If you’ve ever had to buy anything for an outdoor activity, be it hiking, fishing, or snowboarding, then you’ve probably ended up at REI. The famous co-op, with its large selection of gear from the best outdoor brands, inspires you to get outside and supplies you with everything necessary to enjoy it.
Unlike your typical retailer, it’s also well-known for its stewardship efforts, which range from investing in rewilding projects to establishing product sustainability standards.
REI’s Used Gear section is an important and growing part of these stewardship efforts by extending the lifespan of a product and thus reducing the environmental impact of shopping. It also reduces the financial cost of outdoor activities and makes finding used goods more convenient.
The shop features an ever-rotating collection of used men’s, women’s, and kid’s clothing, as well as a large variety of used outdoor gear. Before you buy a shiny new tent or pair of outdoor sandals, consider checking REI Used Gear first to see if you can find a pre-loved and less expensive version (embarking on an outdoor trip in gear that looks like it’s never seen the light of day is suspect, anyway).
Browsing REI Used Gear has been described as an online treasure hunt because not all sizes or colors of a given product are available and products sell quickly, so be prepared for a bit of a shopping adventure.
It’s more affordable. According to REI, price is the number one barrier to people getting outside. In order to fully inspire the sentiment that “a life outdoors is a life well-lived,” it needed to lower the barriers of entry to enable that life.
REI Used Gear products are sold at a fraction of their retail price — an $8 Manduka shirt (originally $34), a $47 pair of Merrell hiking shoes (originally $130), for example — to give more people access to the clothing and equipment they need to enjoy the outdoors.
It’s less wasteful. As the global climate change crisis accelerates, both retailers and customers must shift away from wasteful practices of production and consumption toward sustainable alternatives like reusing and recycling.
Peter Whitcomb, REI’s director of new business strategy, strongly believes in the idea that “anything you’d ever need already exists.” Taking advantage of existing resources — in other words, the clothes and equipment that are already in the ecosystem — means that you, the customer, become REI’s vendor or supplier.
It’s more convenient. The idea of buying and selling used clothing and equipment isn’t new — people have been doing it for years through garage sales and thrift stores.
However, with REI’s fast, organized, and user-friendly online platform facilitating searches and transactions, it becomes much easier for anyone looking for a specific item to find and receive it.
It’s still high-quality. REI’s Used Gear comes from leading names in the outdoor industry, including The North Face, Merrell, Arc’teryx, Marmot, and REI’s own Co-Op brand.
By shopping from the Used Gear section, you’re getting functional, highly durable gear from trusted brands, without the expensive price tag. Although the gear has been previously worn or used, REI works closely with partners like resale platform Yerdle Recommerce to ensure that products meet quality standards and are ready for regular use in the outdoors. Below, we show you what goes into that process.
The types of products that come into the Yerdle warehouse vary greatly, from jackets to backpacks to portable water filters. However, certain products such as climbing equipment are excluded from REI’s Used program due to liability issues.
Each product goes through a detailed inspection process in which the inspector checks its functionality (e.g. whether zippers and clips work) and condition.
Yerdle works with separate cleaning and repair partners for tasks like basic cleaning and sanitation. Bedding products like sleeping bags are required by law to be sanitized according to state standards.
The inspector’s notes about product condition are passed straight onto the REI Used website, and they give each product a rating based on an A-F system (A being “like new” and F being “not sellable”). Higher discounts are given for more heavily worn items. Since all the items are accurately described and customers know exactly what to expect, the warehouse says its overall return rate is low.
Products are then photographed in house and stored on a warehouse shelf until they’re ready to be packed and shipped to the buyer.
While on the warehouse tour, I saw sleeping bags, snow boots, backpacks, jackets, and more on the shelves. Sleeping bags are apparently one of the most popular and quickly moving Used items.
Here’s what the floor of the entire warehouse looks like:
Having shopped on the REI Used Gear site myself, it was interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes and gratifying to observe the level of attention given to preparing these used goods.
While the search for products that fit my style, needs, and sizing wasn’t as easy as shopping for new products, I was impressed with the used gear that I ultimately received. I was able to test most of the clothing and equipment during a camping and hiking trip with REI Adventures, and I often forgot that I was wearing used clothing at all (one of my favorites was this Kuhl Flight Vest).
After the experience, I feel like I’ve been sleeping on used outdoor gear — the next time I want an affordable, sustainable, and convenient alternative to new outdoor goods, I’m shopping at REI’s Used Gear store.
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