Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Welcome REI Co-op Members!
We're glad you're here. If you can't access the Co-op Members section of the community,
click here for instructions on how to join the section that's just for you.

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

@SurvivalGal hey stranger well met!
Peer would suggest I rise to your level 😉
I'm a postdoctoral researcher in plant diversity and evolution, so I know my way around scientific literature. Always nice to have conversations with thoughtful folk!

Yeah, at this stage my skepticism on the insect bite kit is inference (but as I do modeling for my bread and butter, I'm way more comfortable with that than I used to be 😉 ).

Yeah, placebo is a whole can of worms isn't it!?!
I've been doing some casual diving into it, and there is an increasing (but still tentative) literature on it being a nebulous cluster of unrelated and interrelated syndromes. Unfortunately some/many of those actually have no theraputic benefits (ie not even phychosomatic improvement of symptoms), eg. human desire to seek approval or confirm positive effects of treatment, measurement error, poor experimental design. Most damning is that for many experiments where a placebo effect is observed, if the experiment is repeated, especially if the methods are improved, the "placebo" effect tends towards zero. Ie it really represents a nuisance variable that we've slapped with a name when it is positive, and ignore when it is negative/absent. *Not* saying it doesn't exist (tho some are arguing that) but that it is probably waaaay more uncommon and weaker than we typically think.
But love to hear more!

Probably not the forum for this, but hopefully everyone is learning?? 🙂

You'll do. 😉

The conversation may be esoteric, but it's relevant.

I tend to follow in the direction of Dr. Leach's teachings ("Survival Psychology"), however my interests lay more specifically in wilderness survival psychology (and related areas/topics). I find it an enjoyable distraction. Hence, my post on "The Extractor", though my background is in law. 

Yes! I find the vicissitudes (I don't get to use that word enough!) of psychology and the human mind MOST interesting! (ie the butcher who caught his arm in a meat hook, and was in excruciating pain... until he learned the hook was only caught in his shirt sleeve), or more to the point, the story of Joe Simpson (an alpine mountaineer who summited Siula Grande, Peru, then broke his leg, then fell into a crevasse, yet still managed to find the wherewithal to CRAWL his way out and down the mountain before his mates left base camp!) I could discuss and debate the genre ad absurdum, but I digress. 

The only obvious flaw, at this point, in "The Bite Thing" literature/advertising is the characterization of venom as "poison." Otherwise, I personally wouldn't include it as part of MY kit. For the average person, I think of it as one more luxury item to take up space, best left to backyard barbecues. However, for those with allergies, it MAY have some convenience (perhaps even benefit), but at the risk of anaphylaxis.

Currently, if a victim has an allergic reaction, they hopefully have a kit: 1. An antihistamine medication would be a used. If a severe reaction continues, 2. An oral steroid medication (tablet or liquid) would be used. If there's still a severe reaction, 3. An adrenaline (epinephrine) injection. To say nothing of the pain and discomfort. 

As with The Extractor, my opinion is even if it doesn't work AND does not case more problems, at a minimum, it may waste valuable time! 

I’m sorry, what we we talking about?

REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes, LOOK Phil, something shiny!

@BortEdwards, that will keep him busy for hours.


For now, I'm not ready to nominate The Bite Thing (or bear bells without evidence) to be pulled from REI shelves, but at least it won't take over a decade to arrive at a reasoned conclusion.

Stay tuned.


In the teton wilderness this past August, several of the outfitter pack trains used bear bells on their horses/mules. Observable at beginning of video.

Bringing supplies deep into griz country is their livelihood, I wonder what they would think of our comments?

REI Member Since 1979
Teton Wilderness Wyoming, 8 Days Backpacking (short version)Turpin Meadows Trailhead - 2 Ocean Pass - Bridger Lake - Enos Lake - Turpin Meadows30:59 Moose Da...

@@Philreedshikes  I also wear an elephant bell, no elephants within THOUSANDS of miles, so it MUST be working, right?

All kidding aside, THAT'S why science is so important, it is a way of examining a thing in a dispassionate, methodical, logical way. Personal experience, in the courtroom or the laboratory, is a LOWEST form of evidence. It is subject to bias, memory lapses, expectation, and so on.

Science removes all that C*** until all that's left are FACTS. Investigating a thing, scientifically, depends on precisely what your hypothesis is, precisely how you go about getting the results, and precisely how you interpret those results. Regardless, I did say at the outset to be ready to defe you nominations with FACTS.

Do bear bells work? Or is it more likely that the noise caused by the outfitter PACK TRAINS themselves warn bears off instead??



And BTW, I wasn't the one who nominated bear bells to be pulled, that was @Wanderer.


@Philreedshikes  I also wear an elephant bell, no elephants within THOUSANDS of miles, so it MUST be working, right?

People used to ask me if there are bears in the Alps. My answer, "Of course not.  All the cows wear bells."

Now those bells are big and loud, unlike like the puny ~1" ones sold in stores as "bear" bells.

[Actually in recent years bears have been re-introduced to parts of the Alps so that's no longer an accurate response.]

> Do bear bells work? Or is it more likely that the noise caused by the outfitter PACK TRAINS themselves warn bears off instead??

That would be my guess. The ones sold in stores are too small and make too little noise to rise above the sound of two hikers chatting. Perhaps their sound is higher frequency and bears can hear that better. 

While we're discussing bears, some years ago when I was visiting Banff, several trails were restricted to parties of 5 or more due to recent bear activity. I asked a warden (Canadian for ranger) why 5 and not 4 or 6? His response, "Well there's never been a report of a bear attacking groups of 5 or more." I hopethink he was being serious... 


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

@Wanderer Good points!

REI Member Since 1979

@SurvivalGal That’s a great question, and it deserves a great answer!


REI Member Since 1979