Sally Johnson at REI had a good idea. A great idea, actually, and it all started with her observation that “women want to recreate differently and experience the outdoors differently.” After some brainstorming, collaboration, and iteration, the Outessa event series was born.

She often heard women wonder how they could become a part of a community where being a active in the outdoors is normal—part of the culture—part of the lifestyle. For many, Outessa has become that community. Johnson explains that at the event, “you create your own schedule, so you can have a robust (some may say hardcore) experience, or you can come, camp with us, kick it in a hammock, and go to the wine tasting — women decide their own destiny there. But the truth is, no matter how you do it, you find this amazing community of women who also love the outdoors and want to have the outdoors as a part of their life.”

She shared a moment from last year’s event: “Everyone had just arrived and it was like summer camp—no one knew each other—60% of the women who came last year came solo, but after the first day we made a campfire and broke out the s’mores and suddenly it was BFFs for life. I’ve run a lot of events in my life, and it’s really cool to see the connections and diversity at this event in particular.”

When asked how Outessa treads the line of being an offline outdoors event and an connective, social media nexus, Johnson emphasized “the live experience. However, you know more than I do that community is built in multiple ways now. It’s built in-person and through digital communication. It’s all about how can we connect women to the outdoors and that outdoor life, and a big piece of that is connecting them to other women, whether it be through digital communication or at the events. We see that combination as vital to how women are living their lives now.”

In short, Outessa is for the woman who hears, as Johnson says, “the outdoors calling.”

To answer the call, register for an Outessa event in California, Oregon, or New Hampshire here. 

For other events, classes, and inspiring stories for women in the outdoors, check out REI’s Force of Nature blog.