As someone who’s ideal vacation is roughing it in the Sierra Nevada, it’s a blessing to have REI so close to my office in Downtown Santa Monica. I can hop on over on my lunch break and check out the latest gear, chop it up with one of the well-traveled sales associates, or grab something unexpected on sale in preparation for my next outing.
While REI has pretty much everything to get you outdoors, the one thing they don’t sell is the confidence to actually do it. But they can sure give you the knowledge to get you there in the form of amazing classes that range from rudimentary compass reading to hardcore rock climbing.
Before I set out on my backpacking trip near June Lake last Spring, with the goal of taking the John Muir Trail over the Donohue Pass up into Clouds Rest near Yosemite Valley, I signed up for one of REI’s advanced compass reading and navigation classes. I was a little rusty, having not used a compass in a few years, so I thought it was a good idea. You always want to “stay found.” Never get lost.
The class was relatively inexpensive for REI members — around $60 bucks — and it was well worth it. Not only did I get to sharpen my skills, but I got to spend nearly an entire day in the Malibu hills with some cool, like-minded people, eat along a creek and swap stories with the experienced instructors, who gave me plenty of pointers on surviving in the wild. The group had to use its skills from the first part of the day to find its way back to the parking lot. The instructors were there to help, but they pretty much stayed quiet and let us figure it out, which I enjoyed. Nothing like taking the lessons from the classroom and applying them to real-life situations.
If compass reading isn’t your jam, you can sign up for whale watching kayak tours, trail running, first aid and more. At the REI Santa Monica store they also host classes on preparing to climb Yosemite’s famous Half Dome or planning a backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail. Most of the REI in-store classes are free, whether you’re a member or not.
As the weather starts to turn, now’s the time to start thinking about getting outside again and what better way to get motivated and gain the confidence that you need than taking a few classes with those who’ve been there, done that.
For a schedule of REI classes, click here. You can sign up for periodic emails that will alert you about classes in your area.
Be safe and stay found!