I've noticed a trend in women's sections at outdoor stores, but have been sad that it persists at REI. The more "intense" sports like mountaineering really seem to cater to men, and at best typically have one or two options for women. For example, I've been looking to invest in some mountaineering boots that fit properly (my current pair have never fit well, but I've never had a chance to try on anything better in a retail store). My local REI doesn't carry mountaineering boots. The next nearest is in Tacoma, and they have *one* pair of women's mountaineering boots. They have a total of about 20 pairs of boots in total. The men's section has *four* choices for mountaineering boots (including the two top-tier options I really would like to try), and similarly about four times as many options for all boots. I even asked if I could try a men's boot in my size, but the men's boots don't run as small as a women's 8US. Point is, I almost skipped this mountaineering trip with my guy friends because I *need* new boots and didn't want to settle for another expensive ill-fitting one-choice option. Fortunately, this store had rentals and the boot fit okay, but I'm not going to rent indefinitely- I love mountaineering and plan to do it for a long time! I've run into the same problem with cold-weather sleeping bags- very few options in anything that fits the average woman, let alone is tailored to women's bodies. I imagine this is a problem that causes many women to put up with less comfortable gear, miss trips, possibly even driving them out of the sport or preventing them from trying it in the first place. In Women's History Month, I hope to hear a little about what REI is doing to make mountaineering, skiing, ultralight or extreme-weather backpacking more available in their stores. For instance, I've been considering ordering multiple pairs on a credit card to try them on in my local store and return the pairs that don't fit. At $300-$600/pair, that's not an option for most people! What about making a promise to ship products for try-on in store without charge when so few options are available?
Anyone else running into the same problem? I really like REI as a company and think they're trying to do good things, which is why I've been disappointed about this.
I also have those frustrations. I have noticed that on the REI website they carry a lot more women's specific gear than is ever in the stores. I look in the stores, check out the men's to look at construction etc and if I find something I like and they have that brand but say another style in my size, I'll try that on to get an idea of how sizes run, then order from the website. If you are not sure of the size, order two. If you have them shipped to the store, you can try them on there, use their "rock" to see if you've got a good heel lock, and return what you don't want. The only problem is sometimes the men's and women's version of the same shoe/boot are made very differently so watch out for that. Or you don't even have to go to the store, check the website, order what you think you want to try on, and return what you don't want. It's a hassle, but it works, and it keeps me in shoes/boots for the activities I love.
I expect the issue with what's stocked in stores is not so much that they are catering to men, it's that they stock what they are selling and if they are not selling that much women's gear, they aren't going to invest square footage of display area into what's not selling. They have to make rent on their stores. I'm not saying its right or fair, it is just what it is; unfortunately for me and you and all the others.