REI Return Policy: Make Your Next Return a Walk in The Woods

Updated February 18, 2021 by Kyle
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The REI return policy is the stuff of legend, especially pre-2013 when they had a lifetime guarantee on all the products they sold. But as with any return policy there are always caveats, pitfalls, and road bumps that you need to be aware before making a significant purchase. So before you buy that $545 tent or $3,200 kayak at REI, here’s everything you need to know about their current return policy.

REI Return Policy: Make Your Next Return a Walk in The Woods

COVID-19 Response (7/10/20)

REI has reopened most of their stores and they’ve amended their return policy slightly to help you out since they had to close all their stores in mid-March.

Here’s what you need to know:

Electronics purchased after 12/15/19 – If you’ve gone past the 90 day return policy on electronics you can still return the item to REI.

All other merchandise purchased after 3/15/19 – If you’ve gone past the 365 return days you can still return the item.

I called REI to verify this and was told that as of right now the number of return days is “indefinite”.

At some point this temporary policy change will go away and I’ll be sure to update this article when that happens.

How Many Return Days Does REI Allow?

365 days.

This only applies to products that were bought new.

REI calls this their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and it used to be a lifetime guarantee but got dialed back in recent years.

Can I Return Stuff That I Used for 364 Days?

Yes.

But if the reason for the return has to do with normal “wear and tear” or damage caused by improper use, you CANNOT make the return.

Can You Return Without a Receipt?

Hold on to those receipts because it’s the easiest way to make a return on in-store purchases.

Without a receipt they can try to lookup your purchase using the credit card you used, but it’s not a guarantee.

Debit card and cash purchases are virtually impossible to lookup without a valid receipt.

For online purchases be sure to login to your account and print-out your receipt or online invoice.

Any Exceptions to the 365 Days?

Yes, there are two exceptions.

1. Outdoor Electronics – Things like “activity monitors, GPS-enabled devices, bike trainers, emergency-communication devices, and cameras” must be returned within 90 days of purchase.

2. Used Gear – Anything that you buy used from REI comes with a 30 day return policy.

Is There Anything I Can’t Return to REI?

Yes, you CANNOT return any REI Garage Sale Merchandise as it’s all final sale.

Garage Sale stuff is used and sold “as-is” and if you try to return something it will be mailed back to you.

Is There a Different Policy on REI-Branded Items?

No, it doesn’t matter if the product was made by REI or not, the same return policy applies.

What About Returning Worn Boots and Clothing?

Yes, you can absolutely return clothing and boots that you’ve worn but decided you didn’t like.

As long as the reason for the return is NOT due to normal wear and tear you’re good to go.

This policy is very generous and essentially lets you “test drive” stuff to see how it fits before you decide to keep it.

Does REI “Grandfather In” Certain Products Into the Lifetime Warranty?

As most avid REI customers know, their return policy used to be a Lifetime Warranty but was switched to 365 days back in 2013.

So the question arises when it involves products that were purchased before their policy switched to 365 days, are they eligible for the lifetime warranty?

The answer is a definitive MAYBE.

Meaning that if you’re willing to stand in the store and argue your case to the manager you may have some success.

But it’s safe to assume that your mileage will vary depending on how nice the manager on duty is that day.

Can I Have My Return Refused?

Yes.

REI will monitor your returns and if they feel you’re abusing their lenient policy they reserve the right to deny your return.

This happens most frequently when a customer claims an item “didn’t satisfy their needs”, even when they’ve worn the shirt or boots for 6 months and the item appears clearly “worn out” from extensive use.

Can I Return Online Purchases In-Store?

Yes, just bring the item in for a refund or even exchange to any REI location.

Not only can you return online purchases in-store, but you can return any item by mail regardless of whether you bought it online, in-store, or via the phone.

Are REI-Outlet Returns Handled the Same Way?

Since REI Outlet stores don’t exist anymore this question is mute.

The REI Outlet is now online only and is essentially a clearance department, but the savings are pretty darn good with deals ranging from 20% off all the way up to 75% off the original retail price.

REI Policy Hacks:

Used gear at REI

Become a Co-Op Member: For only $20 you become a lifetime member with REI and you’ll NEVER need to keep your receipt again.

This is because your purchases will be automatically tracked and you’ll even earn 10% back on all full-priced purchases.

Used Gear Bargains: When used items get returned, they go to their Used Gear Program and are sold at a major discount.

Take advantage of these deals! Many of the items are basically brand new and the savings goes up to 75% off the original price.

Don’t Abuse their Policy: According to this Reddit thread, an REI employee actually had a guy try to return a water filter that he had urinated in and claimed it didn’t remove the “flavor of his urine” from the water. Don’t be that guy.

Ask the Reader: Are you a fan of the return policy at REI? Let me know if I’m missing any pertinent policy tidbits.


By Kyle James

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Philip Dabney

I think the question of whether the warranty should be grandfathered is a silly one. Of course it should be grandfathered whatever the terms were when you purchased the item they should remain in effect for the entire life of the item.
I have been having trouble having REI replace a rain jacket which clearly had material and adhesive defects on its sealed seams and it is an REI brand jacket from about 2010 which was rarely worn and hung in the closet. Most of the managers want to resort to their new fairly not so generous policy when you think about things like material and workmanship defects that can take more than a year to show up.. I’ve had them try to tell me that some of the issues with two of the jackets now that I’ve tried to return or due to normal wear and tear saying that the material had a limited lifetime even sitting in your drawer as if that was some kind of excuse. I made it very clear that I don’t buy the argument that material breakdown is normal wear and tear because it’s neither from wear nor tear.

This would be like you purchasing your car that had a 100,000 mile drivetrain warranty and somewhere around 80,000 miles in you have a failure due to a bad part that wore out prematurely and is known to have done it and the year before that the car manufacturer changed its warranty the 50,000 miles and so they start trying to tell you that they don’t have to cover it because you have 80,000 miles on your vehicle.
I am 100% sure that any one of you would have that company in court making your claims for not honoring the warranty that enticed you to buy it there in the first place.
REI made this change with very little fanfare in fact I could not find a single email where they gave their lifelong customers heads up that they were making such a dramatic change to their customer support policy.
I had foolishly been buying things for a few years after the change not realizing it had occurred until I tried to take an item that I had purchased 3 months after their change from a lifetime warranty to the one year warranty and they tried to stick to their guns saying that I purchased that when it only had a one year warranty. I personally think it was a sneaky bait and switch on their part to pull that because most of us had been conditioned to think that REI stood behind their products particularly the ones with their name on it for the lifetime of the product as long as it was with the original owner.
Now I’m feeling like I just buy whatever gives me the best price and I can work it out with the actual manufacturer if I find a manufacturing defect like I found in the REI jackets. I can’t even go after an independent manufacturer in this case even though everyone knows the jackets were not actually made by REI but they are rebadges of other companies jackets or made by other companies for them. I’m sure that Patagonia would not like me to parade around a $250 laminate waterproof rain jacket that fell apart hanging in the closet in less than 10 years as evidence of their poor choice of materials and adhesives and in some cases poor workmanship resulting in stresses that clearly cause certain areas to fail prematurely.
I’m holding on to my jackets and going to Seattle later this summer and I intend to get things rectified even if I have to seek an independent arbiter at the small claims court.