Photo credit: Joe Mabel

Have you been to an REI store lately? (For those who might not be familiar with REI, it is a large chain of outdoor recreation/sporting goods stores located throughout the US.)

Well, I went yesterday for the first time in about three years and I must say that I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The store was filled with an endless variety of very cool gadgets and travel accessories, all of which cause travelers, such as myself, to wander around wide-eyed while trying to fend off the temptation to put everything we see into our shopping basket.

Luckily, however, I am now skilled in the art of restraint, so by the time I walked out of the store some 45 minutes after I had arrived, I had spent a total of $0 dollars.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t spend the entire visit seriously contemplating the purchase of an Osprey Flapjack Laptop Pack, a portable shower, collapsible water bottle, self-inflating travel pillow, citronella wilderness soap, floating camera strap and a full towel that folds into the size of a credit card.

There were many moments during my visit when I simply wanted it all (yes, even the backpack waterproofing spray!) and at one point I even convinced myself that spending several hundred dollars was a most necessary investment.

But in the end, and I believe this has something to do with the fact that I’ve now traveled for so long without any of these things, I found myself asking the same question over and over again: Do I really need this?

I’ve always traveled with a small backpack and only a handful of belongings and have never needed anything more than that. So it was natural for me to question whether or not a travel hammock with mosquito net would really make my life any easier.

While I’m certain that some of REI’s products would be neat and fun to use, I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase anything in the end. I’d personally prefer to keep the $100, $200 or $500 that I could easily spend in an REI store and use it to extend my adventures for another month or two.

But that’s just me. And so now I must ask… What am I missing out on? I’m curious as to what REI (or similar) travel products you recommend and your thoughts on how they improve your travel experiences.

As a side note: I don’t want this post to be viewed as a negative review of REI. They are a wonderful organization that is run as a consumer-cooperative and it is always ranked as one of the best companies to work for in the US. If you are going to purchase any travel-related products, a visit to REI would be a must.