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Items I Wish REI Would NOT Sell!

Let's NOT make these nominations about personal preferences, hearsay, or GUESSES! If you want to send a message (to you know who) about a bad product, be ready to backup your nomination with FACTS. My first nomination is...



This is a product I've seen on REI shelves (Santa Monica, CA) a few years ago, and has recently reappeared (possibly due to the recent looting of the store and current restocking efforts). I understand trying to make a sale, but DO SOME RESEARCH before you sell something!

I've seen (and eaten) my share of rattlesnakes while backpacking here in California, and elsewhere, and I hear about snake bites every year. I imagine it's the same everywhere. I've also seen pictures of the resulting damage and heard of the pain, in no small part due to ineffectual "treatments" causing more tissue damage and amputations. So this is no small issue!

Unfortunately, much of the advice and approaches to addressing snake bites over the past 500 years is based on myth, not medicine!! Sadly, much of it percists to this day. The Sawyer Venom Extractor (The Extractor, pictured) is one such problem!

The kit comes with a syringe and several cups that attach to the end to fit the bite site. It works, which is to say The Extractor has a VERY powerful suction.

I get it, the visceral satisfaction of "sucking out" the venom must feel like a primal way of reversing the incident, to "take it back", but that's NOT what happens and it's not that simple.

First, snake fangs are curved, so the place you would be sucktioning is NOT necessarily where the venom went/is.

Second, snake venom is not just one toxin, it's essentially a cocktail of toxins with molecules of different sizes, diffusing into various tissue compartments including the intravascular and extracellular spaces and spread AWAY from the bite site.

Also, one of the main studies Sawyer cites as reason to buy their product shows the serosanguinous fluid sucktioned out of was only 1/10,000th the concentration of the rattlesnake venom, which is basically NOTHING!

In fact, not only did The Extractor NOT do its job, but studies show more venom leaked out of the bite on its own, AND, The Extractor collapsed the tissues around the wound at the surface, forcing the venom even deeper.

@REI: Outdoor enthusiasts, particularly beginners, look to a variety of sources for help and advice. Those sources include REI in general and REI salespeople in particular. Barring that, they will simply trust that what is on the shelf is worth buying. Considering the above, I would strenuously recommend the product be pulled from your shelves and purged from your stock so it does NOT reappear!

[questions welcome]


37 Replies

@Wanderer, LOL! "... small bells and smell of pepper."

I use little bells (I prefer a set of small bells which I can use as one "bear bell" or separately on my pack, food bag, etc.

HOWEVER, I use them on my pack so I know if some day hiker, or day biker, starts getting TOO curious about my gear while I'm sleeping (true story!) or if a squirrel gets too curious about my hanging food bag.

"BEARS"?... ya, I guess that's possible too. 😉

@Wanderer I have heard these bells referred to as "dinner bells" since they tell the bears that dinner is coming.

I've hear it before but I love that joke about ID'ing the bear scat. 

@SurvivalGal @OldGuyot @hikermor @Wanderer 

One of the reasons we were most excited to establish this community was to hear directly from our customers about their ideas, suggestions, and feedback. This conversation is a good example because it reinforced a recent decision we made about the Sawyer Extractor Kit. Once we sell through our current inventory, we will no longer be carrying the venom extractor. With that said, because our members have appreciated the Sawyer Extractor Kit primarily for its treatment of bug bites and bee stings, we have added a similar product to our assortment for extracting venom from bug bites and bee/wasp stings (BUG BITE Thing removal tool).

Thanks for your input (and keep it coming)!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.


Meh... somewhat good news, yet underwhelming and not at all surprising (gotta make back that money somehow, right? Even if through unwary customers).

Many of us with the experience, and proactive proclivities to find the facts for ourselves, are likely immune to this type of potentially dangerous snake oil. As to your OTHER customers... not so much.

While REI appears to have [finally] arrived at the only correct decision (inescapable though it may be), I somehow doubt the packaging will show ANY warning stickers about using it for SNAKE bites, and I would wager as much!

We certainly shouldn't count on Sawyer's OWNER to make clear his product's limitations to the public (despite the scientific consensus), he's made his position quite clear! As to REI....


BTW, I took a little look at the Bug Bite Thing, I haven't bought it or looked for any serious papers on this sort of thing, but at least it's name/marketing is restrained (they're not over hyping it).

I suspect if it works, the results would be akin to urinating on a jellyfish sting or stinging nettle (both of which I've written about before), it works because you BELIEVE it works. Meaning the results are more psychological than physiological.

But, at least at this point, it appears the worst that might happen is a very semetrical hicky.


Indeed. I have a friend who swears by the insect bite extractor, but I'd bet my fortune (so, about $3.85) that it's almost entirely psychosomatic (insert rant about why the placebo effect is a dangerous and elusive phenomenon). The lack of efficacy will be exactly the same as the snake kit, just on a different (and hopefully not life threatening) scale.
Unfortunately/fortunately until we allow high volume double blind peer review testing on human subjects, it's all pretty much anecdote,  data.

I'd prefer to see @REI-JohnJ  not sell either kit, as REI is giving implicit endorsement (which will eventually feed back into reputation if an incentive is needed), and without any evidence for their working they represent the thin end of a wedge pushing people to trust products that don't work.

Could you please cite the articles which undergird your statement that this gadget's effects are psychosomatic?  More broadly, what is the basis for your assertion?

I have no dog in this fight.  I carry neither Sawyer item and I have never felt the need for either - just curious

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hey hikermor!
I wish I could, hence the bemoaning not having any peer review double blind data. Also why it would be my bet - if I had data then I wouldn't need to bet 😉
*However* based on it having the same mechanistic principal (and issues) as the snakebite kit (SurvivalGal has noted references, also below), and there being a general "common-sense-and-what-we-know-about-how-and-how-fast-venom-and-other-bite-substances-operate-in-tissue" hurdle to get over (the active agents will have dispersed into the tissue or blood well before you get to it and the body's immune system activated - venom etc by it's nature doesn't "pool" in a bite/sting), that would be my strong leaning at this point.
So, no data, which is why we have the grey "what's the harm" area, but it sets a worrying precedent, especially when it comes to medical devices.
Not sure that is a very satisfactory answer, but...

Snake venom study:,bu....

"Not sure that is a very satisfactory answer,"   Agreed - unfortunate

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@BortEdwards, might this actually be a peer?... HERE?? We shall see, looking forward.

(and others)

I only took a cursory glance at a few abstracts (a synopsis, for the rest of you), and it appears there may have been some success with a spider bite. So, promising, but I'd wait a few months for more studies (there are undoubtedly more PhD candidates who's professors will happily pen their name to the work).

BTW, phychosomatic/placebo issues ARE a thing. In fact, the whole brain - body connection is not fully understood, but if it works (for a FEW individuals, good for them)