A Year Outside: 2016 in REI Classes and Events

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Editor’s note on April 9, 2019: Our commitment to create unique experiences for women, by women is steadfast. We will not be announcing 2019 Outessa dates. We hope the expanded local and REI Adventures trips will allow us to continue to come together as women, growing and learning from each other in the outdoors for years to come. Learn more about other experiences designed for women from REI.

At an REI National Free Weekend event in West Hartford, Conn., a rider brought his bike out for its inaugural ride. The tires were soft and the brakes loose. An REI master tech popped it onto the stand for a quick tune-up. The rider and his friends pedaled away, pleased and grateful, for a renewed chance to explore the day outdoors.

Amid small gestures and large events, REI members rode, hiked, climbed, paddled—and even roasted Twinkies—across the land in 2016.

What did we offer REI members? Trail running at Malibu Creek State Park outside Los Angeles. Free yoga on the High Line pedestrian path in Manhattan. Camping on Northerly Island in Chicago. Kayaking in Washington, D.C. But that’s just the tip.

As we enjoyed the outdoors together at REI events, members shared interests, goals and the ideals of outdoor adventure. So here’s to 2016 and some highlights of how we played outside together this year.

Front Range

Front Range

Mountain bikers across the Front Range of Colorado satisfied their taste for dirt at seven knobby tread events this summer. Wrench nights, demos, Outdoor School classes, music and beer made for a lot of dust-fueled madness for REI members, including riders who were new to the singletrack.

“National Parks Adventure” IMAX Screenings

We rolled out the red carpet for members at pre-screening events at four venues across the country. At each event, a snacks and beverage reception was followed by a showing of the film. Described as “a cinematic journey into America’s awe-inspiring great outdoors,” the film was an inspiration—and a motivation—to get out there more.

Scott Jurek Speaking Tour

He set a speed record on the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail (46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes—3 hours faster than the previous record). So how did he keep running that far, for that long? We brought Scott to REI to find out. At four REI Flagship stores, members got the lowdown on Scott’s run and how he stayed motivated for his incredible month-and-a-half journey. Some members even got in a run with Scott—an experience that now lets them say truthfully that they kept pace with a world-class ultrarunner.

REI Outessa Summit Weekends

Nothing against a luxury spa weekend or anything, but sometimes what a girlfriend needs to rejuvenate is a little dirt and sweat. At two Summit weekends, women were offered a plethora of activities from yoga and hiking to climbing and SUP. Attendees could choose as many or as few activities as they liked (and opt in for some instruction if wanted). Most important at these weekends was the chance for women to connect, support and encourage each other in their outdoor pursuits—even if that meant simply wine tasting, good food and relaxing under a tree with a good book. (Psst… dates for 2017 Summit women’s weekends will be announced mid-December. Check here for info.)

REI Campout in Chicago

2016 REI Outdoor School Classes and Events

Setting up camp and sleeping in a unique location is something many campers aspire to. Co-op members were treated to the special experience when they got the rare chance to camp on Northerly Island in Chicago. The local airfield-turned-park is typically day-use only but we worked with local officials to make the campout happen. Our members, family and friends came together under the stars for an unforgettable night of city views, music, activities and s’mores galore.

National Free Weekend

Think of it as a “hands across America” kind of thing. During one incredible weekend in July, REI offered free Outdoor School classes and outdoor gatherings across the nation. Our members, families and friends turned out in crazy numbers to learn something new, make progress in their skills, or just plain enjoy life outdoors together. (If only the world-record folks had been there to count!)

 “Paul’s Boots” Movie Screenings

The story of Paul, his dream to hike the Appalachian Trail, and of his untimely passing, is one that tugs at our heartstrings. And it’s one that we knew our members could appreciate. At screening events across the country, REI members shared the viewing of this documentary that showed how a community of thru-hikers came together to symbolically make Paul’s dream come true.

Washington DC Flagship Store Grand Opening

REI DC Flagship

How do you get people to notice you when you’re opening a store in a presidential election year in an area that’s noisy with politics and opposing viewpoints? Answer: Find common ground in the outdoors! Dubbed “100 Days of Outdoor Recess,” we sponsored events, classes and activities in the DC area leading up to the store opening. REI members jumped at the chance to bike, paddle, hike, backpack and kick back with friends and other outdoor enthusiasts all summer long. The grand opening party was the grand finale that brought us all together, #UnitedOutside.

Pray for Snow Parties

REI Twinkie Roast - Pray for Snow Parties

After the last leaves fall, the first snow can’t come soon enough for us. To capture the attention of the snow gods and remind them we’re waiting, we offer up roasted Twinkies. It’s become an annual tradition at REI and a reason to gather members together. At parties across the country in selected REI stores, members and friends grab a beer, play games, score some swag and generally have a good time while sacrificing a golden snack cake—all for the higher purpose of bringing on a great snow season.

Want to find out about REI Outdoor School classes and member events in your area? Check out REI.com/events.