When Overachieving Goes Too Far, October 2012

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Climber Leif Karlstrom comes clean about his illicit REI sponsorship.

It all started when I was broke and in college. A climbing buddy came back from China with a bunch of knockoff REI gear. We returned it fraudulently to the store in Eugene, Oregon, which gave us cash. REI didn't even make some of the gear returned, but the store took it because the logo was on it. After that we couldn't stop. We bought used REI at yard sales and swap meets. We went to the Metolius factory and scrounged broken climbing gear from the dumpster. And we returned it all to REI. For cash. On numerous occasions, I got a letter kicking me out of REI. To be sure, they're a great company. I couldn't have afforded to climb in the Bugaboos or Yosemite without them. —AS TOLD TO DAVE COSTELLO

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