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REI vs Backcountry vs LL Bean: Outdoor Gear Compared

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REI has unique items like their one-of-a-kind Big Agnes 4 MtnGlow tent. They also offer unique loyalty programs that give 10% or so refunds lifetime for a one-time fee. Backcountry has enough online support such as 24/7 live chat to make it ideal for thos

It’s definitely worth a little extra looking around to make sure you get gear from the best site for your particular adventuring needs. Here are a few places where you can get outdoor gear, including how they compare in terms of common reasons why people need the gear.


The outdoor gear available at REI includes stuff for camping and hiking, climbing gear, bicycle gear, stuff for general fitness, running, snow equipment and water-based equipment like for Kayaks or canoes. You can reach them at 800-426-4840.


  • Free U.S. Shipping If Spending $50-This deal only counts if you’re making orders through REI.com, their outlet site, or through their online number. It also doesn’t count for returns, special orders, gift cards or anything out of the ordinary, basically. You also should make sure the subtotal is at least $50 since coupons could push you under.
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed Up to 1 Year-If you buy some piece of outdoor gear that you don’t like, as long as you send it back within a year you can get a refund or a replacement. This doesn’t cover the cost of return, though, and it doesn’t cover wear and tear or damage, so you should do it only if you haven’t really used it.
  • 10% Refund for Annual Member- The “10% annual refund” applies if you spend $20 to become an REI Annual Member. It’s just a one-time fee, and you’ll get refunds annually which tend to total 10% of purchases though this isn’t guaranteed.


Backcountry has excellent support options including a 24/7 live chat service. They also have high ratings from a number of prominent rating sites like Google Trusted Stores, Bizrate and ResellerRatings. The site has all the outdoor gear you could want from GoPro cameras to mountain bikes, kayaks, coats from North Face and more.


  • Short-term Shipping Deals- You’ll often see short-term deals for shipping on the site, such as their free 2-day shipping deal if you buy more than $50 of gear.
  • 24/7 Live Chat-This is easy to access through the top right or bottom left links that mention chatting. You can get help regarding what kind of gear you need at any time.
  • Backcountry App-This is available only for iOS it seems. It gives you the basic stuff you’d expect including videos, updates on deals, order tracking and sharing. Nothing fancy.
  • Google Trusted Store-The site has the backing on Google, which includes $1000 of free protection on purchases and frauds. Google will also provide help with disputes you have with Backcountry. The site gets a 4.8 rating out of 5 from over 30,000 reviews.
  • Free Stickers-You can get a completely free sticker with the Backcountry logo on it by clicking on the button under where it says “Put a goat on it” in the bottom right corner of the site. You just have to fill out your name and address, and they’ll send you stickers for free. This is only in the U.S., however.


L.L. Bean

The L.L. Bean site is one of the biggest in terms of outdoor gear. It’s also probably the most famous. Since it’s been around for so long, it has a huge number of features available.


  • Free Shipping to U.S. or Canada with No Minimum-L.L. Bean says that they will always ship your gear for free to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, and this is ongoing so you don’t need to worry about coupons or anything.
  • Norton Secured for Internet Safety-At the bottom left of the main site, you can click on the “Norton” logo if you’re worried about Internet security.
  • Get a Call Back from Support-If you hate being stuck on hold all the time, click the “call me” link at the bottom of the main page and you can have them call you when they’re ready instead.

Head to Head


REI features a customer service line that’s open any day, from 4 am to 11 pm EST, which is a lot of hours. The “contact” link in the far bottom right also brings up a small contact window with a “live help” option for live chat. The hours for this are 5 am to 1030pm EST. You can click on the “email” tab in this little window too.

Backcountry has easy top access support features such as their “Live Chat” link that’s right in the top right of the site. All you need is your name and some selections for a topic and the green button gets you going. It will tell you what number you are in the wait line so you can decide whether you want to stick around.

L.L. Bean has a huge number of options for support features. If you scroll down the page, you’ll see a menu bar in beige with a phone number, a chat link, an email link, and a phone number you can call. You can even hit the “call me” button if you don’t like waiting in lines to have them call you instead. There’s often no hours listed, so this could vary.

Overall, L.L. Bean likely has the best support and overall features if only because it's such a big company.


Examples of gear you can buy at REI includes the Big Agnes Chimney Creek 4 MTN Glow Tent, which goes for $450 or so and is exclusive only for REI. There’s also the MtnGlow light access kit for $40 or the weatherproof solar kit from Goal Zero for $160. The kit is good for a 7800 mAh battery.

Backcountry has Goal Zero Nomad 13 kit at $160. The other Big Agnes tents on Backcountry also go for similar prices as REI, though they don’t have the Chimney Creek 4 one since that’s REI only.

The Goal Zero is also available at L.L. Bean for $160 as well.

Overall, the compared products seem to imply that the pricing for these sites is often fairly similar. The difference is that L.L. Bean always has free shipping no matter what, so it will often be a bit cheaper if you catch the other sites in between deals. There’s also a Big Agnes Scout UL2 Tent available for $250 at L.L. Bean, and it's $300 on REI. L.L. Bean seems to have a slight advantage fairly often.


About This Article

Mitchell Wyatt

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