For the seventh year in a row, the co-op will close its doors on Black Friday to #OptOutside.
This day is more than closing our doors and pausing online transactions. It is a chance to come together to build a more equitable and inclusive outdoor culture. This year we are highlighting our incredible grantees doing work to connect people, create space, and center health outside. It's because of organizations like these that REI created the Cooperative Action Fund — to give all of us more ways to support them and build the future together.
We would love to hear what you and your family and friends are doing this year to opt outside. An inclusive outdoors may feel far away, but thanks to the work of many, it gets closer every day.
What does an inclusive outdoor culture mean to you?
Same as an indoor inclusive culture; in or out, there's no real difference.
Most of my practical experience with a minority group has been with the Dine' (Navajo), especially at Canyon de Chelly. When I began working there, I got great advice -"Don't Worry about driving in the canyon and getting stuck. You will."
And I did. Also getting stuck were the local residents and we helped each other out numerous times. I worked with a Dine' crew there and elsewhere and I was impressed with their competence and drive. One of the highlights of my career.
I think one reason outdoor recreation has a problem with inclusivity is, if you don't fit the stereotype of an oudoorsy person you don't get invited to go on any trips. I fully understand that some trips are not suitable for people who don't have certain skills or physical abilities, but not every trip has to be that kind. One or two times a year, I like to reserve a group campsite and invite pretty much anyone who wants to come for a DIY campout (BYO food and gear, hang out with the group or do your own thing.). I get a site with toilets, picnic tables, fire rings and such so that people can just throw stuff in the car. Group camping is easy access for old people, people with little kids and people who just haven't done that much camping.
I learned this model of outdoor fun from a friend who used to do what were essentially open-access river trips. He owned a bunch of boats and gear. If you got a permit (and took Bill) you could use his stuff. Bill's trips were models of diversity because Bill talked to everyone and anyone. Instead of the same skilled people going down the river with each other again and again there was always someone new. That's how I learned to row whitewater and why these days I'm nearly the only overweight, grey-haired woman you'll ever see at the oars. In fact, I didn't realize how exclusive and exclusionary river runners are until Bill died and I had to start organizing my own river trips because nobody ever invited me any more.