I became an REI member 17 years ago right when I finished college and decided I wanted to get more into camping. I remember being in the Seattle store buying my first Gregory pack while the guy in the green vest helped me stuff the pack full of sandbags. Then I walked around the store for a bit before I decided to take the plunge.
Two weeks later, I returned home from my first backpacking trip and, as it turns out, I didn’t like the pack all that much. Luckily I bought it at REI and they have the best no-questions-asked return policy, so I was able to exchange it for something I found to be more comfortable.
Since joining, my Lifetime REI Membership has saved me well over $3000. The annual dividend, their no-questions-asked return policy, member-only sales and coupons, free shipping, used gear trade-in program, and their outdoor skill workshops are just a few of the reasons I shop there and chose to become an REI Member.
I even decided to get a part-time gig at REI in 2014 when I was first starting Bearfoot Theory and I couldn’t believe they gave me three weeks off to go hike the John Muir Trail – proof that the company practices what it preaches.
REI is a 100% member-owned co-op (meaning you get a share of REI’s annual profit) and in this post, I share all of the perks you get as a lifetime REI Member and the benefits that keep me coming back after all of these years.
Sponsored by REI Co-op
REI Co-op is our favorite outdoor gear retailer and a long-time supporter of our work here at Bearfoot Theory. We appreciate their 1-year return policy, their Member-only coupons, and the fact that REI Members receive 10% back on their purchases every year. We only recommend products we truly love and think you will love too.
How the REI Membership Works
A lifetime REI Membership costs $30. It’s a one-time fee and once you’re in, you’re in forever. You can purchase a membership online or at any REI store.
This lifetime membership fee quickly pays for itself, so even if you’re only an occasional REI shopper, becoming a Member will save you money and the benefits easily outweigh the one-time fee.
Why Become a Member?
REI is an industry leader when it comes to top-quality, name-brand, and eco-friendly outdoor gear. They also have a huge product selection, so you don’t have to limit your choices.
Their customer service is unparalleled, their return policy is amazing, and they treat their employees well.
For these reasons and more, REI is exactly the kind of company I love to support – one that supports getting all people outside and teaching them how to do it responsibly.
REI is built on membership and in 2022 they did the biggest revamp of their Membership program yet adding 5 new perks for Members (on top of the existing perks). We can’t stress enough how great becoming a Member is!
12 Great REI Member Benefits
1) Get 10% Back on Your Purchases With Your Annual Dividend
Every year in March, REI Members get 10% back on everything they’ve purchased over the past year, excluding sale items and REI travel, classes, and adventures.
This dividend can be redeemed at an REI store, REI.com, REI Outlet, for an REI adventure travel trip, or via the REI app.
With the 10% dividend, it’s like getting a sale price on every purchase you make from REI!
My REI Member dividend was $137 last year. Every year I look forward to this, especially as we head into summer because there is usually some new piece of gear I’ve been eyeing.
This year, I’m in the market for a new car camping sleeping pad and will likely use my dividend towards this super comfy Hest sleeping pad system.
2) REI Member-Only Coupons
Throughout the year, REI has a number of sales, and during those sales, they offer additional discounts to Members.
Typically during these sales, Members get 20% off one full-priced item and an extra 20% off an already discounted item, although this can change based on the sale.
The best part? These special coupons are given to Members all throughout the year, not just once.
If you’ve been saving for a big ticket item, like REI’s Half Dome 2 Tent, 20% off saves you $66. That’s gas money for your next weekend road trip!
3) REI’s Return Policy
I already mentioned REI’s awesome return policy, but basically, you have 1 year from the date of purchase to return something if it’s not working out.
This doesn’t mean you can use and abuse your gear and return it 364 days later, but it does mean that if you take those new hiking boots on the trail and if they are killing your feet, then you can return them for a full refund.
Or that tent that ended up being just a little bit too small for you, your partner, and your dog on your first overnight outing? You can return that too and get something that works for you.
This return policy applies to all REI shoppers, both Members and non-Members, but the benefit of being a Member is you don’t have to have a receipt. You can show up with the item and they can look up your purchase history with your phone number – easy peasy and you don’t have to worry about hanging on to your receipts.
4) REI Members Get Free Standard Shipping
New as of 2022, REI Members get free standard shipping on all REI.com purchases with no minimum purchase required!
This is a huge perk and makes shopping online quick and easy. Just think about how much money you’ll save on shipping costs – this alone makes the $30 lifetime membership so worth it.
5) Member-Only Garage Sales
So what does REI do with all that gently used stuff that gets returned? They sell it at their Members Only Garage Sales and now on their used gear site where you can score ridiculously good deals.
In the past, REI Garage Sales happened on certain weekends throughout the year but due to their popularity, some REI stores now have a Garage Sale section of the store that’s always rotating and always open to shop. Call your local store to learn about their Garage Sales.
Buying used outdoor gear is also great for our planet considering the impact new gear and apparel have – we love supporting brands that are advocates for secondhand gear!
6) Save on REI Classes & Trips
Did you know REI offers a ton of different classes? From backcountry navigation to bike maintenance, camp cooking, and full-blown Wilderness First Aid courses, REI classes are a great way to improve your outdoor skill set.
Some classes are even free, like the John Muir Trail course I taught a couple of years back at the Henderson store. For the fee-based classes, REI Members save $20-30 off the list price. Boom. REI Membership paid for.
REI also leads amazing trips all over the USA – from their Yellowstone and Grand Teton Hiking and Camping trip to their guided backpacking trip along California’s Lost Coast.
Members get a hefty discount on these trips too and you also get to meet other amazing Co-op members.
7) In-Store Service Discounts
Beyond helping you purchase the right gear, REI also helps you maintain and tune up your gear in-store.
Did you know most REI stores have full bike and ski shops in-house? Even better: Starting in 2022, members get 20% off these services, plus free cycle flat tire repair and machine wax.
8) Discounts on Gear Rental
Want to try a new outdoor activity but don’t want to commit to buying all the right gear? Traveling out of state for an adventure and don’t want to fly with all your gear? You can rent gear from REI for all sorts of activities like backpacking, canoeing, climbing, cycling, and snowshoeing.
Don’t have a bike rack or a roof rack? REI rents those too. Although anyone can rent gear from REI, REI Members save up to 33% off all gear rentals.
9) Your Membership Gives Back to the Outdoors
In 2021 alone, REI gave $7.1 million to support over 450 non-profit organizations. That means your membership and purchases are worth more than just the gear you buy.
Through your membership and purchases, you’re helping REI provide funding for parks, public lands, sustainable transportation, and efforts to “rewild” our cities with green spaces.
So maybe a simple $30 membership isn’t so simple when you think about it: it’s a contribution towards a healthier, wilder, and better future for everyone.
In total, since 1976 REI has donated more than 70% of its profits to its non-profit partners for outdoor stewardship projects going right back into the outdoor community. And as REI grows, their contributions do too.
By being an REI Member, you are giving back and having a direct positive impact on the trails and parks in your community. As a Member, you also get to vote in their annual Board elections, having a direct impact on the decisions made by the coop.
REI also donates $5 to the REI Cooperative Action Fund for every new Member. This fund helps offer grants to nonprofits that promote justice, equity, and belonging in the outdoors.
You can see a full list of partners and REI’s full giving report here. Take a look, and there’s a good chance you might recognize an organization or two in your town.
10) You Can Trade-In Your Used Gear
REI Co-op Members can trade in gently used outdoor gear in exchange for REI gift cards through their Re/Supply program – what an amazing perk! REI accepts gently used gear that REI has sold in the past 6 years including most men’s, women’s, and kids’ clothing and shoes, as well as gear like sleeping bags, backpacks, and tents – you could receive up to 50% of the retail value.
The best part? You can trade in gear that you didn’t even buy from REI (as long as REI also carries that product, of course).
This is not only a great way to offload your used gear, but also reduce the amount of used clothing that prematurely ends up in landfills – a win for our planet!
11) You Get Early Access to New Gear + Exclusive Gear
Co-op members receive early access, limited editions, special offers, one-of-a-kind collaborations, and more awesome deals on gear. You can find these deals on their Members Collection page.
For example, right now Members can get early access to the new REI Trailmade 2 Tent, which is an affordable, yet still lightweight, backpacking option.
12) You Will Be Part of an Inclusive Outdoor Community
This REI membership benefit doesn’t have a price tag on it. REI advocates for people just as much as they do the outdoor spaces that we all enjoy.
Plus, they have a strong focus on enhancing and uplifting their fellow outdoor enthusiasts by staying committed to keeping the outdoors a diverse and level playing field that welcomes everyone just as they are.
And they put their money where their mouth is. For example, in 2020 REI donated $100,000 each to the National Urban League and to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, historic civil rights and advocacy organizations that work to fight injustice and inequality. As we know, people of color have different experiences in the outdoors and it is our job to be allies to all who wish to enjoy the outdoors.
Looking for great gear to purchase with your new REI membership? Check out our most popular gear posts:
- Best Backpacking Tents
- Best Sleeping Bags for Backpacking
- Best Women’s Hiking Boots
- Best Trekking Poles for Hiking and Backpacking
- Best Backpacking Backpacks for Women
- Best Backpacking Stoves
Are you an REI member? If so, let us know in the comments what your favorite member benefit is! If you have any questions about REI’s membership program let us know below!