Let me stop here and explain the reasons why I love REI.
1. The knowledgeable staff: you ask them a question, they know the answer and if they don't know the answer, they will get another staff member who does know the answer. And they're all very friendly.
2. REI Membership benefits- You pay $20 for a membership and you get paid dividends on certain purchases that you can use towards more purchases or cash out.
3. The Return Policy (if you're a member): If you buy boots and you wear them on the trail and suddenly they don't feel like the right boots, you can take them back within a year of the purchase date! My mom posed the question last week "What if I spend all that money on a pack and I find out I just don't like back packing?" I said "Take it back."
4. REI Garage Sales: The items that are returned that can't be put back on the shelf to sell at regular price are sold in a "garage sale" every few months at a discounted price.
So, back to the shopping excursion. Myself, my friend and my husband all needed new hiking boots. I had done my research prior (my mom already had her boots so I picked the brain of her sales associate) and knew which ones I was pretty sure I wanted to try. When you try on boots at REI, they have you walk on "the rock" to make sure your toes aren't going to hit the front of the boot. In the end, my mom, myself and my friend all ended up with the same exact boot except for each of us being a half size different from each other. My husband got the men's version of the same boot, and my son even scored the kid's version of the same boot in the garage sale.
Also scored at the garage sale was an oil skin hat that reminded me of Indiana Jones. I scored a $50 hat for $12 because when it was returned it smelled of cigarette smoke. But, by the time I bought it, there was only the smell of the oil skin. The only problem is my son keeps taking the hat. In fact, he's wearing it to school today for "Hat Day". So I'll probably have to find one of his own because I'm not giving up the one I purchased. I hum the Indiana Jones theme song every time I wear it. A bull whip purchase might be next.
So after the boots and the garage sale, I finally made it over to the packs and picked mine out. Again, I had done my research and had settled on an Osprey Aura 65L. The newest model for this year comes with a new "anti-gravity" feature and if purchased at REI came with the rain cover and a 3L dry sack. So I got sized and got ready to try out the pack with 30 pounds of weight in it. This has been my biggest worry about the whole thing- carrying a pack. This worry came from a trip I took out to the UFO Ranch in Washington. I used my brother's large pack and crammed it full of all the things I needed (we had to take all our camping gear across country in a plane). I think it weighed almost 50 pounds and when I was walking through the airport with it I made the comment that I'd never go back packing. So here was the moment of truth- I put on the pack at REI and was shocked at how much lighter it felt than what I was expecting. Not that it was light, but it wasn't 50 pounds shoved into a too big pack. It fit well and it felt doable. So all my worries are gone and I'm even more excited about this whole experience. My mom also got her pack. We'll be trail twins as she got the same one I did. We'll have to tie different ribbons to them or something to be able to tell them apart.
So, all there is for me to get is my husband's pack, the tent, 1 or 2 sleeping bags (I haven't decided if I want to try to see if my existing one will work), 1 sleeping pad, the water filtration system and the stove- though my cousin (who is going) has 2 stoves so I might not need one (but I might want one).
It was a great shopping trip with fun people and nearly made up for the fact that the next day we got snow and ice and had to cancel the weekly hiking plans. Hopefully March will bring warmer temperatures and no rain on the weekend (and no snow at all)