Member Portrait: Jennifer “Adventure Mom”

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REI Member since 2000
Favorite activities: Hiking, running, mountaineering

1. Why is “outside” important?

I don’t even know where to start. For me, outside is important because it’s where I feel the best. Outside is where I can clear my head, where I can feel challenged, where I can feel accomplished, where I can find resolution. Being outside is where I’ve connected deeply with my dad, my sister, my partner, my child and my friends. In the hardest, scariest and saddest times in my life, being outside is where I put myself back together.

2. Who are you inspired by to get outside? In whom are you fostering a love for the outdoors?

My love of the outdoors was instilled in me at a very early age by both of my parents. They both grew up in the outdoors, and while attending UW for their PhDs, they fell in love with REI. When they relocated to the East Coast (NY/NJ) for career reasons, they brought with them a love for recreating and for REI, despite not having an REI anywhere nearby. As a kid, my mom and I would drive for 3 hours to visit the New Rochelle REI and spend her dividend. Throughout my childhood, both my mom and dad took me hiking, camping, downhill and Nordic skiing, and cycling—so, thanks to them, I grew up with a deep love of the outdoors as well. Although my mom passed away when I was 21, my dad continues to be, at 70 years young, an avid outdoorsman who inspires and motivates me to get outside.

I have a 2.5 year old son who has completely changed HOW I recreate but has instilled an entirely new reason for WHY I recreate. I know that I feel the most at peace, the most engaged, the most inspired when I spend time outside and I want so badly for him to have the same experience. On my days off, although I rarely get to recreate how I used to before becoming a parent, I now find myself on short local hikes or bike rides. These days, it’s less about total mileage and more about all of the little things on a trail I never really paid attention to before (caterpillars, rocks, flowers). Although at times I miss my pre-baby recreation, there is something equally satisfying and fulfilling in watching my kiddo’s love of the outdoors take root and grow.

Jenn Member Portrait

3. What is your favorite piece of gear and what’s the story behind it?

One piece?! Impossible! My very favorites: Novara Express XX bike, REI Kingdom 4 tent, Big Agnes Roxy Ann sleeping bag, REI Screenhouse, Deuter Kid Comfort II child carrier, BOB stroller, Chariot bike trailer.
My best gear story: the first piece of outdoor gear I bought with my very own money was a Gregory Shasta backpacking pack, purchased at a small mom & pop shop in Williamsburg, VA (where I attended W&M for undergrad). I subsequently purchased an REI Shasta sleeping bag and the first mountain I ever attempted to summit was Mt. Shasta.

4. What does being an REI Co-op member mean to you?

It’s all about being part of a community of like-minded folks. You can buy gear anywhere, but there are very few other retailers where customers actually want to engage with the employees because of a shared passion.

Jenn Member Portrait

5. What other adventures are on your bucket list?

I went through a phase in my life where I set specific recreating/travelling goals for myself. Complete a triathlon? Check! Complete a marathon? Check! Travel abroad? Check! Summit a mountain? Attempted, failed, check! Right now, I don’t have a specific list and I think it’s because I’m so content recreating in small ways while my kiddo is so young. We are still hiking and camping and traveling but it’s small adventures for now. I am very much looking forward to my sabbatical (in 2 years) and daydreaming about all of the possibilities!

6. As an REI store manager, what kind of impact do you get to have on customers, both beginners and experts?

There are a number of ways I get to impact the experience of my customers. At times, I get to help them one-on-one, sharing my product knowledge, my gear stories, my favorite hikes, etc. More often, however, I impact my customers through my employees. As a store manager, it is my job to set the tone for how we take care of customers and to ensure my employees are well-trained, empowered and resourced in ways that allow them to give our customers the best experience.

Jenn Member Portrait

7. What advice do you have for other parents who want to take their children outdoors?

Start with small, do-able and frequent adventures. Get those kiddos outside as much as possible and don’t make the destination or the outcome the focus—try to enjoy just being outside, allow the journey to be what matters the most, and look at the little stuff along the way. If your kiddo is interested in something (a bug, or a side trail or pile of animal poop), be interested too! Oh, and use good gear—good gear can make such a big difference in fostering a love of the outdoors. Finally, kiddos like their “own” gear—a kid-sized chair at the campsite goes a long way!

Looking for more inspiration? Read other REI Member Portraits here.

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