Over the weekend, we camped out at our local REI for one of their garage sales. You can read the first part of the experience here. The weather was quite warm which led to a smaller than usual turnout, but the event still drew a large crowd. This REI location had also had another Garage Sale recently, which may have contributed to the smaller crowd. The selection of items was surprisingly good considering how recently they had a sale.
My husband arrived the day before the sale at around noon. REI employees remarked that he may have set a store record! The second person, Ruth, arrived just before 4 PM. We have seen Ruth at previous Garage Sales, and she is always among the first to arrive. The 3rd person arrived around 7 PM, and the 4th by 8 PM. My son and I joined the crowd around 10 PM, after 3 hours of driving to pick my son up from Boy Scout camp. By midnight, there were 9 campers, and the number stayed the same until about 5 AM. As usual, the crowds started to roll in with the sunrise, and the line grew quite a bit. The turn out was smaller than normal, and I would attribute that to the heat wave that settled in on Maryland that weekend. Don’t tell the shoppers who showed up late, but the temperature was actually quite comfortable overnight.
We set up camp right next to the front doors. We were hardly roughing it, and our camp setup felt more like a cozy living room. We had brought our Dyson fan, since my husband and his service dog were lined up during the 100°+ daylight hours. We brought our Goal Zero Yeti solar generator to power the fan, but we lucked out and found an AC outlet right next to us. Probably not designed for REI campers, but we appreciated it! We brought our Yeti Roadie to keep drinks ice cold. Our OZ Tent Jet Pilot and GCI rocker chairs were extremely comfortable, and our Exped MegaMat mattress made the concrete almost as comfortable as our bed at home. We hung our Eno Lounger from the rafters at the front door, and prayed that we didn’t collapse REI’s awning. Every one of those items, with the exception of the Pilot chair, is sold at REI. We joked that next time we will bring a projector and a large white sheet, to project a movie for all the campers to enjoy. Initially it was a joke, but in reality, we will probably do it next time around. What a fun idea!
An easily overlooked, but critical component of camping overnight is access to a bathroom after hours. During store hours, you can go inside the REI store and relieve yourself, wash up, and fill up your water bottle, but after hours, you need a plan. You won’t get much sleep, so the chances are good that you will need to use a bathroom at least once overnight. Scope out the area before you set up camp and find out what is open 24 hours. At our REI, there is a Dunkin Donuts around the corner that is open 24/7. I hopped in the car (I do not recommend walking anywhere alone that late at night) and shot across the road several times, fueling up with coffees, donuts, and clean bathrooms. Heavenly. We were also starving by 10 PM, since none of us had really eaten dinner, so my husband ran out to a local Chinese joint that was open late and brought dinner back. That completed our living room picture – sitting around eating Chinese food and watching videos on our iPhones. All the comforts of home. Our neighbors were kind enough to watch our stuff when my husband was alone and needed a bathroom break, and of course, he returned the favor to other campers.
By 6:30 AM, all of the campers were awake and packing up their gear. At 7 AM an REI employee greeted us and began handing out tickets to those in line. Tickets grant admission to the sale in 15 minute waves. Each wave consists of about 15 people. Those first in line got tickets for the first wave at 8 AM, and those at the end of the line were probably closer to the 9 and 10 AM waves. The store is open for shoppers to browse while they wait for their turn to go back into the Garage Sale. Sometimes, the sale is held in the back stock room, other times, it is held out on the loading docks. Either way, the sale items are kept behind closed doors and are top secret until the sale begins!
We usually come to these sales without any expectations or needs. There are always a few items that we could use, or items that could stand to be upgraded, so we keep our eyes open for those opportunities. We have 3 kids, 4, now that my step-daughter is engaged. All have some degree of outdoor adventures. My son is a very active Boy Scout who camps at least one weekend per month. This summer he has spent 3 full weeks camping, in addition to his usual weekend camping. He sometimes misplaces or breaks his gear, but his activity levels justify upgrades. He goes through hiking boots like cheap flip flops. Our other daughter and her fiancé have started to turn over a new adventure leaf and have begun car camping and hiking. She enjoys outdoor photography, and he enjoys hunting and the woods. Together they are spending more and more time exploring nearby parks, and their needs for their own equipment are starting to grow. Our youngest daughter is a sports fanatic, but also enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing. My husband and I, well, we thoroughly enjoy all aspects of the outdoors. Maybe a little too much! We try to foster the love for the outdoors within our kids, too. To get to the point, we spend a lot of time outdoors, and although we do not particularly need anything, there are lots of things we could use.
Most Garage Sale campers seem to have an agenda. Those that we have spoken to all have an idea of what they are looking for, or a purpose. Ruth, our friendly Garage Sale neighbor, was looking for a backpack for her boyfriend. Some were looking for new hiking boots, or a gently used tent. The odds are pretty good that you will find something at the sale, but the condition of the item is up in the air. Some items are like-new, others have been run through the wringer. Tents have a tendency to have rips or bent poles. Clothing is often torn or stained. Air mattresses may need to be patched. These items are always found at the Garage Sale, and almost always in that condition. The prices, though, are usually low enough to justify a repair. An air mattress patch might set you back $5, but may save you $100. A stuck zipper on a fancy jacket might just need a little patience, or a tear might only need a small stitch in an underarm seam. Hiking boots can range from brand new to thoroughly used. Other items that we always find at the sales include roof racks and roof rack accessories from Thule and Yakima, hitch mounted bike carriers, car top cargo carriers, wheels and tires for bicycles, camp stools and chairs, backpacks, and loads of small items such as small bicycle parts, headlamps, watches, sunglasses, mittens, and tools. Occasionally we find kayaks, paddles, bikes, GoPro accessories, and phone cases. Our local store does not carry ski and snowboard equipment, but another local store does. We have stopped at that location’s Garage Sale and also found ski and snowboard equipment and clothing.
The doors to Eden opened at 8 AM, and immediately I spotted a Bote Traveller paddle board. I sent my husband over to claim it right away. SCORE!!!!!!!! We also saw an Oru Folding Kayak, still in the box, which we also nabbed. We grabbed an Eno Hammock Stand and Yeti Hopper cooler, both of which have been on my husbands wishlist for a while. We found an Eno hammock, which we didn’t thoroughly inspect, and later found has a large tear right in the middle of it. No worries, we can sew it up. My son found a Mio Alpha 2 heart rate monitor watch. I found an REI Traverse daypack, with a NPS Centennial logo, to replace my son’s, which he has outgrown. I was hoping to find one, and excited to find one that was like-new. We also found a daypack that our daughter had her eye on that was gently used. Other small goodies include a stuff sack set, Ergon GP2 bike grips, a solar lantern for my SUP, and a bike bag. Overall, we saved around 65%, and all but the Eno Hammock were in excellent or like-new condition. When broken down, we saved more like 80% on the smaller items, and 50-60% on the larger, high-end items, all of which were incredible bargains.
We grabbed our item limit pretty quickly, and headed out into the store to do visual inspections. The Bote SUP had numerous scratches but was overall in excellent condition for the asking price. The kayak appeared to be like-new. The Yeti Hopper was like-new. We quickly looked over the items and paid. Obviously we didn’t check the Eno hammock very well, because we would have thrown that one back in the pond. At a Garage Sale, you can expect to see shoppers spread out in every corner of the store as they scour over their gear. People are setting up tents in the shoe department. We saw someone setting up another folding kayak in the sleeping bag section. This is your opportunity to look over what you grabbed and make a decision before you pay. You pay at the cash register, not as you leave the sale. So a big piece of advise is: don’t waste time making big decisions in the Garage Sale, unless you are at your 5 item limit, take it with you back into the store and make your decision there. Otherwise, you will not only be in other shoppers’ way, but you will waste precious time out of your 15 minute window.
When we got home, we spread out our loot once more. We lay out each item and giggle over our good fortune. We test out the items and giggle some more. We immediately washed the SUP that we found, and were so excited to see nearly every scratch and imperfection wash away. The board turned out to be like-new, and take it from someone who is obsessed with paddle boards, this is a VERY nice board.
Another successful Garage Sale in the books. We can’t wait for the next one. If you are on the fence, I suggest checking one out. You don’t have to camp overnight to score great deals. Unless you are in the first wave, the selection will change with each wave. Items that were picked up in the prior waves will make their way back to the Garage Sale later in the day. Remember all of those people you passed that were checking out their gear in the store? They haven’t made up their minds about the item and the price yet, so the chances are good that a percentage of those items will go back into the Garage Sale for others to buy. So go check it out. Get there no later than 2 PM, but the earlier the better. Look around the store, grab a bite to eat, and check out the sale. I am certain you will find at least one item that you are interested in!