Are You a #ForceofNature?

REI is celebrating women in the wild this year with its new #ForceofNature program, which will deliver fresh gear, over 1,000 outdoor-focused classes nationwide for women, and stories that put women front and center.

Why is REI turning the lens on the fairer sex?

According to Jerry Stritzke, President and CEO of the outdoor retailer, which has 145 stores across the U.S., “At REI Co-op, we believe 2017 is going to be a landmark year for gender equity in the outdoors.” Now there’s something we can get behind.

This year, REI commissioned a national study and the results revealed some serious food for thought. More than 85% of all women surveyed said they believe that the outdoors positively affects mental health, physical health, happiness, and overall well-being. In addition, 70% reported that being outdoors is liberating.

These are core reasons we all gravitate to the outdoors. But, REI’s study also confirmed some perceptions many of us hold a truth. A full 63% of the women surveyed said they could not think of an outdoor female role model. And, 6 in 10 said that men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s.

What do you think?

In an open letter on REI’s website, Stritzke says” We believe we can do better and that the time is now.” Which is exactly the impetus behind the #ForceofNature public effort—to disrupt the status quo in the outdoors.

To create real change right now we are putting women—of all ages, races, sizes, gender expressions—front and center in all we do,” says Stritzke.

What’s the plan?

To be the change, REI is serving up a four-pronged approach, all of which is a pretty impressive and comprehensive effort to elevate women in the outdoors.

1. Changing the Narrative: REI is getting behind an effort to start changing the stories we tell. This month, they’re partnering with Outside on the magazine’s first-ever all-women’s issue—a landmark change. This fall, look for a film festival focused on women in the outdoors to be hosted by REI. And, you can also check out stories about women adventurers on REI’s Co-op Journal.

2. Creating Community: Through the remainder of this year, REI will put on more than 1,000 events designed to get women outside. An incredible effort, yet there’s more—there are also hundreds of REI Outdoor School classes, 19 new REI Adventures trips and three REI Outessa retreats—immersive, three-day outdoor adventures that connect the outdoor community—all designed for women and girls.

3. Closing the Gear Gaps: No doubt, women’s gear has improved over the years in design and fit, but there is still more progress needed. To wit, REI is partnering with outdoor brands to increase focus on building world-class gear designed for women.

4. Investing in Communities: The icing on the #ForceofNature cake—REI committing $1 million to support community organizations that are already doing great work to create opportunities for women and girls in the outdoors. Approximately $500,000 will support organizations like Camber Outdoors, GirlTrek and the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD initiative. This month, they also  launched a new $500,000 “Force of Nature” fund, available through an open-call submission process, for organizations that join us in our commitment to make outdoors the world’s largest level playing field.

According to Stritzke, “Today is a milestone in our decades-long journey creating access to life outdoors for all.” Here, at, we couldn’t be more in line with this amazing #ForceofNature goal.

[This post produced in partnership with REI.]