Ultralight Backpackers Guide to REI Labor Day Sale 2020

Here’s how to get the best deals at the REI Sale. I’ve been an REI member for over 40 years and I still get excited about an REI Sale. To prep for this sale, in addition to our knowledge of REI’s lightweight and ultralight gear inventory, we did a bunch of research online to find even more hiking and backpacking gear on sale. And now that it is limited, in-store shopping we actually paid a visit to our local REI store for hands-on research and bought a few items we’d been meaning to check out.

Take a Break from Cabin Fever

Especially this year, it’s important to have the right gear and clothing to get the most out of your outside time and get a break from cabin fever — our outdoor trips this year have been some of our most cherished times.

Your Sale Strategy

  • EVENT 2020 REI Labor Day Sale: Dates 8/28-9/7 | Save up to 40% off on select items
  • PLUS Members Get 20% off one REI OUTLET Item Use CODE: LABORDAY20

Below, I share with you my strategy to get the best out of the REI sale. Here is the sequence I follow:

  1. Hit the REI OUTLET to use your 20% off any one OUTLET items like Osprey Packs or Big Agnes Tents. Stuff goes fast and sizes/colors are limited to begin with.
  2. Hit the Regular REI Sale Items See our Regular Sale picks below. There’s a section below that has Regular Sale Items I thought were good. The best items on sale will go quickly.

21 Quick Picks for the Sale

Short on time? Here are some key picks for great gear deals that should appeal to most lightweight hikers and backpackers. The best items on sale will go quickly. So if you wait too long, you may not get your choice of size, model, or color, or it might just sell out. And we’ll be adding more items to this guide during the sale, so be sure to check back from time to time for new deals as we add them.

All Big Agnes Tiger Wall Tents & Footprints

25% Off

$349.95 – $1199.95

The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Tent has no equal when it comes to volume-to-weight ratio among traditional tents. It’s seriously huge AND light. In fact, at 2.6 lbs, it’s lighter than all the rest of our favorite two-person traditional tents except for the Nemo Dagger and it’s little brother the Tiger Wall UL2. And its’ ~1/3 larger than them to boot. Somewhat mindbogglingly, the Tiger Wall UL3 is only seven ounces heavier than its 2-person counterpart, so why not go big? Complimenting the cavernous interior are two doors and two regular-sized vestibules for plenty of access and gear storage. Keep in mind that while this tent is quite large for two campers, it’s a much tighter squeeze for three. A final note, some weight savings comes from the need to stake out the two rear corners. As such, this is a is semi-freestanding tent. Not a big deal to our minds.

See our Best Backpacking Tents 2020 | Lightweight & Ultralight for more great tent choices and a lot great info, tips & tricks.

REI Quarter Dome SL Tents & Footprints

30% OFF

$299 – $349

REI fans rejoice, the REI CO-OP Quarter Dome SL 2 is a legitimately great option for any backpacker seeking a premium, free-standing, lightweight tent that won’t break the bank. Among our favorite freestanding options, it’s $50 cheaper than the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 and $100 cheaper than the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 while still offering the same large vestibules and near-vertical sidewalls. Sure, at 3.3 lbs, Quarter Dome 2 isn’t the most featherweight option available, but it’s still over a pound lighter than most budget tents and can be carried into the backcountry with ease. The bottom line is that this tent is an REI best-seller because it meets all the requirements of a lightweight backpacker for a very reasonable price.

BEST FOR: Backpackers seeking a premium tent that won’t break the bank.

New for this spring, is an even lighter alternative REI tent, [not on sale tho]. The 2-person REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent is a 1.9 lb, full sized, 2-person tent that costs under $300. Right off the bat, those specs set it in a class by itself (tents in this weight range usually cost $600 to even $800). As such, it’s a solid choice for any backpacker looking to save weight and cost, even if you’ve never used a tent like this before. But unlike many tents in this rarified weight range, it’s quite user friendly.

See our BEST BACKPACKING TENTS FOR 2020 | LIGHTWEIGHT & ULTRALIGHT for more great tent choices and a lot of great info, tips & tricks.

REI Co-op Igneo Sleeping Bag M’s
REI Co-op Joule Sleeping Bag W’s

40% Off

Regular $269 – $339

A great value in 3 season bags that won’t weigh you down (most models are under 2 pounds!). Water-repellent 700-fill-power duck down keeps the price low. Strategic waterproof/breathable fabric panels improve its wet weather performance. The Women’s specific Joule bags are rated 30 °F or 21 °F  and is shaped and temperature rated for women. The Men’s Igneo bags are rated to 25 °F or 17 °F.

See our BEST BACKPACKING SLEEPING BAGS & BACKPACKING QUILTS 2020 for more great sleeping bag choices and a lot great info, tips & tricks.

REI Co-op Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad

All REI Co-op Sleeping Pads

30% OFF

Reg. $49 – $279

HIGHLIGHTS:  1/2 cost of similar pads without giving up much

The Value Pad Pick in our Sleeping Pad Guide, and a good all-around pad from a trusted source. Around 1/2 the price of the competition, the Flash 3-Season pad had one of the highest scores for value (R/cost). Updated for 2020 with stronger and more durable construction. And at it’s R 3.2 insulation value is competitive with many thicker (non-XLite/XTherm) pads in this guide.

GREAT FOR: A low cost, light and comfortable, 3 season pad from a trusted source

See our Best Sleeping Pad for Backpacking 2020 | Complete Guide for more great sleeping pad choices and a lot great info, tips & tricks.

All Salomon Footwear

25% Off

Reg. $75 – $230

The Salomon XA Pro Shoes have been one of our favorite trail shoes for a decade, and have been everywhere from canyoneering in Utah to north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. They are a great blend of a trail runner, and a slightly beefier technical shoe up to some serious off trail travel and scrambling. But they are still light and super comfortable with good breathability and a sole with tenacious grip. And their sculpted fit keeps your feet in place on steep angles, of off kilter terrain.

All REI Co-op Brand 650 Down Jackets & Vests

30% Off

$69 – $100

For those who want to save a bunch on a down jacket, the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket is a great value. While it weighs a bit more vs. an 850 fill power down jacket, it also half the price. Otherwise, it has the same features and functionality of the more expensive down jackets. Although a bit pricier we prefer the hooded version. The hood ads a ton of warmth and gives you more options to regulate temperature.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket

Arc'teryx Cerium LT Down Hoodie

All Arc’teryx Items

25% OFF

Of course, a whole bunch of Arc’teryx items are on sale (all types of clothing and gear). But here are a few of our favorites.

Elevate your adventures in the mountains with the exceptionally lightweight warmth of the Arc’teryx Cerium LT down hoodie. It functions as a mid layer or stand-alone jacket in cool, dry conditions.

Stay dry and fresh out on the trail with the windproof, waterproof and breathable Arc’teryx Zeta SL jacket . The light and easy-to-pack design makes it a quick option when weather goes bad.

See our GUIDE TO LIGHTWEIGHT DOWN JACKETS AND PANTS FOR BACKPACKING for more great clothing choices and a lot of great info, tips & tricks.

See our BEST LIGHTWEIGHT RAIN JACKETS FOR 2020 for more great rain jacket choices and a lot great info, tips & tricks.

All MPOWERD Luci Lighting

30% Off

Reg. #$17.95 – $74.95

There are 10 MPOWERD items for sale but our favorite one is the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern. At just over 4 oz it is bit heavier than our usual tent/camp lights. But its broad and even illumination are a joy for long nights. And if you have a layover day you can leave it out to recharge.

All Water Filters & Purifiers

25% OFF

$8 – $369

The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System with Sawyer Squeezable Pouches for water bottles is our go-to hydration system. With the Squeeze, you can just fill up the bladder and drink normally. Carrying heavy filters or waiting for chemical water treatments is more tiring, time-consuming, and frustrating and regular pumps are slow, heavy and prone to clogging. Its 0.1-micron filter removes all the nasties and yuckies that occur in water in North America. It saves weight by allowing you to carry less water, and drink when you reach a stream. Finally, the Sawyer Squeeze has a lifetime warranty and almost unlimited capacity to treat water (assuming you back-flush when necessary). Water storage: we each carry a Sawyer 32 oz Squeezable Pouch (1 oz) for use during the day and a Sawyer 64 oz Squeezable Pouch (1.5 oz) For collecting treating water in camp. Camp treatment: For fast, efficient water purification in camp we use Water Treatment Tablets: We can treat 3 or more liters of water in less than a minute. And it’s ready to drink 20-30 minutes later.

All MSR Windburner Stove Systems

25% OFF

$150 – $260

While the WindBurner Stove System doesn’t get as much buzz or hype as a stove like the Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System, it may actually be the better stove. For sure it’s a lot more wind resistant, which makes it a first choice for high alpine areas and exposed campsites, where it will light easier, and stay more fuel efficient in strong wind. According to MSR “100% primary air combustion, enclosed design and internal pressure regulator work together to make stove virtually impervious to outside conditions.” And of course it’s just great for camping and regular backpacking. Similar to the JetBoil it the WindBurner’s award-winning Reactor® technology contributes to a very fast boil time, and high fuel efficiency compared to traditional canister stoves.

All First Aid Kits

25% OFF

Regular Starting at $8.50

A first aid kit like Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .5 Medical Kit is always a good idea for a day hike and it’s considered essential for overnight and multi-day trips. But we prefer smaller and lighter kits and feel they have enough. Most of the injuries we have treated have been scrapes and cuts (abrasions and lacerations) and all we had to do was stop the bleeding (direct pressure, always) and clean it up and dress the wound. But feel free to get a larger and more complete kit and likely pack a few more meds.

See our 13 ESSENTIALS FOR THE MODERN HIKER – A REALISTIC “10 ESSENTIALS for more great tent choices and a lot of great info, tips & tricks.

REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket

REI Co-op Brand Rain Jacket & Pants

40% OFF

$25 – $279

REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket

Our pick for a best value rain Jacket. The REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket’s utilitarian design keeps weight and cost low. Styling is a bit utilitarian but the jacket has room to layer. The Co-op Jacket has a modestly sized, 3-piece hood with dual hood adjusts (but still best with a ball-cap under it), two zippered hand pockets, a drawcord hem, and internal elastic cuffs allow a seal at waist and wrists. And the new model has pit zips and uses Recycled nylon ripstop (bluesign® approved).

BEST FOR: Budget hikers and backpackers looking for good rain and wind protection that will last at an incredibly low price.

REI Co-op Drypoint Gore Tex Jacket

Our pick for best all-around performance rain Jacket. Another great REI Rain Jacket. The REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket is a solid three layer jacket at a great price! It has two well placed mesh backed chest pockets and adjustable hem, cuffs and hood (3 adjustments). REI made some good design choices with this jacket: the pockets are high enough to use when wearing hip straps and it has mesh pocket linings creating two large and effective chest vents (which we prefer over pit-zips). Additionally, the Drypoint’s seam-free shoulder design is good when wearing a pack and should increase durability in this critical area.

BEST FOR: Hikers and backpackers looking for a great value in rain protection with good breathability and great ventilation that can endure significant wear and tear. And it has the REI warranty!

See our BEST LIGHTWEIGHT RAIN JACKETS FOR 2020  for more great rain gear choices and a lot of great info, tips & tricks.

All Darn Tough Socks

25% OFF

$9 – $30

We prefer a thinner merino wool sock for hiking. They breathe better, absorb less moisture, are easier to wash and dry faster on the trail. And of course they are more comfortable and give you a better trail feel. And the wool seriously reduces stench! And Micro Crew is a great height to provide ankle padding but without adding the weight and bulk of a higher sock. And of course they have Darn Tough’s legendary lifetime warranty!

REI Sahara Pants & Shirts

40% OFF

$30 – $70

We’ve used some version of REI Co-op Sahara clothing for nearly 20 years. They’ve been to Patagonia, Alaska, Asia, the Deserts of Utah, and pretty much every mountain range in the lower 48. They get the job done. We like the thin, light but durable fabric key reinforcements in high wear areas. And that they come in a number of inseams. And of course, all those pockets are essential to keep your gear organized and readily available. Finally, they dry quickly and are great for international travel as well.

REI Sahara Shirts

REI Sahara Shirts are the same quality as the pants.

All Tilley Hats

25% OFF

$20 – $135

A trail and outdoors classic and as functional as hats get. Keep your dome cool and sunburn free with great sun protection (UPF 50 rating) with good ventilation. And of course, the wide brim does a good job of protecting face and neck as well. A ton of our hiking friends use and love these hats, especially for high UV areas like the High Sierras, Rockies, Desert, etc.

All Merrell Moab Footwear

20% OFF

$58 – $155

Our pick is the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Hiking Shoes. This one of REI’s most popular hiking shoes with a 4.25 rating for 260 reviews. So if you are leery of trail runners for hiking and want a more supportive and protective shoe with some great traction then the highly popular Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Low Hiking Shoes are likely a good choice. The upper is a combination of leather for durability, and mesh for breathability. A slightly higher ankle and bellows tongue help keep debris out. And Vibram TC5+ outsoles with 5mm lug provide good grip in mud and the loose stuff. Oh, and it’s a very comfortable shoe.

They are the lightest of the Moab shoes, and we greatly prefer non-waterproof shoes. They keep you feet from sweating out — and damp, sweaty feet are the primary cause of blisters, just after shoe fit. Merrell’s are quite comfortable especially if you have wide feet.

Petzl Camp Lighting

25% OFF

$10 – $200

Petzl makes some of the nicer headlamps on the trail. Or first choice, is the lighter and less expensive Petzl Tikkina headlamp. It has plenty of power 250 lumens and it’s spread out in in a broad beam — perfect for illuminating your camp or trent without blinding hot spots. Throw it in your pack for the campsite, a hike or traveling somewhere new.

Need more power, then pick the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp if you need to seriously night hike! On high it puts out 450 lumens enough to see almost 3 football fields ahead of you for navigating seriously difficult terrain. But it’s still mild mannered enough to use in camp at 6 lumens, where it will last for 130 hours. And it uses rechargeable batteries, so you can recharge it from your USB battery.


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