A few nights back REI had a scratch and dent sale. Here they call 'em garage sales. Either way, it's their awesome sales where they sell off all the returned used gear at significant discounts. In GA they don't let you camp out over night, but at this store they do. I was pretty surprised and made sure to check with several people about this. The day before the sale, they started getting everything prepared and I had a chance to scope out the gear and see what was available... backpacks, sleeping bags, pillows, camping gear, clothing, lots and lots of shoes, snowshoes, tents, and all the typical goodies you'd expect to see.
The REI peeps mentioned that the first people usually start showing up at about 5:30-6 and given that they were going to start doing these things every 2 months instead of every 3, there would be less of a need to camp out. heh.. I got there at 10pm. :D
I didn't actually need any gear (which people the next morning thought was hilarious when they found out what time I'd gotten there)... I just wanted to have the experience of camping out overnight for one of these, plus it's fun talking to people in line and it was a fresh new different place to sleep!
The forecast called for 2-4 inches of snow and 20-30mph winds. I had my tent at the ready in the car in case I needed it, but didn't want to set up the whole shebang if I didn't need to. If you look at the photo, you'll notice that there was a protective overhang conveniently covering this area up. I also pointed the sleeping bag out to allow for more people to huddle in under the overhang in the morning in case the weather was coming down. My night essentials, including blindfold for the streetlights.. a little trick I picked up along the way, water to sip on at night, my cameraphone, keys (zipped into the sleeping bag pocket), and a waterproof jacket in case I had to run back to my car in the rain/snow to grab my tent.
It started drizzling shortly after I set up my sleeping bag and the wind was blowing it towards me, so I wound up turning my sleeping bag 90 degrees and tucking it close to the wall. You don't want a down sleeping bag getting wet! A bivy would come in handy.. basically a protective weatherproof bag that you can sleeping bag into and bivy need a tent. Great for ultralight camping. I carry a small emergency bivy in my daypack for warmth and protection from the elements in case I have to spend an unplanned night out in the backcountry and I don't have my overnight gear with me.
Anyways, the first couple arrived at 4:30am and slowly started shuffling in until 7am which is when more and more people really started to pile in.
The weather turned out being pretty awesome. No major precipitation and all was well! When I finally woke up and got all my gear stowed away, I went across the street to Panera and had a delicious french toast flavored bagel with scrambled egg. It was such a tasty way to start the morning! I love cool new foods like that... :)
By 9am when the doors opened, there were hundreds of people in line. Walking in, I headed straight towards the camping, eyeing the shoes as they passed by. There was a compactable camp pillow I'd spotted the night before that I grabbed as well as an ultralight tent I'd wanted for quite a while, an REI QuarterDome tent. Taking it out into the store to set it up, it was in pretty good shape, all things considered given that it was 3 years old. That's right.. the guy returned the tent 3 years later and got his money back! The reason for the return was that the poles were really hard to get locked in and yeah, they really were. It also needed a few minor repairs, but I just didn't need a second tent, and the weight savings of a pound or two wouldn't be a big deal given that I don't typically hike long distances with my tent.. :)
After deciding against the tent, I brought it back to the camping area. I remember going to these sales before and being closer to the back of the line and thinking that all the good stuff would have been snatched up early on. Well, someone who came later scooped up an awesome tent. As the saying goes, good things come to people who wait. :)
I also wound up picking up a third pair of trailrunners. haha... These were the Salomon XA Comp 4 GTX, the black shoes I show in this video I recently published showing my collection of hiking footwear. I wear a pair of size 9's in Salomon's shoes and at first found a pair of 9.5's which were just a touch too big. Given that I didn't really need the shoes, I set them aside. Well it turns out they have a LOT of shoes at the sale and just aren't able to bring them all out at once, so they keep bringing more out front as the current ones get snatched up and sold. Well wouldn't you know it, they brought out a pair of size 9's. I had just gotten a slightly better version of the shoe with a little more support in the sole during REI's recent 20% off sale and they have become my favorite shoes, but I was happy to get another pair of waterproof shoes to not put as much wear and tear on my good ones. These are so handy for walking around in Colorado weather. Here we have several times recently gotten sunny skies, rain, hail, and snow all in one day! Plus it's nice having waterproof shoes for when you feel like walking through a creek or splashing through a puddle in the middle of the day. :) So yeah, I picked up a virtually new pair of $125 shoes for $49. Pretty sweet!