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Dilemma: Buying Friends Gear

Here's my dilemma: 

My friend is getting married soon and he and his fiancé registered for some outdoorsy stuff at REI, as well as the usual kitchen/home goods stuff from other retailers. 

The stuff he registered for at REI is either useless or lower quality than alternatives. 

On top of that, he doesn't spend much time outdoors, causing me to seriously question the things they registered for.


  • Would you buy he and his soon-to-be bride some of the outdoors stuff on the registry in hopes of them using it?
  • Would you forego buying the lesser quality stuff they registered for and get them something better? 
  • Would you scrap the idea altogether and just buy the stupid champagne flutes or wine decanter you know they will NEVER use?

I would talk to your friend, tell him you would be glad to get him the equipment he's selected but that based on your experience you respectfully think there are some other choices that he might appreciate more in the long run and ask if he would like to hear your thoughts. Feel him out without getting into detail at first. If he says he likes what he's picked then get it for him. If he's open to your thoughts go ahead and explain in more detail then follow his wishes.

JR hit the nail on the head.

JRinGeorgia said:

I would talk to your friend.

 Yup, JR definitely gave the best answer :)

Just an FYI from someone in the wine biz--not even Champagne producers recommend flutes anymore.  They prefer a simple white wine glass...


just sayin'

JR is a wise dude. Good advice.

However, talking to this friend isn't always the easiest thing to do. He's not a close friend, and we don't have a long history together. In many circumstances, he is a very defensive individual and doesn't like it when challenged. 

While I agree with JR's wisdom, it's easier said than done in this case.

Buy them the mixer.

I don't know how wise I am, but every now and then my belly button points in the right direction...

If you aren't close with this friend and/or otherwise would find it uncomfortable to have the conversation, then get him what he registered for. Even if he will conclude at some later date that something else would have been better/lighter/cheaper/etc, it's better to get him now what he says he wants. He will appreciate that more than you getting something he didn't ask for. And if it turns out in the long run that he should have gotten what you would have recommended then he will discover that in the same way that many of us have come to refine our kits, the school of experience.

And think of it this way: if he never really gets involved with backpacking then him having the lower-grade equipment many not matter, but if he does get 'into' it and upgrades his gear down the road then you will have helped him get there -- maybe not the perfect kit from the beginning, but good enough from the start for him to pick up a lifelong hobby and learn from his own mistakes like we all have.

It's clear you're trying to do the right thing. But don't agonize over it, if you make him happy now you've done the 'right' thing.

Or, just buy them the mixer ;-)

I am personally not keen on the idea of gift registries. First, it takes the fun out of giving and second, it takes the fun and surprise out of receiving a unique gift. I think it reduces the meaning of a gift to its very lowest level and devalues the act of giving. Like checking a box and da dah there's your wedding present. In my humble opinion, think about the bride and groom and what they are like as people. Buy, make or create  something very special and unique that signifies  the beginning of their lives together and will add meaning to this joyous occasion.

Buy the registered REI stuff. If someones not gonna use the stuff either way, at least have it be a hope that they will one day use that tent, or stove, or outdoor coffee press. Hell maybe, go on a sale day, buy one get one half off, or get some reward points, at least something so you can benefit a little too ;)

the few couples i know who have registered at REI were mostly similarly situated - not dedicated outdoorspeople, but envisioning a romantic weekend trip.  (one couple is really into hiking, but their gear choices reflected their experience).  and most people, having registered, end up taking at least one trip with the stuff.  whether they get more interested depends on who they are.  i think it would be great to share your knowledge - if and when the person/couple shows interest.  

bravo for putting so much thought into this.  for someone who isn't a close friend and who tends to get defensive, i would stick to the registry.  if this person's lasting impression of you were 'person who created angst before my wedding over the damn REI registry,' i think that would be unfortunate.  and easily avoidable.  

I think this is an excellent topic.

First, my own background:

Dave and I registered for a few things at LL Bean for our wedding (way back in the late '90s).

We chose LL Bean because we're not very fancy people (surprise!), and since we got married a year out of college before any of our friends we wouldn't have even known what to register for anyway. Plus, LL Bean lets you return and exchange anything forever and we live in Maine.

We only registered for a few small pieces of furniture and stoneware dishes (still in daily use). The only outdoor gear we registered for that I recall was a four-season tent (it was our very first tent), which some relatives teamed up to buy.

We used that thing in truly all four seasons until we could also afford a three-season tent, and I still think of the people who bought it for us when we use it. That was pretty great. I remember actually feeling guilty about registering for a tent (is a tent even allowed on a wedding registry?), but was touched that they wanted to give it to us.

One of our friends also gave us an MSR filter of his own volition, which I thought was pretty cool and it still makes me happy to think about. I think we also got a couple of LL Bean and REI gift cards in the outdoor gift realm.

For giving to others, I tend to try to stick to the registry when I can, especially now that anyone I know getting married is older and knows what they want. But if I know someone well I'd want to try to work in some personal items I think they'd like.

Years back, I think we gave one outdoorsy couple an REI gift card and a pair of those outdoor wine glasses or the like for fun (and so it wasn't a totally boring gift card gift).

I think it's great that you actually care enough to think about the gift you're giving your friends. I'd also not bring it up with this defensive friend as he's planning a wedding.

If it was me, I'd probably find the thing you like most (or hate least) on their REI registry and buy it for them. Then, if it makes sense and you think they'd use it, see if there's something you really like you can pair with it.

For example, maybe you buy them the camp kitchen stuff or even the wine decanter and/or flutes but you also get them an awesome lantern to set the mood:

Just an idea, but anyone can use a lantern, even if they don't camp much.

Or what about including a good hiking guidebook and map to their area to go with the outdoors stuff they registered for? Then they have some info to actually use it.

And, if nothing else, at least you know they can return any of it to REI if necessary.

Whatever you do, your thoughtfulness will show.

Thanks for the input all. 

Yes, I admit, I may be overthinking this, but I'd rather overthink than underthink. 

After talking to other friends who are going to the wedding as well, we realized we all felt the same conflict. So, we decided to pool our money together and buy the couple a more expensive camping item that will help the newlyweds get outdoors.

I discussed this intention with the groom and he was very receptive to us going off the registry. When discussing their desire to go camping but lack of adequate gear, it dawned on me that without a tent, they are likely not to go camping anytime soon. 

So, we'll be purchasing a tent, and maybe some sleeping pads.  

Problem solved!

Excellent solution!

Now will you all be able to agree on which tent to get them?

Update: The tent was very well received by the couple. They were very appreciative and said they couldn't wait to go camping this spring/summer. 

It worked out great that four of us friends attending the wedding were all in the same predicament with their registry and so pooling our money to buy a more expensive item made the most sense.

Sounds like a great and thoughtful solution, Kiwi!

August 8, 2020
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