REI may be one of the best companies at turning shopping into an experience and turning customers into devoted patrons. That's because REI isn't merely a place to pick up parkas, tents or bikes. It's a store where customers can go to learn how to use a GPS device on a trail, figure out which local waterways offer the best kayaking for beginners and discover what to pack for a summit attempt on a 14,000-foot peak. It's a place where outdoor enthusiasts go to be inspired.

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