‘Opt Outside’ Hits Summer: REI Unveils Massive Day of Free Workshops and Adventures

(Photo/REI Co-op)

It has been almost 10 years since the REI Co-op first announced that it would close all of its stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday for its “Opt Outside” campaign. The brand said it wanted to encourage customers and employees to spend more time in nature doing what they love.

In the years since, millions of people have participated, many organizations have signed on, and the program continues to evolve.

This year, REI will expand Opt Outside beyond Thanksgiving and Black Friday. On Saturday, June 15, the Seattle-based outdoor retailer will host more than 300 free classes and day tours across the U.S. REI isn’t shuttering for the day; rather, it is encouraging everyone to get outside by highlighting the outdoor-oriented classes and experiences its customers have access to all year round.

June 15 is not the only day of the year when customers can take REI’s classes, tours, and trips. However, it is the only day that so many of them will be offered for free. The classes cover everything from bike maintenance to camp cooking. The tours include hiking, running, yoga, paddling, and more.

Select stores will also host diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) influencers and organizations working in the outdoor industry.

“Opt Outside is much bigger than one day of the year — it’s the way we live. It’s the clearest expression of what REI is all about,” Ben Steele, REI executive vice president and chief customer officer, said in a press release. “From our incredible store staff to our professional guides and much more, the co-op is here to be a resource for everyone to have a healthy, active life outside.”

REI anticipates 6,000 Opt Outside participants this year. Registration for the workshops and tours opened on June 3. It will remain open through the day of the event on June 15.

REI Co-Op: Opt-Outside June 15

(Photo/REI Co-Op)

As its grown, Opt-Outside has made headlines almost every year. In 2017, it launched a custom search engine that allowed fans to share their adventures. In 2019, it made commitments to reduce its environmental impact and mobilized its customers to do the same. And in 2021, the brand announced that it would match all donations to its DEI-focused Cooperative Action Fund up to $1 million.

Over the years, hundreds of state parks, businesses, and nonprofit organizations have joined REI, pausing operations on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and encouraging employees to get outside.

On Saturday, June 15, REI guides will lead sunset hikes, paddle tours, and waterfall explorations. And REI team members will teach workshops on micro-gardening, how to pack a backpack, use a compass, change a flat tire, and a wide variety of other outdoor skills and experience classes.

DEI influencers and organizations will also participate in some of the workshops at select stores. According to REI, body positivity influencer and yoga instructor Adina Crawford, Adaptive Adventures, All Bodies on Bikes, Black Girls Do Bike, Black Girls RUN!, Latino Outdoors, and The Venture Out Project are all participating.

Register for any one of these free courses through REI’s Opt-Outside landing page. There, you’ll find a comprehensive list of workshops and trips. You can filter the list by location, date, activity, experience type, participants, duration, activity level, price range, and more.

Far From REI’s Only Free Workshops

REI co-op Opt-Outside
(Photo/REI)

You won’t find 300 free classes and tours with REI any other day of the year. But, REI offers workshops, classes, and day trips year round, many of which are free and hosted at the stores.

In 2023 alone, more than 38,200 people participated in 4,800 day experiences, according to the brand. It also hosts 150 adventure travel trips — three of which REI launched in partnership with Outdoor Afro, Inc.

According to Steele, the lineup of workshops and trips embody what Opt-Outside is all about and advance the initiative’s overarching mission to actually get people outside and into nature.

“Simply put, time outside is fundamental to the health and happiness of individuals and communities. Today, too many people feel like their time isn’t their own. And all of us know we spend too much of our time indoors,” Steele said. “We can make a different choice.”

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