REI Garage Sale // What To Know Before You Go!

REI Garage Sale __ What to Know Before You Go!

REI Garage Sales 

If you are into outdoor gear than you are used to the sticker shock that comes with buying quality equipment. 

So it is no wonder that REI garage sales are becoming America’s worst kept secret for unbelievable deals on recreational equipment. 

A couple of times a year, REI corporate organizes local REI store garage sales to sell all of those returned items they’ve collected for deeply discounted prices. 

Some higher volume stores have a local garage sale almost every month with corporate coordinating at least four to six a year for each individual store. 

Unfortunately, the word is out about these amazing steals and if you hope to get one of the really good deals, you’ll have to do a little planning ahead of time. 

We will discuss multiple pre-game strategies to maximize your chances of scoring that $1,500 mountain bike you’ve been eyeing for half the price or how to get a down jacket for $50 at the next members-only clearance sale.

It takes a plan once you are inside to identify and claim those high ticket items in the first few minutes and walk away a big winner. 

This article will give you insight into how to prepare before the big sale, common standing in line strategies, what to expect when you enter the REI garage sale area, and a strategic plan to use to maximize your chances of getting a deal on the expensive gear.

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What Is REI Garage Sale?

I almost died (twice) at my first garage sale. Seriously…

Who would have thought that REI would bring danger to outdoor adventuring in their very own parking lot! 

Pandamonium would be a good way to describe this unicorn of a clearance sale, yes, the deals are that good. 

My first sale I witnessed vehicles running over mediums trying to get to parking spaces and a general lack of concern for the pedestrians in the way of vehicles attempting to get a parking spot. 

Which brings me to my first word of advice, pay fucking attention while you walk to the line! 

If you don’t, you will get run over which will undoubtedly slow you down as you race to get to the best deals. 

rei-garage-sale-near-me

The sale is going to go on whether you are laying in the parking lot dead or limping around on a bloody stump, so don’t get hit. 

This sale is a bit cra-cra...

You can help stop this madness by not being the asshole running over mediums or mowing down groups of soccer moms for 10 points. 

Plus, there is a high probability that you awkwardly end up in line with anyone who had to parkour out of your way as you two-wheeled it into the parking lot. 

Once in line you will slowly file into the cordoned off garage sale area and be allowed to madly dash around trying to find a great deal. 

Keep in mind that the tags on the clearance recreational equipment are color-coded to indicate the reason for the return. 

Green: New, smallest discounts. 


Blue: Used and in good condition, medium discounts. 


Yellow: Reported damaged at the time of return and heavily discounted. Most tags you will find will be yellow. Look real close for any defects but don’t be surprised if you can’t find one.


 Red: Broken, good for spare parts or if you are handy. Super discounted.
rei-garage-sale-return-label-color-meanings

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Check Often For Latest Deals Which Sellout Fast

When Should I Get In Line For REI Garage Sale

The most popular question we are asked is, ‘When should I get in line for the REI garage sale?’

Unfortunately, the answer differs based on your local store’s size and the gear you are hoping to get. 

Some stores are in much smaller areas and their garage sales don’t generate as many people so you can show up an hour before the sale (usually at 8 am on Saturdays) and still have a good chance of a big score. 

Other REI stores in large metropolitan areas will have people start camping out the afternoon before the sale. 

If you are coming for a specific high ticketed item, you should plan on trying to be one of the first people inside which will require an overnight stay at the stores in bigger cities. 

You’ll want to get there early if you want an expensive specific piece of gear because there probably will only be a one or two available and everyone in that line is probably looking for,  or at least, won’t pass up those types of deals. 

A great example is Yetti coolers, they are super expensive but for some reason are returned in droves to REI and sold for half price at the garage sales. 

rei-lifetime-membership

Everyone in that line wants one of those Yetti’s for half the price but only the first group inside is going to get one. 

But, if you are just looking around for a good deal on clothes, backpacks, shoes (tons of shoes!) or whatever, cruise by whenever. 

If you really are serious, the growing trend we are seeing is that people show up the afternoon before the garage sale and put their chair in front of the line and disappear. 

Most of them return to their car to sleep and wait until the sale starts in the morning. 

Some people will bring a tent and sleep right there in line but most people just put down a chair and some personal items and sleep in their car. 

If this seems like too much of a commitment then the next best alternative would be to show up between 4 and 5 am. 

If you are in a big city the line is pretty long by 6 am but for some reason coming only an hour or two earlier usually will get pretty close to the front of the line. 

Keep in mind that I have found a bunch of great deals on clothes over the years hours after the garage sale started once the chaos has died down. 

A good first-timer plan is to show up an hour before the garage sale opens to get a feel for the experience. 

However, the people who tend to get the best deals do come early, often, and with a plan…

REI Garage Sale Tips & Strategies

A week before the sale we make a list of all of the gear we are looking for and list them with the highest cost items at the top. 

We visit REI and look at the packaging of the gear we are hoping to find at the upcoming garage sale so that we can more easily identify them as they are thrown into their respective piles. 

Knowing the difference between the packaging of say a Nemo Dagger or Nemo Hornet can be the few seconds you need to beat the guy next to you to your dream tent at half the price. 

The REI crew will start to set up all of the recreational equipment and clothes around 6 am. 

This is a prime time to stand outside the barriers and identify where your top choice gear may be put. 

rei-garage-sale-morning

Feel free to use your camera to zoom in on tags and piles of gear to see if what you want is there. 

We take many pictures during this time and spend time scrutinizing the gear labels and even the REI sale tags. 

Once we have identified the gear that is available we will discuss our strategy for getting to each item on our list as quickly as possible. 

Usually, this involves splitting up the list by areas and grabbing the closest item in each area as we work our assigned grid. 

It is not uncommon for us to save $300-$600 at each garage sale just by planning ahead and sticking to these strategies.

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed For One Year From Purchase

Check Often For Latest Deals Which Sellout Fast

REI Garage Sale Dates & Times

It seems like no one REI store is alike. 

Many have different regular store hours and garage sale dates. 

The start times of the garage sales range from 7 am to 11 am with them finishing as early as noon or as late as 5 pm. 

To find out your favorite REI's garage sale dates and times, check out our article about Garage Sale Dates & Times By Stores

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