REI and the Camino.

I toss a plastic chair into the back of the car and roll down the hill to my local REI to get the front of the line for their monthly “scratch and dent” sale. Not. At 6:30 a.m. there are two people sleeping in hammocks tied to the palm trees near the front door plus another five people in sleeping bags on the sidewalk. After those midnight early arrivals, came the 5:00 a.m. early birds. Then came me. I was number 15 in line.


The REI Used Goods Sale is the place to go for anything “outdoors”. Because of their 100% satisfaction guarantee, people return everything imaginable from sleeping bags that “weren’t warm enough”, to well-worn hiking shoes that “didn’t fit” right, to bicycles that…

There is a camaraderie about this queuing. Sitting to my left in a comfy folding chair with a fleece blanket over his legs is an unassuming photo journalist with some great stories. And to my right is a young woman sipping her Pete’s and studying for an exam. Most are young and fit, this is not the queue for an all-you-can-eat restaurant. A few are older than me and they are quite fit, as well.

We all chat amiably until the doors open at 10:00 a.m. That’s when the free-for-all begins. Inside the too-small “scratch and dent” room in the back of the store there is a scramble for cast off treasures. I end up with two things I was looking for.

First, a Mophie iPhone battery case that doubles the battery life of my phone (reducing the need to constantly seek out power points while on the Camino). Score!  I planned to buy a Mophie and this one was half price! The other item, a Cocoon Air Pillow, was high on my list because I’m just not willing to use a scary bed bug ridden pillow that a thousand pilgrims have used before me.

So let’s talk about that pillow. I take it home, blow it up and put my head down for a quick test. It’s too plump, so I let some air out. Then I let out a little more. When I finally get it to be just right the darn thing sounds like an empty potato chip bag — in my ear. Okay, so that lesson cost me $5.84.

But the Mophie was still a big score.

I have since picked up an Exped pillow at REI for way too much money. But hey, sleep is important on the Camino.