REI commits $1 million to make outdoors 'world's largest level playing field'


The vast majority of women want to spend more time outdoors, but many face obstacles to getting outside more. REI says it wants to fix that.

REI Force of Nature

REI has launched a campaign called "Force of Nature," to encourage more women to get outside and eliminate the gender gaps that still exist. // Photo: REI

Sixty percent of women can’t name an outdoor role model.

That’s just one of the shocking findings from a survey REI conducted in January to study women and their relationship to the outdoors. Of the 2,000 women surveyed, 85 percent said outdoor activities are an avenue to better physical and mental health, and more than 70 percent said they feel liberated when they’re outside, and that they’re more likely to feel free from the pressures of everyday life.

Yet, women also feel that men are taken more seriously—both outside, and in sporting goods stores.

REI announced the survey results Monday along with a promise to be part of the solution. Starting May 6, REI will kick off more than 1,000 events nationwide geared toward women and girls. Events like bicycle repair basics, climbing, and yoga for outdoor fitness. In a letter to Co-op members on the retailer’s blog, CEO Jerry Stritzke also promised to work toward closing the gear gap.

“We hear you,” he wrote in the Co-op Journal. “Through the years, gear designed for women has improved, but there is still a gap between the quality of men’s and women’s gear. We are partnering with brands to increase focus on building world-class gear designed for women. We’re also working hard inside our own co-op brands and with vendors to offer expanded extended sizing options.”

REI will also commit $1 million this year to community organizations that focus on getting women outside. Half of that money will go to organizations like Camber Outdoors, GirlTrek, and the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD initiative. In May, REI will make the other half available through the Force of Nature Fund. Organizations will be able to apply for grants if they commit to aiding REI in making the outdoors “the world’s largest level playing field.”



Is REI too big?

If it’s not a big-box store and it’s not an independent specialty retailer, then what exactly is it? REI Co-op defies easy definition. It’s a builder of brands and a risk to them. It competes with smaller shops around the country while throwing its weight around to protect more