I will chime in regarding shopping at REI. They usually have sales folk that actually wear the gear they sell. I had posted above that I really liked the merino wool socks but didn't post that it was the REI sales gal who finally got me to try them. My brother had been extolling the virtues (but really, who actually believe a younger brother??? Even when you are both in your 60's, lol) but I was looking at them in REI and the sales person was talking about them when I said I wasn't sure because I had wool allergies. She then took me down the rack of socks pointing to which brands felt itchy when she wore them and which ones were OK. I did not feel like she was making this up for a sale as they do not get commission, but was telling me her experience. I went for the Smartwool PhD's and have been very happy.
SO, the point is that if you have questions about a product from wool socks to the crinkly factor in a waterproof jacket, the REI sales people can often help you ferret out the finer points of a product.
REI also stands behind their products, having had them take back a pair of 5-yr-old XC skis that delaminated. They were able to look up what I paid for them in my file and gave me a complete refund. I was shocked. I expected perhaps a hundred off on another pair of skis, not the whole purchase price as I had gotten a few good years out of them.
My word, this sounds like I work for REI and I do not! Just a satisfied customer even tho the closest store is 90 miles away.