There is great irony in this thread for me.
Back in 1991 I was preparing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
A very wise REI employee recommended i NOT use Raichle Montagna Boots (at 5lbs a pair!) to hike the trail.
She said i would loose my toe nails.
Well.. I bought those boots anyways despite her advice.
I lost 9 toenails and the soles of my feet as well at mile 43 of the 2,665 mile trail.
18 years later i heeded the advice I got from that woman at REI, as well as a lot of info from Yogi's guide, and the internet, and Ray Jardine.. I completed the trail in 2009 with almost pristine feet.
The point is.. I could have easily listened to the wise woman from REI back in 1991 and saved myself 18 years of grief.
Obviously skill ranges among individual emplyees of REI vary widely but I am still impressed by that encounter so many years ago.
She had mentioned that she had hiked the Appalachian trail... Had i known at the time what that was, i would surely have taken her words more seriously.
The ultimate irony is that now I have hiked the PCT, CDT, and AT, and family and friends tell me I should work at REI myself.
I actually would consider it but i am making 27 bucks an hour plumbing right now.
Even more irony for you... Well, getting off the "path" to follow the money.
I also feel there is the real danger of the pressure to sell heavy useless gear to hikers when what they really need is to shed mental "pounds" of limitations.
Remember.. that REI employee in 1991 told me NOT to buy that piece of REI gear!
I don't think long distance hikers are the best people to espouse gear selection to "weekend" hikers either.
Different goals and different expectations of "comfort".
I hope all this makes sense and doesn't seem assenine.
It is true there is a divide between every persons hiking style and expectations though.
This is a really tough topic to discuss without sounding pompous or something.
It was just last year when i was on the AT and I would dread people asking me about my "light" pack and gear.
What works for a long distance hiker might be unacceptably light for someone else with different objectives.
This is delicate...
But, I think a lot of folks you find at REI are more "inclined" towards the weekend backpacker.
I am being very general here so don't beat me up okay.. I think you get the idea.
But of course there is still the case of the excellant advice, from that REI employee that i did not heed in 1991, so go figure.
REI accepted those Raichle Montagna Boots, even covered in snowseal, as a return as well... Yea that takes the cake.