Everyone wants to go back to summer camp, right? Hiking, exploring and partying with friends in a gorgeous setting? Sign us up. Designed to address this universal desire, this summer’s REI Outessa Summit Series will bring over 1,000 women from all over the country to the pristine wilds of California and Utah, inviting all ages to experience the outdoors and celebrate sisterhood.
The all-inclusive retreat covers gourmet, farm-to-table meals, wine and espresso, as well as a full roster of outdoor classes and seminars. Each participant will even depart with a sweet outdoor start-up kit, stocked with major items like an Osprey backpack and a Prana yoga mat. To explore the inspiration behind this female-focused weekend of adventure, we caught up with mother and endurance athlete Julia Stamps Mallon, the Co-Founder and Director of Business Development at Outessa.
Q. How did the idea for REI Outessa Summit originate?
A. There are a lot of different things that led us here. I’ve always had a love for the outdoors and have been blessed with a pretty good support group to take me out, teach and educate me in anything I wanted to do outside. I would run into a lot of parents at my kids’ school who were making comments like, “I would go take my kids camping if I knew how,” and I thought, “What do you mean? It’s camping. You set up a tent. It’s easy.” When I heard “If I knew how,” it really resonated with me. Sometimes you just need an opportunity.
Coming from the perspective of an elite runner, it’s always been really hard for me to find other girls to go running with, so I also wanted to create an atmosphere for girls who love to go out, have fun and charge hard to be able to challenge themselves to have an opportunity to meet like-minded females. If you have a common love for the outdoors, this is the opportunity to learn what else is out there, to expand that knowledge. And I think that’s the great thing about this. There are a lot of outdoor women who might be really good at one specific activity outside, but haven’t had an opportunity to try others. It’s giving the tools to learn something new.
Q. Who is the target audience for the Outessa Summit Series?
A. This is an event for all women. We structured it for someone who wants to improve their outdoor skills and techniques by utilizing our elite staff, but also for someone who just wants to get away for a weekend. You have kids running around, and you want to get away with your girlfriends, have a glass of wine in the evening, and hang around a fire pit enjoying these activities together. It’s really creating an atmosphere and environment where everyone can come together to build a sense of community. Whether you’re coming with a group of friends or visiting alone, the idea is that there is a sense of community and you can form this bond. We’re trying to create something where you strip down the boundaries of what is possible and comfortable, and focus on what we’re going to do.
Q. This is the first female-oriented event of its kind. Why is it so important to bring women together in an outdoor setting?
A. There is something about having a sense of sisterhood when you’re out with these awesome, amazing ladies who are willing to get out, explore and challenge themselves versus when you have a co-ed group. The atmosphere is a lot more unique. We want to create these unintimidating environments. There is just something different when you’re able to go out with your girlfriends. It’s having that sense of community with other girls and kicking ass.
Q. The Outessa experience is unique in that attendees can customize the experience to their needs, interests and skill level. What would a day at one of the Outessa retreats look like for you?
A. I’m kind of like a kid in a candy store when I start looking at all the different types of classes we have. I would 100% start off with a good run in the morning and follow up with a rock climbing class. And then I would take advantage of some mountain biking and finish my day paddle boarding. That’s the way that I charge. Being an endurance athlete, there is really no end. Then I’m going to sit back with my well deserved glass of wine and my phenomenal meal, and have that amazing sense of being tired, but feeling good and clean and energized. If I bring my best friend, she is probably going to start the day off doing yoga, then take the afternoon for a standup paddleboard class, followed by an afternoon hike, and learning how to backpack at a seminar. Then we meet up around the fire for that glass of wine and unwind. It really just depends on the individual. That’s the great luxury of having so many different options available.
Q. Aside from beautiful locations and awesome gear, what do you hope participants will come away with after the weekend?
A. A new appreciation and love for the outdoors. Lighting that spark and excitement to continue. I hope everyone is allowed an opportunity to walk away having enhanced a skill or learned something new. I hope people aren’t afraid to challenge themselves beyond Outessa, that they do become the outdoor woman who can rally up a group of friends to go backpacking for the weekend. That’s my hope when people leave, that they have a new sense of adventure and community.
Images courtesy of the REI Outessa Summit.
Arya Roerig is a writer living and working in Denver. She enjoys houseplants, running and all that fresh mountain air.