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REI Force Of Nature:
Harness The Forces For Good

REI contacted Hiking For Her (an REI affiliate) with an invitation to share the good news: a woman's place is in the wild, enjoying top notch gear and clothing designed and tested by women.

REI gear has come along on my hiking adventures for over 4 decades.

So I'm delighted to stand with the REI Force Of Nature initiative, moving us closer to gender equity in the outdoors.

  • Including more choices of high quality, durable outdoor gear that really fits our bodies and our ambitious hiking plans.


Why Force Of Nature matters

When I stepped inside the original REI store in Seattle to purchase my co-op membership card in 1977, I knew one thing.

That little card gave me access to technology, which in turn meant I could manage the forces of nature for my own comfort and safety.

  • I didn't have to be sore and exhausted from hauling around a huge external frame backpack designed for deer hunters.
  • I wouldn't have to shiver through the night inside my substandard sleeping bag designed for sleep overs.
  • And I never had to wear my father's scratchy wool hunting shirts and pants as rain gear (seriously!) again.

It was decades before today's lightweight, breathable moisture barrier fabrics for clothing and boot liners showed up.

But as they did, REI was right there, leading the way to innovations in serious gear for hikers and backpackers.

And now they've dialed it up several notches by starting a conversation about women designed and tested gear.

This is important stuff, my virtual trail buddies!

Serious gear that fits and performs well for women hikers under a wide range of conditions translates into comfort and safety.

  • Two things you never want to compromise on a hike.

To be a force of nature,
work with the forces of nature

Turning the forces of Nature to your benefit by providing great hiking gear is a big part of the REI Force Of Nature plan.

Planet Earth is not always a friendly place for outdoors women.

Hikers battle temperature extremes, challenging footing over varied terrain, water in all 3 phases, and the effects of gravity.

That's why it's smart to choose well designed hiking gear in three major categories from the REI Force Of Nature (FON) selection:

  • Backpacks
  • Boots
  • Hiking socks

Let's begin with choosing gear to deal with the depleting effects of gravity on a hard working hiker's body.


Channel gravity with
a well designed backpack

Non-hikers shake their heads in amazement (and that's being kind) when they see us strap on loaded backpacks and take off into the wilds.

Why would anyone bear that weight, hour after hour, uphill?

We know why! Freedom!

But what we don't have to tell the scoffers is that a well designed backpack working together with our unique female hips and knees will take some of the sting out of gravity.

REI Force Of Nature pack picks

Perfect example: The Osprey Aura 65 Silver Streak

Let's give a nod to Cassie Tweed, Osprey's design director.

  • It was this female designer's attention to fitting the pack specifically for females that resulted in an "anti-gravity" system.

The gravity of the situation

Until you strap on a fully loaded backpack and start gaining some elevation, you might have forgotten about the constant tugging of this invisible but insistent force.

This high volume ("65" liter capacity) Osprey Aura backpacking pack is designed to channel gravity's never ending tug to where it belongs: your sturdy weight bearing pelvic bones.

Why does that matter to you?

Because a top notch load transfer system delivers comfort!

This Osprey suspension and load transfer design includes:

  • a full peripheral tensioned frame
  • an adjustable mesh harness with structural load lifter bar
  • a full length, suspended mesh back panel to fit the contours of your shoulders, back and hips
  • a suspended, adjustable mesh hip belt

If you're not sure why these design features are amazing and highly desirable, contact me with your questions.

Compression counts, too

I'm sure you've seen a cartoon of a backpacker loaded down with gear hanging from every possible nook and cranny on her backpack.

Maybe you've met her on the trail!

But you never have to be that backpacker if you use this pack.

Not only does it have room for all of your gear inside, it provides plenty of nicely placed compression straps to keep the volume manageable.

That means you'll have lots of room for last minute additions to your gear list.

  • It also means your load is strapped down tight, resulting in better balance. Take that, gravity!

Shorter trip, lighter load?
Here's your pack

For overnight hiking trips, REI's Flash 45 provides the design and technology to battle gravity on a smaller scale.

And here's another thing to love about this pack:

  • 72% of the profits of this pack go to creating more opportunities for women and girls to get outside.

Talk about multi-tasking gear!


Get a grip with the right boots

While gravity is doing its best to bring you down, slippery mud and rocky slopes are also working to take your feet out from under you.

That's why a pair of well designed hiking boots with excellent tread are one of your secret weapons to overcome the forces of Nature.

Harness the force of friction

The first thing I do when considering new boots is turn them over and stare deeply into the tread.

This gives me time to contemplate the ability of the boots to harness the frictional forces of whatever will be beneath my soles.

On any given day, that would be mud, talus, sand, slippery tree roots, slime covered rocks, and more.

With that in mind, I want to see these tread features:

  • generous distribution of the tread pattern,
  • placement of lugs where my feet need it the most,
  • adequate depth and pattern of grooves to provide grip,
  • and high durability of the tread materials.

Here's a boot with the tread dialed in just right for backpacking: the Oboz Sapphire Mid B-Dry

The grippy outsoles give you the technology to harness whatever friction the trail can offer you, keeping your load stable (great gravity defeating move) and your confidence high when the trail turns slippery.

Female feet are not just
smaller versions of male feet

Who knew, right?

Oboz did! It's no accident these boots have female foot specific design features, because they were designed and tested by women.

  • The biomechanical design of these boots allows stability (firm support of ankles) without impeding forward motion, as well as providing arch support to fight fatigue.

Your feet stay temperature regulated & dry

You generate a lot of heat inside your hiking boots, along with moisture.

It's gotta go somewhere, and in these boots, it's soaked up by a breathable membrane.

  • This technology allows your body heat and sweat to escape, but prevents exterior water from entering the boot when you cross a stream.

One more reason to love these boots

When you purchase these boots, the Bozeman MT based Oboz company will partner with Trees for the Future to plant a tree.

Trees for the future? Sounds like a great idea for the next generation of hikers!


Blow off steam in some
women designed socks

Hiking For Her firmly believes that your boots are only as good as your hiking socks.

  • The wrong combination can make for some memorably bad outcomes.

So take some time to consider which socks will work hard for you within the steamy confines of those carefully chosen hiking boots.

  • Don't expect threadbare, thin "every day" socks to perform well when you're hiking.
  • And be forewarned! You can never have too many pairs of socks to match your hiking adventures.

Darn Tough merino wools socks are designed by women, for women, in Vermont.  They're worth a close look for several reasons.

Vent your steamy side

The choice of Merino wool is a good one if you want to wick away your sweat.

And who doesn't?

  • It's the moisture from your sweat that leads to friction.

While friction is a good thing for boot tread (see above), it's a blister creating nightmare inside your boots.

These Darn Tough Stripes Micro Crew Socks are high density, meaning they provide cushioning while providing moisture wicking and breath-ability.

  • They work with the membrane component of a high quality pair of hiking boots to keep friction and moisture under control.

Their reinforced toe and heel, plus elastic support around the arch, translate into comfort and durability.

Their kicky stripes are fun, too.

A lighter choice

Darn Tough socks also provide a less bulky choice for hikes of shorter distance while wearing a lighter pack, like these Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks.

Same moisture wicking and breathable Merino wool, good durability and comfort, just a bit less volume inside your boots.

  • Microbiology tidbit: Merino wool is naturally resistant to microbial growth, meaning the "stinky sock" aspect of taking off your boots will be minimized.

So now you know how to
harness the forces!

To join the REI Force Of Nature fun, choose gear that works with the forces of Mother Nature.

There has never been a better time to be a woman heading into the wilds, wearing the right backpack and the perfect combo of boots and socks.

REI has a long history of involving women in outdoor gear, beginning with co-founder Mary Anderson who sewed backpacking tents at her kitchen table.

Take it from one who has seen her wild dream come true: high performance gear for women hikers, designed and tested by women, is now at hand (and foot).

Gear up, head out, and enjoy being a Force Of Nature!


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