My journey to Outessa began with a 4am flight from Smartwool headquarters in Steamboat Springs to Denver and a connecting flight to Portland. As soon as the plane touched down in Oregon, I felt both nerves and excitement for what would be a completely new experience for me. I jumped in a rental car with one of my Smartwool colleagues and we made the quick drive to Mt. Hood.
We arrived with just enough time to meet with the rest of the Smartwool team, put the finishing touches on our booth and set up what would be our sleeping quarters for the remainder of the event. Following a freshly mulched trail we arrived at our camping spot. Beneath the dense Douglas Fir forest, we unrolled our sleeping bags and set up our tents in the DIY camp with REI. Little did I know that we would spend barely any time at our camp spot other than to turn in each night.
There is just enough time for 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Each day begins bright and early at the crack of dawn. But for those night owls, there’s no need to fear, as the energy in the air each morning is palpable and lattes from the Allegro coffee bus are ready and waiting. After a hearty breakfast and caffeine buzz, the adventure begins. Depending on how you planned or didn’t plan your schedule, ladies can choose from a number of activities; hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and yoga. If you want to ease into the day there are several educational sessions and hammock lounges. The beauty of Outessa is that you choose how to spend the weekend.
We spent our days talking about none other than WOOL - of course. We hosted daily layering clinics with our VP of Product Development, Anne Wiper. Conversations ranged benefits of wearing wool in the summer to just how many days can you wear your wool underwear. We made koozies from upcycled socks (don’t worry, we wash them!).
During the evenings, we played one of our favorite happy hour games - Perfect Pair! The game is simple: we give you a sticker with a number, you find your matching number and get a pair of Smartwool socks on us!
On day two, I was fortunate enough to have walked by a shuttle headed Lake Trillium for an intermediate kayaking class. As I passed by someone from the inside shouted "We have space for one more, want to join?!" Of course, I did, so I jumped in without hesitation. I didn’t know anyone else on the shuttle but it didn’t take long to make friends. Especially with two women who were sisters from southern California, and another woman whose purpose in attending the event was so she could return home with enough knowledge to teach her kids and husband what she learned and to get them involved in the outdoors. Each and every woman I met had their own inspiring story to tell.
On our final evening at Outessa, we rode a chairlift to a secluded spot with picture perfect postcard views of Mt. Hood. We ate amazing cuisine until our bellies were full and sipped on Rosé as we gazed in awe at the alpenglow setting on Mt. Hood.
I am still dreaming about the dessert - Huckleberry brownies anyone?
From the feelings of true camaraderie each day, to watching friendships form as well as making a few of my own, to a newfound confidence in my own skills, REI Outessa is an event unlike any other. The energy is tough to match and whether you are a seasoned outdoors (wo)man, a first timer, or somewhere in between, it is truly a unique experience for ALL women. No doubt that we left feeling like sweaty, dirty, happy forces of nature.
Interested in creating your own REI Outessa experience? Visit https://www.outessa.com to learn more and join in on the fun!
About the author:
A Colorado native, Jean-Marie is all about the Mountain lifestyle. She has combined her enthusiasm for the written word with the Outdoor Industry. When she’s not behind the desk at Smartwool, Jean can be found sipping on a good cup of coffee, fly-fishing or cooking up a 5-star meal over a campfire.