm weather to arrive. REI Adventures will give you a reason to dig out your warm clothes and boots and head outside for some much-needed winter fun.

REI Adventures announces new options for 2012

REI Adventures, the travel subsidiary of outdoor gear retailer REI, has announced a host of new options for travelers looking to for a once in a lifetime experience in 2012. The new trips expand an already impressive array of adventure travel opportunities that deftly mix active excursions with culture, history, and fine cuisine.

Among the new itineraries for 2012 is a guided hike along an ancient route between Umbria and Rome that was once used by Christian pilgrims. The trek takes hikers through idyllic Italian countrysides, putting the art, architecture, and history of that country on display. Those looking to rough it a bit more, may want to check out the option to visit an EcoCamp in the heart of Chile’s Patagonia region, while families looking for a unique escape should consider the Machu Picchu Adventure. REI didn’t forget about the active traveler either, as the new trips include options to go snowshoeing in the Adirondacks, ice climbing in the Catskills, or hiking through Yosemite. To learn more about these trips, or review all of the other new options for 2012, click here.

Of course, if you’re going on trip like one of these, you’ll invariably need some new gear as well. To help you shop for that equipment, REI is currently offering a $50 gift card to anyone who signs up for one of these new 2012 trips before December 31st of this year. This is your opportunity to not only go on the trip that you’ve always dreamed of, but also get some free gear too!

Whether you like to hike, backpack, cycle, climb, or paddle, REI Adventures has a trip that will satisfy your wanderlust. Obviously 2011 is quickly coming to an end, and it is never too early to start planning for next year.

[Photo courtesy REI Adventures]

REI Adventures offers great national park summer escapes

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, and the summer travel season is officially upon us, many travelers will be planning their annual escapes. For more than a few, that will mean a summertime visit to one of America’s national parks, which continue to be favorite destinations amongst travelers everywhere.

With this in mind, REI Adventures, the travel arm of the popular gear stores, has put together a host of great itineraries for travelers looking to visit a national park this year, without having to deal with the hassle of planning for it themselves. The company offers 20 unique trips to some of the best national parks in the U.S. system, including Alaska’s Glacier Bay, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, and more.

While these trips do indeed offer the classic national park experience, such as backpacking the Grand Canyon or kayaking in Yellowstone, there are a number of them that are unique and adventurous. For example, REI offers a four-day cycling tour of Death Valley, as well as backcountry climbing in Joshua Tree. There is even an option for a family-centric trip through Great Smokey Mountains, the most popular national park of them all.

These tours vary in degree of difficulty and scheduled activities, but they all offer a great national park adventure. So instead of stressing over your summertime plans, let REI Adventures take care of all the details for you. Then, when you’re ready to go, you can simply enjoy the trip, while someone else takes care of the rest.

View the full list of available itineraries here.

REI Adventures offers members 25% discount on select trips

In 2011, REI Adventures, the travel arm of outdoor gear retailer REI, is celebrating its 25th year of offering great outdoor and active journeys to adventure travelers. To commemorate the occasion, they’re passing on a substantial discount to members of the REI Co-Op, giving them 25% off some of their most classic trips.

In all, there are seven trips that the discount is being applied to. Those trips include a classic safari in Tanzania, a trek to Everest Base Camp, cycling in the Loire Valley of France, trekking the Tour Du Mont Blanc, hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, backpacking in Fitz Roy and Paine in Patagonia, and exploring the Alaskan wilderness on foot and kayak. Each of these trips is considered to be one of REI Adventures’ signature vacations, offering some of the most amazing and memorable experiences for any traveler.

As mentioned, to take advantage of the 25% discount, you must be an REI member. Becoming a member is simple however, and it offers more benefits than just the discount on these trips. There is a one time fee of $20 for the membership, but it entitles you to take part in special events at REI stores, increased discounts on gear items, and a yearly dividend that is based on the items you purchased. That dividend can then be spent on new gear in the store as well. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast at all, then the membership usually more than pays for itself in the first year alone.

Members always receive a discount on REI Adventures trips, but the additional 25% savings is on top of that already discounted price. For instance, the African Safari normally costs non-members $4075. Members get the same trip for $3699, but if you take advantage of the added discount, you can visit the Serengeti for just $2775. Not a bad deal at all.

Dates for the discounted trips are limited, so you’ll want to take advantage of them as soon as possible. To get more details on these adventures and the dates when they are available, click here.