Just as bears emerge from hibernation and birds migrate in the spring, REI introduces its big anniversary sale every year around Memorial Day. This year’s event lasts from May 20 through May 30. Many items are up to 30 percent off, but REI Co-op members save up to 20 percent off any full-price item of their choice and an extra 20 percent off on any REI Outlet item with the code ANNIV22.
We’ve highlighted some of our favorite selections here. If you don’t see anything that you need, be sure to check out our summer guides to the Best Action Cameras, Best Portable Grills, and Best Reusable Water Bottles.
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Paddling is an easy entry into water sports, but city dwellers often don’t have room for a kayak in their apartments. Oru’s foldable kayaks are easy to store and transport, and they don’t go on sale very often. This is its smallest kayak, which is really only suitable for flat water. It weighs only 20 pounds and folds out within a matter of minutes. You’ll probably also need a personal flotation device (PFD) and a paddle.
Fitness and Apparel Deals
If you’re just beginning to run seriously, you don’t need to spend more than $200 on a running watch. Garmin’s Forerunner series is GPS-enabled to more accurately track your pace and distance, and Garmin’s software offers features like PacePro to help you fine-tune your training. Check out our Best Garmin Watches guide for more recommendations.
The brand name “Camelbak” is synonymous with “hydration pack” the way “Q-Tip” means “cotton swab.” Several Camelbak packs are on sale, but this 2-liter one is burly enough for your biggest adventures.
If you spend any time outdoors, Buffs are so useful (and so embarrassingly uncool, but I digress). I use mine as a headband to keep my bangs out of my eyes and sweat off my forehead or neck, as a half-mask to keep dust at bay while mountain biking, or as a head warmer under my bike helmet when it’s rainy or chilly outside.
WIRED senior writer Scott Gilbertson loves these barely there sandals so much that he wrote an entire essay about them. Check out his guide to the Best Barefoot Shoes for more.
Like its tents, REI’s rain jackets offer incredible value for the money. The Rainier is a perennial affordable pick in our guide to the Best Rain Jackets.
Kari Traa’s Norwegian women-specific sportswear could be a good option if you don’t like the fit or ubiquitous pastel purple that many other manufacturers use for their women’s gear. I’ve tested this jacket, and it layers well under my outer shell. Check out our How to Layer guide for more.
If you’re an REI member, you get access to more deals than just the aforementioned discount on full-priced items. Several of us own this light, little day pack in different colors. This one is made from environmentally friendly Bluesign-approved materials and is solution-dyed in a process that reduces water consumption. Our Hiking 101 guide has other pack options too.
Camping and Cooking Deals
I have nothing more to say about this convertible sleeping bag/overcoat except that you definitely need it. My children and I each have our own, and we all pad around the campsite like grubby worms, much to my spouse’s irritation. It is the Camp Slanket. You will wear it. All. The. Time.
As we found in our testing for the Best Tents, REI’s offer incredible value for the money. I have used my REI tent for a decade. It’s really hard to find another backpacking tent with these specs at this ridiculous price, which includes a rainfly, footprint, guylines, and stuff sack.
MSR makes some of the best backpacking gear; my own backpacking stove is a much older MSR Whisperlite. This all-in-one system packs conveniently into itself, and the pot screws securely onto the burner. It’s both a great backpacking stove and an extra boiler set if your two camp stove burners are occupied with pancakes and eggs.
I seem to have to replace my insulated tumblers for both hot and cold campsite beverages every year. How do these just disappear? We typically like Hydro Flask bottles, and you can check out our Best Travel Mugs guide for more.
Portable power stations aren’t just for making sure you can work “out of office” at base camp. I have this one in our emergency preparedness kit to charge my ebike batteries, phones, and laptops. For more (smaller) options, check out our guide to the Best Portable Chargers.
If you’re living that #vanlife this summer, you can use your power station to recharge your electric cooler so you don’t need to take up half of the cooler’s real estate with ice. Like the Goal Zero Yeti, it can be powered from an outlet or from a solar panel.
I don’t have an excuse for recommending these chopsticks except that Snow Peak’s are weighted and balanced to feel good in your hand. You’ll use your reusable gear much more often if it’s beautiful and you enjoy holding it. Check out our guide to the Best Reusable Products for more.
Biking and Climbing Deals
Given the ongoing supply chain issues, if you can find a bike in stock, go for it. Electra is owned by Trek. The low Flat Foot geometry means you can sit comfortably upright while placing both feet firmly on the ground when you’re stopped—a boon for newbie bikers. Unfortunately, the electric version is not on sale.
I swear this is the summer that my kids will learn how to ride a bike. If you’re a member, you can also trade in your kid’s bike for a larger one.
If you’re still avoiding indoor gyms due to the ongoing pandemic, you can mount a hangboard over one of your doorways to do pull-ups and maintain your finger strength. I own this very simple, reliable one.
If you’re a serious cyclist who rides for hours and hours, a wrist wearable is probably not cutting it for you anymore. The Edge helps you navigate; there’s two-way messaging for when you’re off-grid; and it’s compatible with other Garmin devices, like a chest strap heart-rate monitor or the Varia radar sensor that helps detect passing cars (sort of).
If you have world-beating quads, a lot of money, and not very much space, then you absolutely need this compact bike simulator that can replicate the feel of your exact bike, ride, and shifters. It bears mentioning that you can also ride your actual bike on one of Wahoo’s trainers.
Your helmet should have MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology, which lets it rotate slightly around your head in the event of a crash and absorb more rotational force. As a bonus, Nutcase helmets also make you look more like a cool skateboarder than like you’re entering Le Tour de Dork.
Speaking of looking like a dork, do padded gloves help reduce discomfort with both cycling and spinning? Unfortunately, they do. REI is offering 25 percent off all Pearl Izumi gear for the duration of the sale.
Your bike lock can be as personal as your bike; I use this highly rated chain lock because I have a cargo bike and don’t like futzing around to make a U-lock work with both my bike and standard bike racks. A lot of Kryptonite bike locks are on sale; check out Best Bike Locks guide for more.
If I’m running or biking at night, I always throw this on over my clothes. It’s light and adjustable; I forget I’m wearing it, but cars do not.
Stewart says public interest in spiders and scorpions has exploded as people realize they are actually low-maintenance pets that don’t need walking three times a day and can be kept in apartments or small homes without a backyard. “They’re fascinating creatures, and they’re beautiful,” says Stewart, who has been collecting them for the past 20 years.
That said, he agrees that international spider trading can be a problem because unethical collectors can decimate wild populations. “We don’t just like tarantulas because they look cool,” Stewart says. “We’re more fascinated by them and want to preserve them in the wild, so you don’t want to buy a wild-collected tarantula. Now it almost makes you a pariah because you’re part of the problem.”
Stewart doesn’t breed tarantulas himself—he says he buys them from reputable dealers—but he says it’s just a lot cheaper to breed them than to import them from the wild. “Importing tarantulas is a very expensive and time-consuming process,” Stewart says. “There’s a lot of red tape you have to go through. You have to get permits from the US Department of Agriculture and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Even collectors have to prove that these are ethically sourced and that they were taken out of the wild with correct permits just to get them imported into the country.” Stewart advises people to avoid dealers who can’t identify the source of their arachnids, and to research dealers on chat groups such as Arachnoboards.
Still, without any kind of international certification program, it can be difficult for a tarantula-lover to actually know the creature’s origin—is the seller a legal breeder here in the US or a collector who plucked it from its nest in a tropical forest and smuggled it out of the country? In 2019, just weeks after scientists in Malaysia discovered a new species of tarantula, later named Birupes simoroxigorum, a trio of collectors from Poland went on an expedition and sent several of them to the United Kingdom without proper permits, according to a report in the journal Science. Members of that same rare species, which is also commonly known as the neon blue leg tarantula, are currently being sold online in the US. While no US law prohibits the purchase of this particular species, international and US laws do protect certain tarantulas from Sri Lanka, making it illegal to import them into the US or transfer across state lines unless they are gifted to a zoo or a university, according to Stewart.
Overall, most regulations fall on suppliers, not customers. Each country requires its own permits to collect wildlife. And in the US, federal permits are required to import tarantulas and other exotic pets, but not to purchase them.
Currently, each state also has its own laws governing the ownership of exotic pets, although new legislation that has passed the House of Representatives would ban the sale of non-native exotic pets across state lines. The proposed legislation is in the form of amendments to the anti-wildlife-trafficking Lacey Act and is currently before a Senate committee. The proposal is designed to crack down on invasive species entering the US, but some veterinary groups say the legislation will make it more difficult for owners of exotic pets to get veterinary care.
Still, Sérgio Henriques, invertebrate conservation coordinator at the Indianapolis Zoo, says that even legal sales boost demand for colorful and rare spiders and scorpions, putting an increasing strain on wild populations.Even legitimate breeders often purchase wild specimens to boost the genetic diversity of their captive stock.
“I would just invite people who love these animals and care for them to find out how those species are actually faring in the wild,” says Henriques, who also co-chairs the IUCN’s spider and scorpion specialist group. “If you love these animals, let them thrive in the wild. And let’s not be in a position where they are available now for you, but they will be gone for the next generation.”
Big picture, there’s no legal issue with posting surveillance cam content. Experts agree that it is generally legal to post video footage captured in a public space where the subject of the video lacks a reasonable expectation of privacy. (Things get a bit trickier with audio recordings, where states vary in consent rules, but, again, these rules often don’t apply when a person is in a public space, like on a sidewalk.) While a person’s front door area is legally considered “private” for Fourth Amendment purposes—meaning the police can’t snoop around without a warrant—a homeowner can surveil their own space. Accordingly, the decision to post content is almost entirely at the discretion of the camera’s owner, who also carries the burden of ensuring that their use of surveillance devices does not violate local privacy ordinances, according to Ring’s terms of service.
For its part, Ring warns users against using cam footage in a manner that is “harmful, fraudulent, deceptive, threatening, harassing, defamatory, obscene, or otherwise objectionable.” The company’s community guidelines for its companion Neighbors app allows posts showing “individual behavior” as long as the subject of the cam footage has committed a crime, handled property without authorization, or trespassed—and as long as the trespassing occurred in an “unusual location” or late at night.
As the cameras have continued to soar in popularity, along with the content they produce, our expectation of privacy at a person’s doorstep has continued to decline. And because we lack a clear, definite constitutional right to privacy, privacy rights in the US are often a reflection of cultural sentiments around who is deserving of such rights. If a person appears suspicious to a camera owner, those rights often evaporate.
When surveillance footage is shared online, a few common sentiments are used for justification: First, your privacy rights are at the mercy of the camera’s owner. Second, if you don’t want your behavior to be made public, don’t do something the rest of us deplore. Sometimes this is a truly criminal act. Other times, it’s for things we used to consider a mere nuisance, or didn’t even know about at all.
We’ve also become comfortable with a pretty broad definition of which criminal acts deserve to be publicly shared when it comes to surveillance footage. For instance, @karenthecamera recently posted a video of three young people smoking crack, huddled against a nearby wooden fence. A few user comments made oblique reference to conspiracy theories about the Biden administration, while others posted emojis of dismay at the seemingly blasé drug activity happening in a public, residential space. Several other videos feature people, likely unhoused, shuffling by with shopping carts, often talking to themselves. It’s true that loitering and vagrancy have been criminalized in most jurisdictions, and while possessing crack cocaine is, of course, illegal, the long-standing police rationale for posting the identity of a person suspected of a crime is typically for locating a fugitive or identifying a dangerous person. The ease of sharing surveillance footage has blurred the boundaries between criminal and nuisance to include any behavior we don’t want in our backyard or doorstep.
The value judgments around curating surveillance cam footage, in some ways, illustrates broader tensions of our current moment. As fear of crime rises again in a post-quarantine world, people are frustrated by their perceived risk of becoming a victim. In the wake of broad public critiques of policing, faith in that institution has declined as well. Even as public support for broken-window policing declined, nuisance crimes, loitering, public intoxication, and petty theft are featured heavily in the surveillance footage shared across social platforms. While the public may be less comfortable with policing these behaviors through the state, we’ve become more comfortable policing them ourselves through the power of digital public shaming.
Few people love car dealerships. They’re stressful and sprawling, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that someone is getting a raw deal. But as the auto industry increasingly goes electric and moves online, companies like Honda are rethinking every aspect of the purchase process—including the spaces in which it happens.
Honda announced today that it’s rolling out a new dealership design, one that takes up less square footage and is modular and flexible; what was once showroom space, for example, can be transformed into offices for employees. It’ll also have electric vehicle chargers, as the company aims to sell half a million EVs in the US by 2030. “Our dealers are looking at ways to modernize and digitalize their business,” Mamadou Diallo, the vice president of auto sales at American Honda, told reporters last week. Recent experiences, he says, have taught the automaker that selling cars “will not require as much space.” And they’re not the only ones looking to shed square footage.
Like so many recent transformations, the shift is in part a reflection of the pandemic. Automakers have struggled through a shortage of semiconductor chips, a serious issue for vehicles that need hundreds and sometimes a thousand or more of them to work. The supply chain bottleneck means new car dealers have fewer vehicles on hand to show off to customers. Meanwhile, inspired by a new breed of electrified direct sales companies, like Tesla and Rivian, big automakers started experimenting with letting customers reserve and even buy their cars online. Ford made its first sales for its electrified sports car, the Mustang Mach-E, on the internet and took online reservations for its electric pickup truck. Volvo said last year that its electric vehicles—which the automaker says will account for 100 percent of sales by 2030—will be sold exclusively online.
That could make buying cars more convenient, but it makes selling them easier, too. Building cars to fulfill customers’ online orders takes some guesswork out of vehicle production, meaning fewer unexpectedly unpopular models end up languishing—and eventually selling at a discount—on showroom floors. “We have learned that, yes, operating with fewer vehicles on lots is not only possible, but it’s better for customers, dealers, and Ford,” Jim Farley, Ford’s CEO, told investors last summer. “But we’re also driving a significant increase in the number of customers configuring and ordering their vehicles online, so we have better visibility to real demand.”
This pandemic-era adjustment has not always worked out in car buyers’ favor. Dealers report that the combination of a tight car market and limited inventory means they can offer fewer discounts to customers hoping to drive their new purchases off the lot. Buyers pay more, and dealers make higher margins per sale. But industry experts are divided over whether those conditions will last beyond the public health emergency and related supply chain struggles.
Still, the era of the rows and rows of makes and models and colors may be over for good. “The dealership doesn’t need to be some Taj Mahal on the highway somewhere,” says Mike Anderson, the president of the Rikess Group, an automotive consultancy. Dealerships that Anderson advises have started to bring vehicles to potential customers for test drives, and then back to their homes or offices when they close the deal. Automakers like Tesla, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW are also experimenting with mobile servicing, or having technicians travel to customers’ vehicles. In some places, “many of the guests won’t see the dealership at all,” Anderson says.
It could take years or even decades for dealerships to change physically because it takes time and money to retrofit a building. Diallo, the Honda executive, says the automakers’ new dealership design “is not a program we are forcing dealers to adopt,” but a direction Honda wants its dealers to follow as they renovate and make updates. Volkswagen of America network operation vice president Brian Kelly says the automaker is considering similar adaptations. “We recognize that increased EV adoption, the growing preference of consumers to purchase vehicles through digital retailing solutions, and the proliferation of mobile servicing and vehicle delivery—amongst a host of industrywide changes—will have a forward impact on common size and layout of traditional dealership facilities,” he said in a statement.
The drive to protect children online will soon collide with an equal and opposing political force: the criminalization of abortion. In a country where many states will soon treat fetuses as children, the surveillance tools targeted at protecting kids will be exploited to target abortion. And one of the biggest threats to reproductive freedom will unintentionally come from its staunch defenders in the European Union.
Last week the EU unveiled draft regulations that would effectively ban end-to-end encryption and force internet firms to scan for abusive materials. Regulators would not only require the makers of chat apps to scan every message for child sexual abuse material (CSAM), a controversial practice that firms like Meta already do with Facebook Messenger, but they would also require platforms to scan every sentence of every message to look for illegal activity. Such rules would impact anyone using a chat app company that does business within the EU. Virtually every American user would be subject to these scans.
Regulators, companies, and even stalwart surveillance opponents on both sides of the Atlantic have framed CSAM as a unique threat. And while many of us might sign up for a future in which algorithms magically detect harm to children, even the EU admits that scanning would require “human oversight and review.” The EU fails to address the mathematical reality of encryption: If we allow a surveillance tool to target one set of content, it can easily be aimed at another. This is how such algorithms can be trained to target religious content, political messages, or information about abortion. It’s the exact same technology.
Earlier child protection technologies provide us with a cautionary tale. In 2000, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) mandated that federally funded schools and libraries block content that is “harmful to children.” More than 20 years later, school districts from Texas to progressive Arlington, Virginia, have exploited this legislation to block sites for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, as well as a broad spectrum of progressive, anti-racist, and LGBTQ content. Congress never said medically accurate information about abortion is “harmful material,” but that is the claim of some states today, even with Roe still on the books.
Post-Roe, many states won’t just treat abortion as child abuse, but in several states likely as murder, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. European regulators and tech companies are not prepared for the coming civil rights catastrophe. No matter what companies say about pro-choice values, they will behave very differently when faced with an anti-choice court order and the threat of jail. An effective ban on end-to-end encryption would allow American courts to force Apple, Meta, Google, and others to search for abortion-related content on their platforms, and if they refuse, they’d be held in contempt.
Even with abortion still constitutionally protected, police already prosecute pregnant people with all the surveillance tools of modern life. As Cynthia Conti-Cook of the Ford Foundation and Kate Bertash of the Digital Defense Fund wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last year, “The use of digital forensic tools to investigate pregnancy outcomes … presents an insidious threat to our fundamental freedoms.” Police use search histories and text messages to charge pregnant people with murder following stillbirth. This isn’t just an invasive technique, but highly error-prone, easily miscasting medical questions as evidence of criminal intent. For years, we’ve seen digital payment and purchase records, even PayPal history, used to arrest people for buying and selling abortifacients like mifepristone.
Pregnant people don’t only have to worry about the companies that currently have their data, but everyone else they could sell it to. According to a 2019 lawsuit I helped bring against the data broker and news service Thomson Reuters, the company sells information on millions of Americans’ abortion histories to police, private companies, and even the US Immigration and Customs agency (ICE). Even some state regulators are raising the alarm, like a recent “consumer alert” from New York State Attorney General Letitia James, warning how period tracking apps, text messages, and other data can be used to target pregnant people.
We must reevaluate every surveillance tool (public and private) with an eye to the pregnant people who will soon be targeted. For tech companies, this includes revisiting what it means to promise their customers privacy. Apple long garnered praise for how it protected user data, particularly when it went to federal court in 2016 to oppose government demands that it hack into a suspect’s iPhone. Its hardline privacy stance was especially evident because the court order came as part of a terrorism investigation.
But the firm has been far less willing to take on the same fight when it comes to CSAM. Last summer, Apple proposed embedding CSAM surveillance in every iPhone and iPad, scanning for content on its billion+ devices. The Cupertino behemoth quickly conceded to what the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children first called “the screeching voices of the minority,” but it never gave up the effort completely, recently announcing CSAM scanning for UK users. Apple is hardly alone, joining firms like Meta, which not only actively scans the content of unencrypted messages on the Facebook platform, but also circumvents claims of “end-to-end encryption” to monitor messages on the WhatsApp platform by accessing copies decrypted and flagged by users. Google similarly embeds CSAM detection in many of its platforms, making hundreds of thousands of reports to authorities each year.
Regulators and companies want both an open internet and a surveillance state. This is impossible. The same encryption that hides CSAM will soon be a lifeline for abortion seekers and political dissidents. The same moderation tools that can target child abuse will soon be commandeered to protect “unborn children.” And the same police that partner with platforms against CSAM will soon be arresting doctors and pregnant people.
Tech companies can’t change the law, but they can decide to make platforms that put privacy and safety first. And while some may think anti-CSAM surveillance is more important than protecting pregnant people, the uncomfortable truth is that anti-CSAM surveillance doesn’t work. Even as widespread surveillance undermines almost every aspect of internet safety, the amount of CSAM has only gone up.
But tech companies won’t even have the chance to do the right thing if EU regulators go through the labyrinthine process required to turn their draft rules into a reality and force member states to implement laws. While the Dobbs decision will arrive before these EU requirements go into effect, the time to act is now: EU officials have shown that they are eager to take on Big Tech. Beyond that, they are far from the only officials to contemplate such measure Anti-encryption advocates have pushed measures in Congress like the Earn It Act, which would impose similar obligations, breaking end-to-end encryption. But while American attacks on internet privacy have floundered, European efforts appear to be gaining momentum.
Officials are rightfully skeptical of tech firms’ ability to police themselves, but it’s yet to be seen whether they are willing to empower anti-choice police in the process. EU legislators may be trying to help children, but instead they are creating a digital version of the Handmaid’s Tale. They must reverse course and reaffirm encryption as a fundamental right before pregnant people pay the price.
The US announced today that it will fund data-gathering on the conflict in Ukraine. In addition to laying the groundwork for war-crime prosecutions, the move would share critical, real-time data with humanitarian organizations.
The newly established Conflict Observatory will use open source investigation techniques and satellite imagery to monitor the conflict in Ukraine and collect evidence of possible war crimes. Outside organizations and international investigators would be able access the resulting database, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed in an email.
Partners for the Conflict Observatory include Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, artificial intelligence company PlanetScape Ai, and Esri, a geographic information systems company, according to a State Department press release. The Observatory will have access to commercial satellite data and imagery from the US government, which will “allow civil society groups to move at a faster pace, towards a speed once reserved for US intelligence,” says Nathaniel Raymond, a lecturer at Yale’s Jackson School of Global Affairs and a coleader of the Humanitarian Research Lab.
Raymond himself is no stranger to using technology to investigate conflicts and crises. More than a decade ago he was the director of operations for the Satellite Sentinel Project, cofounded by actor George Clooney, which used satellite imagery to monitor the conflict in South Sudan and documented human rights abuses. It was the first initiative of its kind but would be too costly and resource-intensive for other organizations to replicate.
“This kind of work is very labor-intensive,” says Alexa Koenig, executive director at the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law. “I think on the money and capacity side, we’re at a moment where a lot of these organizations do need to be thinking about the information environment in which they’re working. Open source information can be invaluable at the preliminary investigation stage, as you’re planning either humanitarian relief or to conduct a legal investigation.”
None of the data the Observatory will use and disseminate is classified; the satellite imagery will be taken from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s commercial contracts with private companies. But having access to many types of data in one place, rather than spread across many different entities, and the ability to analyze it, would make it powerful. Although the Observatory would be using publicly available data, it does not plan to make its data open source, unlike many other humanitarian projects, according to Raymond.
“The level of detail and how fast, in some cases, imagery data can be collected means that it could have value for those seeking to target civilians and protected infrastructure like hospitals and shelters,” he says.
Raymond is particularly aware of these kinds of risks. While he was at Satellite Sentinel, a report that the group published may have led to the kidnapping of a group of Chinese road workers by the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Though the image had been de-identified by removing longitude and latitude, Raymond says locals could have recognized the terrain and identified where the road crew was.