That’s right, we took our backpacks to Spokane. The backpacking trip in Cascades North National Park was our first in several years. It went wonderfully but for one thing. Deb’s new backpack just didn’t work.
Her backpack wasn’t entirely new — Jim bought it for her for Christmas 2006. We were already in our full-timing preparations mode, so the backpack went into the camping box with other gear. Tags still on it, the pack never filled with weight, we didn’t imagine it wouldn’t work perfectly. Hey, it was on sale and weighed almost nothing.
One mile into the backpacking trip Deb’s pack straps weren’t comfortable and the adjustments just weren’t going to help enough. Whoops, we should have checked this thing out once or twice. We could have stopped in any of several REIs along the way and traded it in before we ever used it. Lucky we still have the tags, eh?
Full-timing we have get lucky to time our store visits to our routes. We were on our way to Lewiston ID/Clarkston Wa from Grand Coulee. REI in Spokane looked accessible for our combined length of 45 feet (truck plus trailer). And, worst case, we could drive to a nearby Wal-Mart and drop the trailer for an hour while we visit REI.
Luckily, REI’s parking lot was easy to navigate and had seven sequential parking spaces vacant. Into REI’s customer service desk we go with the errant pack. They asked what problem we had with it, accepted it very graciously, and called a staff member to help us with backpacks.
Kit showed up almost instantly and ushered us into her domain. She is very knowledgeable about packs, understood well the problem with Deb’s pack, and helped Deb evaluate several new ones. Kit readily recognized Deb’s pack was wrong from the get-go — it was an oversized daypack. Yeah, a 45 liter daypack? Yep, that’s a big day, too.
The problem was, the pack had pretty good capacity for overnighting but lacked decent suspension, padding, and adjustments. Kit quickly steered Debbie to three excellent choices. Debbie walked the store with twenty or twenty-five pounds of sandbags in first one, then another pack. We ended up with a 65 liter REI pack costing twice what the 45 liter one did. The new pack feels ten times better, Deb says.
The entire experience was superb. Spokane was easy to navigate and, while some on-street parking made for narrow lanes downtown in places, easy to negotiate. REI’s twenty year-old store is not huge but is well laid out and nice inside. The parking lot is very easy to use, even with our 25′ trailer.
Best of all, REI was wonderful about the return. Sure they have this 100% satisfaction guarantee. Seeing is believing — they didn’t fuss, harangue, or in any way make us feel more stupid for having waited three years to return a pack that wouldn’t fit. They were very welcoming and hospitable and helpful. We want to go back.