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Stuart Peck is a freelance writer and video producer who specializes in outdoor, travel, corporate and commercial messaging and branding.  He has written for national magazines, video copy for healthcare and other corporate videos.  He also provides production support for commercials and TV shows.  

Filtering by Category: Random Ramblings

REI reevaluates its return policy

REI revises return policy.  You can no longer return your 10 year old pair of underwear because you don't like the style.  

Ok, so we all have that old piece of gear which we've worn to death for the better part of five, 10, maybe 15+ years.  Maybe it's an old puffy down vest that served us well as a mid layer on many winter hikes.  Perhaps a stove, charred black on the burner from years of flames and use.  Maybe even a pair of tattered hiking boots with a missing shoe lace from when you had to strangle a bear with your bare hands because it tried to steal one of your kids.  Whatever the gear, It has seen better days and for whatever the reason REI, arguably the largest and most popular outdoor retailer in the world has taken it back.  That's because until recently REI's return policy has been return any merchandise, anytime, no questions asked.  However now the retailer is calling foul on the more than generous policy.    

Really?  You can take in a five year old pair of gaiters because you no longer like the style and some green vested kid behind the counter will give you store credit (which is worth its weight in gold to the avid gear junkie)?  Recently I popped into my local REI during one of their garage sales they do semi-frequently and watched the feeding frenzy.  This sale is member exclusive and offers patrons the chance to buy returned merchandise at deeply discounted prices.  What I saw reinforced why REI has changed its policy.  Boots from circa 1995 that looked like they had hiked around the world several times, jackets and shirts with stains (from your camping trip dinner... not from the factory) and underwear... yes... underwear.  Reading some of the tags with descriptions on why these items were returned was rather amusing.    

"Customer didn't like the color" 

 "Not the right style"

And my favorite...  

"Nothing wrong with the item" 

Now I understand that sometimes you get something home, pull it out of the box, try it on and think... this isn't what I had in mind.  That's when it goes back to the store, NOT FIVE YEARS LATER!  How do you buy a jacket in 2010 and in 2013 decide you don't like the color?  Sure that pair of whitey tightey technical underpants was in style... in 1995... what'd you expect 10 years later and who wants your decade old briefs anyway?  

Talking to one of the employees he said there have been several people upset by REI's decision to be more conservative about the policy change.  I for one think it's disappointing that some people would take advantage of this policy and ruin it for the masses.  This is a store which already strives to treat customers (and its members especially) pretty awesome with deals throughout the year.  Its new more "conservative" return policy is one year.  Compare that time limit to most stores which vary from 30 to 90 days. Why getting sweet gear at competitive prices isn't enough... I don't know.  I for one like to see how long I can keep my gear before it absolutely disintegrates.    

What are your thoughts?  Are you ok with REI's new return policy?   


Five things every backpacker needs that they don’t know they need.

The greatest backpacking book of all time.  

Every trek I take, into the woods, usually begins with me remembering that one item I left off my pre-hike check list.  That one item I wish I was carrying.  That one item I’m going to think about the entire trip.  Gear lists can be thorough but I’ve compiled a few things often overlooked on most lists.  I hope this helps as you plan your next backpacking trip.    


1. Two tents, three sleeping bags or five jackets

When hiking you can only use one tent and one sleeping bag at a time, but multiple jackets (see layering), so it only makes sense to have a couple spare laying around.  You’ll be glad you did... especially as you get into camp and decide you want to use the green sleeping bag with the yellow tent.  Having color coordinated gear in the middle of no where is like having many leather bound books.    

2. Those little clippy things climbers use

I would recommend carrying at least five or six to be on the safe side.  They only add a couple pounds to your pack weight and you just never know when you’ll need to clip something to the outside of your pack or climb a cliff face on your trip.  Actually bring closer to 10...

3. A hand gun

Only the most serious of backpackers carry one of these when they go into the woods for a weekend outing or a two week expedition.  The space and extra weight it takes up in your pack will be well worth it when you need it to kill your dinner or a questionable “hiker” in the shelter during the night.  Carry one when you complete your through hike of the Appalachian Trail because it only takes two clips of direct hits to take down an 800 pound grizzly.  

4. Camping chair

After a long day of hiking in the wilderness, you want to be comfortable at night... right?  The more extravagant the better.  Honestly, if it doesn’t have an extendable foot rest what’s the point of bringing it.  One of those chairs with a little roof over it to keep you dry during a driving rain is also convenient.  

5. War and Peace (first edition)

After dinner but before bed there is usually a little time to get in some reading inside one of your many tents.  No one just wants to stare at the stars or watch the sunset before going to bed.  If War and Peace isn’t your thing a brick is just as interesting.      

If I’ve left off any vital items, please list them below... I want everyone to have the most extensive list possible.

It takes a special person

With every adventure... we're adding to our wall.  She looks happy in all our pictures (I think she's actually enjoying the crazy things we do).

When I met my wife, I will admit, one of the things I thought pretty soon after we started dating was ‘awesome, now I have a climbing partner’ - I didn’t tell her that... but that’s what I was thinking.  We dated and did a good deal of climbing. Even now, most of the time when I bring up the idea of taking yet another trip to go climbing her response is almost always positive.  Occasionally, she’ll even bring up the idea of taking a weekend trip, which makes me think she may actually enjoy our not-so-normal hobbies.

So what exactly does true love look like?  In my case, it looks like a woman who puts up with my crazy antics and ideas.  It’s a person who stands by and rolls her eyes when I suggest we take a five day hike as a way to celebrate our anniversary.  I’ve met some women who shutter at the thought of even standing outside for extended periods of time.  My wife didn’t shower for five days while we hiked in the 95 degree heat and slept on the ground... and we didn’t get a divorce after that trip was over, to me that’s true love.  

It takes a special person to hang off the side of a cliff and still smile at the end of the day and say ‘I had a good time’.  It takes a special person to sleep outside, get up at 6:00 a.m. and walk all day, on a Saturday, when she could be sleeping in until 10:00 in a climate controlled room.  I’m 100% sure I’ve found that special person.    

We have a wall in our house with photos from our big adventures.  It’s small now... but growing.  I often times find myself standing in front of it, as a I brush my teeth at night, looking at the pictures and smiling.  We’re happy in each one of them.  I think I’ve found a keeper. What’s true love look like to you?  It’s completely different for each person.