Opting for Gear: Why We Chose a Rad Wedding Registry Over a Traditional One

Like many modern couples, my husband and I were living together before we finally got the official seal of legitimacy from the state. We’d been together for seven years and were almost two years into being homeowners. So when we started considering a wedding registry, we realized we already owned most of the traditional registry gifts. Things that used to be a necessary well-wish to a new couple starting their first home — kitchenware, decor, linens, bath accessories, etc. — would have been redundant in our household.

We needed to consider alternatives.

And we weren’t alone in this conundrum. Our generation is getting married later than previous ones. About 66% of couples live together before they tie the knot. Traditional registries just haven’t caught up with cultural norms. Or, at least, they haven’t caught up yet. But they’re starting to.

Some couples have started scrapping the registry altogether, opting instead for cash pots and/or honeymoon funds. I’m a fan of that too, but I wasn’t sure everyone would be comfortable with a cash gift. Some people might prefer monetary value not to be the focus of what they gift you. But then, if you don’t provide a registry at all, people might just try and guess, and you’ll end up with more unnecessary things, likely landfill- or goodwill-bound.

But, after a lot of deliberation, there was something we both agreed we really did want and could use — gear.

The Gift of Gear

We are campers, cyclists, mountain bikers, kayakers, fly fishermen, dog owners, gardeners and hiking enthusiasts. For years we have been collecting gear for our various sports. But many of our original nearly decade-old purchases had deteriorated, broken and needed replacement.

Unfortunately, when I started looking, there wasn’t much in the way of quality outdoor supplies on traditional registry sites. Places like Pottery Barn or The Knot have options to make a personalized registry. But the items to choose from are almost ubiquitously bleh.

But with a quick Google search, I found that REI actually offers its own wedding registry.

I started throwing stuff on there before a family bridal shower, unsure if anyone besides a couple of friends would actually use it. But I was surprised (and delighted) that not only did they, but I also received a ton of compliments and excited feedback. One of my cousins said she had no idea some of the things she browsed even existed. She used it as a shopping list to start building her own camping collection. And my aunt loved that she could buy something that “felt very us.”

Anything in REI’s inventory can be added. That includes everything from road atlases to Garmin GPS devices, tents, backcountry cookware, apparel, and outerwear … it’s all up for grabs. Just like with any other registry, you can add items at a variety of price points to fit everyone’s budget. And then, your married life can start with great trips or an adventurous honeymoon with fresh new outdoor gear.

Here are some of the best things we registered for (and were actually gifted).

Our Rad Wedding Registry

REI Co-op Trail Hut 4 Tent

A Car Camping Tent

We’re big campers. We obviously own a tent. Our tent, however, like most of our gear, is catered to backpacking and bikepacking. It’s lightweight and narrow, making it great for backcountry trips. But as we get older and our friends have kids, we’re doing more car camping these days than we ever used to. There’s nothing quite like sitting next to a car with all the storage space I could imagine and then shoving myself, my husband, and our medium-sized dog into a two-person backpacking tent. That was getting old.

So, a car camping tent had been on our list for a while. It just wasn’t a priority expense. But wow, do we appreciate finally having one!

We got an REI Co-op Trail Hut 4 tent. It’s extremely spacious for two people as it fits up to four. At 8 pounds, it’s a heavy tent — but who cares when you’re not packing it in? It’s ideal for what we need it for.

Plus, now we have an extra tent to entice our less outdoorsy friends into getting out with us on the weekend and seeing what this camping thing is all about.

icemule pro cooler

A Cool New Soft Cooler

There is something so at its core wrong about being two days into a trip, sitting on a crisp, cool river in your kayak with rocky banks to one side and towering bluffs on the other, only to reach into your hull and pull out a sun-hot beer. Traditional coolers don’t work on kayaks, and most soft coolers are good for a day trip if you’re lucky.

I love the bag we got. The IceMule Pro Cooler is space-saving and keeps our ice for days at a time, even during the hottest summers Buffalo National River has ever seen. Straps make it easy to load, unload or haul to a campsite up the bank.

MSR WindBurner Stove System

Backpacking Stove/Cooking Set

Backpacking stoves are an essential piece of gear for almost every overnight adventure we partake in. The fast-boiling MSR Windburner Stove System we got is a packable, all-in-one backpacking cookery. It boils water in two minutes in just about any weather. Plus, I love that it has accessories to turn it into a French press or connect a small frying pan to the burner.

ENO DryFly Rain Tarp

Hammock Accessories

I’ve had some Wise Owl hammocks for years and enjoy camping in them when weather and destination allow. But, since I often camp with my partner, I didn’t have any way to stay dry or keep heat in while hammocking between trees. We just hadn’t really invested in hammock accessories.

But we put the ENO DryFly Rain Tarp on our list for the heck of it. Now we’ve got one. And it sure is nice to have a shelter I can use when the opportunity to hammock camp arises.

The weight difference compared to a tent doesn’t always work out for two people when you start throwing in extras like this. But for one, a hammock and a tarp are a comfortable, lightweight way to get into the woods. If you or your partner have solo trips on your minds, this is a great addition to the registry.


Coffee Accessories for the Coffee Snob

As a self-identified coffee snob, I’ve used a lot of backwoods pour-overs. And not only is the Miir Pourigami the best of the bunch, but it’s also the lightest and simplest. The design is so basic you wonder what we’ve been doing all these years. But most important of all, it makes a great cup of joe.

Other coffee accessories, like the Aeropress or the VSSL JAVA Coffee grinder, would likewise make great wedding registry gifts for coffee lovers out there.


Let There Be Light!

Camp lighting always ends up being left to phones or beat-up headlamps. So, we added these Big Agnes mtnGLO Tent Lights to our registry. They’re awesome! They make us feel like we’re glamping in the backwoods. The soft light can be the beacon of the tent from the outside or a nice distributed light to read by when cozied up in a sleeping bag. At just 2 ounces, mtnGLO lights bring a lot to your campsite in a lightweight package.

PackTowl Personal Towel

Camp and Travel Towels

Towels and cookware are pretty traditional registry gifts, so adding outdoor versions to your registry is a great way to make it both familiar and useful (and, for that matter, affordable for everyone). From camping to staying in hostels, packable towels are a must-have and very usable item. This PackTowel Travel Set has all the drying capacity we need on the trail (or on the road). They absorb a lot and dry fast.

Garmin Tacx FLUX S Smart Trainer

Something a Little Bigger

After a few lectures from my mom about needing to register for more items (“people need choices!”), I started getting weird with it. I had no expectation that anyone would actually buy this. But putting a smart trainer for cycling on the list couldn’t hurt, could it? Every season, I make tremendous gains in gravel races and endurance rides, only to have to start over every spring. Of course, muscle memory is there, and I do small, bundled commutes on my bike during the cold months. But it just isn’t the same.

A group of incredibly supportive friends went in on this Garmin TacX FLUX S Smart Trainer, and it’s been an overwinter game changer. It’s silent, and a heavy flywheel simulates realistic inclines up to a 10% gradient. It works with training apps and can measure your power within 3% accuracy.

This is just one example. But throw a few left-of-center or major wish list items on a gear wedding registry, and you might be surprised by what happens.

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Make Your Own Rad Wedding Registry

Long story short: The REI gear registry was an ideal option for my partner and me. Even if you also make a honeypot (like we did), physical gifts are the love language of many. This allows established couples to avoid the wasteful consumerism of what they don’t want or need and gives the gift of the outdoors instead.

Of course, if you wanted to, you could DIY the gear registry, so you aren’t limited to REI’s inventory. You could make a customized spreadsheet gift list and share it with your family and friends. The allure of going through the REI registry is its simplicity, though. It’s one place where people can buy everything, it often has deals, and the return/warranty policies are some of the best.

Check out REI’s website for more info on how to set it up.

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  • February 5, 2023