> Who knows. It's at least convenient that when something really fails due to manufacturer defect, some companies honor the manufacturers they represent with a warranty replacement. That's the best use of the policy, and a 1-year limit really kills that. Imagine you spend $600 on a winter tent, use it twice that season, and the third time you use it next year it delaminates and your year is up with REI. Oh well!
Defects and product failure is still covered for "the life of the product", which is whatever a reasonable lifetime for an item should be. That's a judgement call that will be made by the cashier, or if you make enough noise, a manager. 10 year old tent? You might be out of luck.
The 1 year policy is pretty straight-forward. If you do not like something, or in their parlance, are un-satisfied, for *any* reason, you may bring it back within 1 year, no ifs, ands, or buts.
The product is, however, covered by REI's guarantee for defects and product failure with no set expiration date, excepting extraordinary wear and tear from (ab)usage. To me, this guarantee is how I've always treated REI, before and after working there, and it represents pretty much no change for me as a consumer.