REI Garage Sale: Tips for First-Timers

REI Garage Sale San Francisco - Tips

Last weekend, I attended my very first REI Garage Sale at the San Francisco store. I know, I know, I’m way behind on this one! From what I read online beforehand, it sounds like the structure and formats of these sales tend to change over time. I wanted to write a post detailing my experience with this location and hopefully provide helpful tips for those looking to join in the near future.

When’s the next REI Garage Sale?

While many stores will host garage sales on the same dates, this isn’t always the case. Your best bet is to check your local REI’s event page on the website. For example, the San Francisco REI Events Page has a list of all upcoming events, including the next sale on Saturday, October, 21 2017. It looks like the San Francisco store has garage sales every two months – if you can’t make it to one, you won’t have to wait too long for the next sale.

What time do I need to show up?

I’d read online about people camping overnight for these sales and was concerned that my attempt would be futile. However, my boyfriend and I showed up at 6am and were 2nd and 3rd in line. By 6:30am, there were still less than ten people in line, which was surprising. Most people started showing up around 7am, an hour before the sale was scheduled to start.


Above: Most items were set up outside by 7:30AM.

For the San Francisco and Berkeley stores, the garage sale takes place outside – however, if it rains, the sale is cancelled. Having the sale outdoors is convenient, since you can scope out the items while you wait in line and determine your plan of action ahead of time.


Above: As people scouted items from outside the roped area, there were excited whispers of “There are two Jetboils in there!” regarding the closest bin.

How does the queuing system work?

In the past, the store would let 10 – 15 people into the sale area at a time. However, now that they’ve moved the sale outside, everyone is let in at once, so it definitely pays to be towards the front of the line! At exactly 8AM, they began moving us into the area – while everyone was civilized, folks definitely picked up their pace to beeline to their priority items.


Above: Line forming to the left, sales section on the right.

What’s for sale?

All kinds of gear and clothing. Keep in mind seasonality – for this particular sale in April, there were a lot of winter and snow goods. A sampling of items included:

Update: A few more items I snagged from the August sale include –

Every item will have a tag displaying retail price, marked down price and reason for return. Since we were one of the first ones into the sale, we snagged both the MSR Windburner and Jetboil. We ultimately handed them off to someone else, since we were iffy on the return reason. All items are final sale, so inspect everything thoroughly!


Above: front to back – luggage, backpacks, tents, skis, snowboards, bike racks.

For tents, folks were allowed to set them up outside the sale area to check for any defects or broken/missing parts. With the backpacks, we were allowed to take them inside the store to test them with weights. As you can see above, there was a healthy section of backpacks – at least five Osprey Aura 50 AG backpacks were included in the mix. This section cleared out within the first minute or so, with most people (myself included) grabbing 3 or 4 packs to inspect and try on. I was debating between the Aura 50 and Kyte 46 – I ended up going with the Kyte 46 and passed the Aura 50 to someone who was looking for a pack for his wife. If you’re looking for an item that someone else, it’s definitely worth asking if you can take their discards!

What’s not for sale?

In California, there are regulations restricting the sale of used bedding materials. Unfortunately, this means that you won’t find any sleeping bags or sleeping pads at the garage sales here – instead, they’re shipped to other states and sold there.

Final Notes

Lastly, it’s important to manage your expectations. While garage sales in the past yielded like-new items for pennies on the dollar, most of the items I saw this time around were around 30 – 60% off retail price. For example, a worn once Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater was marked down to $130 from $220. While still a great deal, it’s only about $20 cheaper than some of the spring sale prices I’ve seen for new condition clothing.

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