As a nonbinary customer wanders through aisles of backpacks, hiking boots, tents, and camping supplies in an outdoor gear shop, they come to the racks of gendered clothing: men’s in one corner, women’s in another. But what happens if this particular customer doesn’t identify as either? Hiking pants are on their list of items to buy for an upcoming weekend trip in the woods. So they bounce between both sections, trying to find the right fit, but coming up with nothing. Maybe they’ll just go home and shop online in a more comfortable setting, they think. 

In an effort to make the outdoor industry more welcoming and accessible for all, Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont, is partnering with Venture Out Project to launch a series of events this spring and summer— including a private shopping night—specifically geared toward the LGBTQIA+ community. Venture Out Project is a national organization that brings the queer community together outdoors and leads wilderness trips all around the country by queer people for queer people.

“Outdoor gear is heavily gendered and depending on what a retail employee might assume about a person's gender, they often steer them towards products that are not correct for them,” said Travis Clough, trip operations director at Venture Out Project. “It can also leave a person feeling humiliated and turned off from the whole idea of gearing up for outdoor adventures. We hear this horror story time and time again.”

Hosted by members of OGE’s staff who identify as LGBTQIA+, the Queer Shopping Night this April will cater toward queer-identifying outdoorists who want a private and supportive setting to shop in, as well as tips and tricks for climbing, camping, skiing, paddling, and more outdoor activities.

Also part of the series, OGE has teamed up with nearby Petra Cliffs Indoor Climbing Center to host LGBTQIA+ Climbing Nights on the last Friday of each month, an event that started in October 2019. OGE will provide snacks and lead meet-and-greet sessions.

And finally, queer mountain bikers and allies can participate in monthly Pride Rides, organized by a local LGBTQIA+ community member. OGE brings demo bikes for people who are just getting into the sport or those looking to continue to progress with a new ride.

“By creating safe and inclusive spaces for under-supported populations, we hope to encourage more folks to enjoy outdoor recreation and establish a relationship with the natural world,” said Carolyn Lawrence, events and grants program manager at OGE. “We look forward to sharing more upcoming events throughout the year.”

Because the outdoors knows no gender.


Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont, is a #CoolShop

This Vermont #CoolShop thinks outside the box

Outdoor Gear Exchange (OGE) in Burlington, Vermont, is on fire. It was recently accepted into Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, the elite group of specialty outdoor retailers. It’s only a few likes away from scoring 13,000 followers on Facebook. And it just wrapped up its very own more

How to make your brand queer-inclusive

When Elyse Rylander was in grad school, she couldn’t find a single outdoor education program focused on people in the queer community. She had long been a kayaking guide, and saw a clear need for more inclusive trips. So in 2014, she founded Seattle-based OUT There Adventures more

Perry Cohen standing on a bridge with a green river in the background

Venture Out Project founder Perry Cohen on inclusion, microaggressions, and queer participation in the outdoors

With growing clout in the outdoor industry and multiple large-scale DEI projects in the works, including a new initiative with Outdoor Gear Exchange in Vermont, it's hard to believe that Massachusetts-based Venture Out Project is only five years old. In half a decade, the more

Vermont First Time Happy Campers Program

Outdoor Gear Exchange rallies brands to lend gear to first-time campers

For many of us, camping during our childhoods fueled our pursuits of careers in the outdoors. But for many others, those precious times spent huddled in tents with our families were less frequent, if trips to the campgrounds happened at all. To give first time campers a positive more

3 Rivers Outdoor Co

A new gear shop is born in Pittsburgh, PA

When the doors of 3 Rivers Outdoor Co. (3ROC) open for the first time in spring of 2018, the owners, Christine Iksic and Chris Kaminski, both 37, will already know a whole lot about their customer base. In the last year, the Pittsburgh duo has hosted two pop-up gear stores they more

Mike Donohue, Outdoor Gear Exchange

The Innovation Project: Outdoor Gear Exchange, Episode 1

In Episode 1 of The Innovation Project, we feature Mike Donohue, co-owner of Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont. ** To watch more episodes of The Innovation Project, click here. When Outdoor Gear Exchange was founded in Burlington, Vermont, in 1995, co-owner Mike more

REI Instagram

5 outdoor retail shop Instagram feeds you should follow

My name is Hannah and I’m addicted to Instagram. Lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) for me, my internship with SNEWS is supporting my addiction with this assignment: finding the most inspiring retailer shop Instagram feeds. As a millennial and outdoor newbie on more

DeAnn Echols gear picks

Great Outdoor Store's top picks at Outdoor Retailer

Celebrating 35 years this year, Great Outdoor Store is the only locally owned specialty outdoor store in Sioux Falls. Within the store—housed in an old train depot from the 1880s—you’ll find gear for rock climbing and backpacking, but DeAnn Echols describes the product selection more

Exterior of Walkabout Outfitters

Walkabout Outfitter's top picks at Outdoor Retailer

Walkabout Outfitter’s origin story is one of love. A hiker and retail shop owner fell for each other in 2004 and decided to open up their own outfitter in Lexington, Virginia. Five other locations have opened since then, and this year, the store decided it was time to attend more