Three women hiking on a trail with Mt. Jefferson in the background.

REI Outessa Grows the Community of Women in the Outdoors

Close to 1,000 women participated in 2017 retreat series

Oct 19, 2017

The second annual REI Outessa retreat series brought close to 1,000 women together to experience the outdoors and find their community in Kirkwood, Calif., Mt. Hood, Ore., and Waterville Valley, N.H. this year. From June to September, women pushed their limits and learned skills through new experiences during these immersive three-day weekend retreats.

The events drew a diverse group of women from 40 states across the country to participate in workshops like Wilderness Survival, Map and Compass Navigation, Sunrise Yoga, Reframe on Goal Setting, and Haku Lei Making, and activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, standup paddle boarding, and backpacking. Along with the partner brand representatives that attended Outessa, classes were taught by 65 top REI Outdoor School female instructors, representing REI’s outdoor education programs from Los Angeles to Austin to Atlanta.

“Through Outessa, we want to celebrate a life outside and break down some of the barriers women face to getting outside – for example, a lack of female role models or knowledge about particular activities – and spend a weekend immersed in the outdoors, inspiring and empowering,” said Sally Johnson, senior manager, events marketing at REI. “It’s an opportunity for women to prioritize themselves and take time to do what they love or try something completely new and out of their comfort zone in a supportive environment.”

“I can’t even describe my weekend,” said Katie, a participant at the Waterville Valley Outessa. “It’s like this amazing secret that I don’t want to tell anyone about so as not to spoil it and yet, at the same time, I want to shout it out to the world that this is it – women, in nature, being absolute forces and never looking back.”

A Force of Nature Panel at each event allowed invited speakers to discuss what inspires and motivates them to connect women with the outdoors. Participating groups included GirlTrek, Bold Betties, Outdoor Afro, SheJumps, and Altitude Seven.

32 partner brands guided adventures, hosted unique experiences, and provided demo gear. Key sponsors included PROBAR, Hydro Flask, Petzl, Osprey Packs, nuun, KEEN, Leatherman, Igloo Coolers, OluKai, Big Agnes, SALOMON, The North Face, and Subaru, as well as support sponsorship from Leki, Maui Jim, ENO, Smartwool, Precept Wine, LifeStraw, SmartyPants Vitamins, Cannondale, Boardworks, Oru Kayak, Honey Stinger, NRS, Rinse Bath & Body, Barebones Living, and Allegro Coffee.

“Petzl provided harnesses and helmets for climbing classes and headlamps for nighttime trail running,” said Nicole Swenson, trade show and event coordinator at Petzl. “Outessa allowed us to connect with participants who were having these outdoor experiences for the first time. A lot of these woman had never climbed before or didn’t realize that you could trail run at night. This was an opportunity to welcome them into the outdoor community and introduce them to the Petzl brand.”

“During these weekends, we’re able to spend a lot of time with participants,” said Allyson Crowe, event and field marketing specialist at Hydro Flask. “The structure lets us have impactful conversations and form relationships. The best thing about the experience is the women who attend; everyone is so excited to be here. It’s empowering to be surrounded by so many women – participants, as well as representatives from other brands, outdoor school instructors, and industry leaders.”

Outessa is part of REI’s broader effort called Force of Nature to advance gender equity in the outdoors. Force of Nature aims to ensure women are just as inspired and equipped as men to embrace life outside. It features four components: over 1,000 events designed for women, a comprehensive effort to change the male-dominated imagery of people in the outdoors, an increased effort to develop and offer high-quality technical gear and apparel for women, and a $1 million commitment in 2017 to support nonprofits that create opportunities for women in the outdoors.

The 2017 Outessa recap video can be viewed HERE and photos can be viewed HERE.

Like Outessa on Facebook for news and updates on 2018 dates.

About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 23 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. If you can’t visit one of our many stores, you can shop at, REI Outlet or the REI shopping app. Everyone is welcome to shop REI, but members who join the co-op enjoy a range of benefits. More than a retailer, REI is a purpose-driven and values-led company dedicated to enabling life outside for all.