Best Outdoor Store: No-hassle returns
What's worse than embarking on a long hike up Mount Diablo or trekking through the Ohlone Regional Wilderness only to realize your new boots are about to draw blood? Well, being out $200, because most stores won't take those cruel boots back. At REI, there's no guarantee your feet won't blister, but you are guaranteed of at least getting a new pair. "I've had a lot of trouble with boots not fitting my feet -- and that's why I'll only buy them at REI," said one East Bay hiker last year after finishing the 28-mile Ohlone trail from Livermore to Fremont. Same goes for ill-fitting fleece jackets or camp stoves that flame out prematurely. An accommodating return policy, in fact, is the essence of customer service. Sure, it's nice to have friendly sales clerks to help you choose the right gear (and REI has plenty of those). But peace of mind for hikers, bikers, runners, and climbers comes only when you know that no matter what you buy -- or when you bought it -- you won't be stuck with a lemon. And you don't need no stinking receipt, either.