The REI Garage Sale is every world traveler’s best friend. And it’s happening at the Washington, DC area stores on April 11, 2015.
REI is a co-op specializing in outdoor gear, clothes and sporting goods. A few times a year, Washington, DC area stores will unload all of their returned merchandise at huge discounts on a first come, first served basis. This is a member’s only event, so be sure to purchase one of REI’s $20 lifetime memberships before you go.
Some garage sale items will be flawless, like a brand new tent used only as an in-store floor model, or a jacket that still has the tags on it. Other items may have serious damage or have been used for years before being returned. One of the keys to doing well at an REI Garage Sale is knowing what’s fixable and what’s not.
Keep reading for five more tips on scoring big at this not-to-be-missed gear sale and stock up before your next trip.
Get up early. Very early.
Don’t forget that you’re competing for “epic” deals with the DC area’s most brave adventurers. These people have kayaked in frigid lakes, backpacked through pouring rain, and biked across deserts – a long line in a parking lot on a beautiful spring morning is not going to scare them off.
The really hardcore deal-seekers will camp out the night before, but you will still be in good shape if you show up two or three hours before the doors open at 9:00 a.m. So get up before the sunrise and get on the road with a camp chair and a good book – you’re going to be there for a while.
Plan and prioritze
Use the hours you spend waiting in line to think about what you want and lay out a game plan. Keep in mind that you will not find everything on your list, so put the most important items at the top. You may also want to aim to track down the big ticket items – like bikes, kayaks and tents – first, since they will have the deepest discounts.
Most stores allow members to enter in waves. If you’re not in the first wave, take a moment to ask the shoppers exiting what they found and where. Having a good idea of how the sale is laid out will give you a better chance of getting all the items at the top of your list.
If you’re shopping with a friends, plan to divide and conquer. There is no need for both of you to dig through day packs if you both also need rain jackets. Split up, look out for items on each others lists, and meet up later to evaluate your finds.
The first time you go through the store, pick up anything that piques your interest. If you ponder for too long before grabbing a good item, it will get snatched up by a more decisive shopper. Once you’ve done a thorough walk-through, take stock of your items and eliminate anything you don’t want. Then, browse once more to snag any items that may have been discarded by other shoppers.
Try before you buy.
Yes, it is true, there will be some EPIC deals… but there will also be some useless junk that you don’t want to get stuck with (Garage Sale items are non-returnable). Make sure you read the tag that describes why the item has been returned. Some items will be in perfect shape and were only returned because they were “too big” or “the wrong color.” The best deals can be found on items with small, fixable flaws, like a tent with one missing pole, boots with a torn shoelace, or packs with a missing buckle. These items will be deeply discounted, and often still under warranty, so getting them fixed or even replaced will be a breeze.
Stay away from shoes that have been worn in, nonworking electronics, bikes with damaged frames or anything with a broken zipper (unless you are sure it is still under warranty).
Also, make sure you try everything on. Wear shoes that slip on and off easily, and thin layers so you can try pants, shirts and jackets on without having to get a fitting room.
You might wait two hours and come out with a full load of spring trekking gear for less than $200, or you might wait four hours and come out with nothing but a discounted Clif bar. Like any experienced traveler or outdoor adventurer, you should hope for the best and be prepared for the worst