I found all the men! Oh, and the gear.

It’s Day 2 of captivity, and my mental state has deteriorated rapidly. Oh Sandy, can’t you see, I sit and wonder why-y-y, oh why you won’t leave me, oh Sandy. Crud, there goes another fingernail. I didn’t even realize I was nibbling on it. The Metro’s still not running, which means another day out of the office, and I refuse to complain about the distance between my cubicle and me. The weather is improving though, so I’ll give it a few hours and then go outside for a walk. I have to get out of this apartment, but in the meantime, I might as well play around with my new toys.

Last Saturday I woke up early to go stand in line for tickets to the REI attic sale in Fairfax, VA. As a member-owned co-op, REI’s return policy is very liberal. Members can return items in any state of repair, even if they’ve used the product for years. And then the store hosts member-only sales (I’ve heard them called “attic sales” or “garage sales”) on a regular basis (about once a month at the Fairfax store), selling used items at a major discount. The only downside is you cannot return purchases. It’s disappointing on occasion to see items returned by people who abused the system (tagged with explanations like “Used for years. Didn’t want it anymore.”), but it often means you can snag a great deal.

I’ve been to these sales before but always later in the day when the selection is supposedly picked over. Mind you, I’ve gotten some great buys (never-worn Merrell hiking boots for $20?!). By that reasoning, I figured the early-morning deals might be mind-blowing. The catch is that they hand out tickets at 8AM and only allow a certain number of people in at a time – at least until all of the ticketed members have filtered through. So I arrived at 7 and took my place in line.

Any ladies reading this, let me tell you, if you happen to be looking for a man, I found out where they all hang out. They’re all standing (or sitting in camp chairs) in line at your local REI on early Saturday mornings. Young, old, thin, fat…like hot cakes: come and get ’em. The demographic was at least 95% male, which was highly amusing given that one doesn’t often see men excited about shopping. Then again, one doesn’t often see ME excited about shopping either, so there must be something about REI. <fluttery eyes> I’m in love.

After making friends in line (well, I wasn’t gonna just twiddle my thumbs for an hour) and being bestowed upon with a Group 4 ticket, I went to Wegman’s (grocery store) nearby to bide my time. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, REI doesn’t open until 10 on Saturdays. It turns out you really have to be committed to this lunacy to get a great deal.

When all was said and done, I finally got into the sale area at 10:45. I’m not sure what I was expecting (people punching each other over the one kayak?), but it seems attic sales bring out the best in people. I went to check out the tents, and a fellow shopper asked me what I was looking for. When I didn’t find it, I went over to the pants to sift through the selection. Not two minutes later did he tap me on the shoulder with the two-person version of the tent. So thoughtful!

After an hour and a half poking around and trying on clothes, I made out with the following:

  • Columbia brand zip-off hiking pants that fit me perfectly around the ankle and also miraculously in the waist. Since I’m short and kind of square, it’s nearly impossible to find pants that meet those two criteria. They were returned because they were worn once/washed but didn’t fit. $55 new. I paid $9.83.
  • REI brand zip-off hiking pants that are a little snug around the waist but perfect at the ankle. I’ll lose weight on the trail, and (because my weight varies up/down by a few pounds I know) it tends to go from my waist. At that point, I’ll swap out the Columbia pair for this pair. Returned for poor fit. $64.50 new. I paid $16.83.
  • Sierra Designs Microlight wind/rain pants. Perfect at ankle and waist. Miracle of miracles. Even though they’re not labeled “waterproof,” the reviews on REI’s website indicate that they functionally are. They’re also light at 6.8 ounces. Returned for poor fit. $34 new. I paid $6.83.

    Zip-off pants always make a woman’s knees look so attractive. And who can resist the garbage bag look of rain pants?

I also snagged a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent (care of that guy I mentioned). I really wanted the UL1 since it’s made for one person and 4 ounces lighter, but there were none. A major downside is that the employees managing the sale would not let me set it up for lack of space. I took a chance, hoping the “small holes” described on the tag were overblown. The UL2 retails at $370. I paid $80.83.

I don’t think my roommate would mind if I left the tent up. It’s not in the way or anything, right?

And as long as this hurricane has me climbing up the walls, I figured I might as well set it up inside to check. My overall assessment is:
  • easiest tent I’ve ever set up. It literally took me 60 seconds.
  • holes (two) each really a slice just shy of an inch. If I stick with it, I’m going to have to figure out how to patch them.
  • 10 more inches in width and 2 square feet more of vestibule space than the UL1.  And including the footprint, at 2 pounds 7 ounces it weighs 5 ounces more than the UL1. Also, when packed, it takes up 3 more inches in length than the UL1.

Maybe I’ll feel better if I think of this hole as a skylight.

I purchased this tent on a whim, and I’m still not sure if it’s exactly what I want. With the extra weight, the bigger packed size, and the holes, it may be more trouble than it’s worth for such a long distance trek. I realize that it’s a fairly expensive impulse purchase to have made, but I know someone will be able to use it, if not me. I’ll definitely be able to sell it for my purchase price.

Oh well, I’ll figure it out eventually. Luckily for the time being I have the tent set up, ya know, for protection from this ferocious Frankenstorm.

Meandering on,


P.S. – This post was written yesterday (Tuesday, October 30). Storm’s over, and all’s well.


18 thoughts on “I found all the men! Oh, and the gear.

  1. Personally, I think you made a good purchase. You’ll add a few tears on a trip that long anyway. This will give you practice on knowing what kind of tent repair items you want to take with you.

    Does it have a rain fly? I had a similar one person tent once-with a screened top (can’t tell but photo looks like yours is similar?) I loved it on clear nights because I could see the stars. It had a separate rain fly for nights you anticipated rain.

    There’s no perfect gear. There’s always a trade off. Best advice I ever got was to use the stuff that has downsides you are willing to deal with. Maybe the few extra ounces will pay off because you can fit more gear inside… very important in the rain.

    • It does have a rain fly. Good thoughts…not opposed to a little extra space. It’s just I’m try to get weight down a little. I know it’ll be hard with the sleeping bag since I’m allergic to down feathers so have to go with (heavier) synthetic. But that extra space…I’ll have to think on it.

  2. I had no idea REI had that type of return policy. We have one in our area. I wonder if there is a similar sale set up in this area. I’ve never hiked overnight, but my opinion on the whole tent situation is to make sure you get EXACTLY what you’re looking for (even if you end up losing a few bucks). Will you have opportunities to go out and test this tent before your thru-hike?

  3. You can check upcoming events (including member sales) for your local REI on the rei.com website. Lifetime membership is only $20…

    Yes, I’ll definitely test it out pre-departure.

  4. Pingback: Good thing I braved the weather. More REI Exaltations! « My Meandering Trail

  5. I’m now reading your blog’s to my wife and we are both laughing at your humor. Great choice on the Big Agnes 2. I used a Nemo Meta 1 and If I had to do it over again, I would use the BA 2 person. The Big Agnes is probably the most possible and durable tent on the AT. Some very smart people opted for the BA 2 person for the extra room and reasoned the extra few ounces would be worth it. They were happy they did so. I tip, if you are going to use a heavy filter pump, ditch it and use a steripen and save the ounces there. You can get away without using a ground cover and save the ounces there as well. Most places you will set up a tent have been well cleared by people who have tented in that area and the ground is free of debris.

    • Oh great! I was planning on ditching the footprint. Thanks for the validation. And I think I’m going to try Aquamira for the water…assuming it doesn’t taste terrible.

      • Aquamira was very popular on the trail. Oh, and while I’m thinking of it. You will have cell reception on most of the trail. You can text or make calls on most days. However, If you don’t have Verizon as a your service provider you will have a tougher time getting a signal from Georgia to Virginia. Verizon owns most of the towers in the south and blocks other service providers such as ATT. So if you don’t already use Verizon, I suggest that you switch to Verizon if you can.

  6. Pingback: I slept in the backyard drunk. Now I’m totally ready to hike the A.T.! « My Meandering Trail

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