Opting out: REI takes aim at guns



Recreational Equipment Inc. is not in the firearms business. The closest you can get to weaponry in the camping and outdoor company is a can of bear spray or Gerber fixed-blade knife.

The 154-store company, which styles itself as customer-owned, sells recreational equipment and clothing, bikes, kayaks, climbing gear, and snowshoes. Members get a rebate at the end of the year, which is about 10 percent off of everything they purchased. They get coupons and catalogs in the mail.

But now, REI is on a mission go kill what it calls assault rifles. The company, whose Anchorage store is one of the busiest in the nation, jumped on the gun-ban bandwagon.

It’s cutting off inventory that comes from subsidiaries of Vista Outdoors, the owner of a number of companies that include Savage Arms, a Massachusetts firearms maker of rifles that include semi-automatics.

But since REI doesn’t sell firearms, it looked for the next target, and Vista owns companies such as Camelbak, a hydration backpack maker; and Giro and Bell, which make bike helmets. Vista’s stock dropped 8.44 percent on Friday, closing at $15.42.

Vista had been targeted by an online petition at Change.org, and REI was responding, publishing this statement on Thursday:

REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month. In the last few days, we’ve seen such action from companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership.
This week, we have been in active discussions with Vista Outdoor, which has recently acquired several companies that are longtime partners of REI. These include Giro, Bell, Camelbak, Camp Chef and Blackburn. Vista also owns Savage Arms, which manufactures guns including “modern sporting rifles.” 
This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.
Companies are showing they can contribute if they are willing to lead. We encourage Vista to do just that.


Around the nation, REI has long opposed personal protection in its stores and has signs posted prohibiting firearms or weapons (including knives) on its premises.

And while those Bell bike helmets are made in the USA, the vast majority of REI inventory is made in China, with Vietnam as a growing contributor.

REI, with its ban on Vista products, is willing to lead in some areas, such as killing a company that has any association with the NRA, but is not leading in others, such as allowing communist slave labor to produce high- and moderate-end clothing, shoes and equipment to REI elite members.

In 1997, a group of co-op members led an effort to get the recreation behemoth to stop trading with China, due to its human rights violations.

The co-op’s board refused, and said that China would not be affected by a boycott, and such an action would make REI uncompetitive. Besides, the board said it would be better for geopolitical relationships to keep China’s commercial sector growing.

China, according to the U.S. State Department, is in the worst tier for human rights. It has made no meaningful change to halt human trafficking, and end forced labor.

[Read the State Department’s annual human trafficking report.]

Apo Leong, a labor activist in Hong Kong said China’s 4 million apparel workers, mainly women, are “economic prisoners” who work up to 90 hours a week, live in rooms with 10 other people, and are fired if they become pregnant. They often do not even get paid in the government-owned factories.

[Read Washington Post story on Chinese sweatshops]

But REI also has a habit of shipping jobs south of the border. In 2000, REI closed its Seattle clothing manufacturing plant and relocated it to Mexico, where the 325 workers were paid $50 a week.


Camelbak, one of the products REI will no longer carry due to its parent company, is located in Petaluma, Calif., and has an extensive program to work with responsible manufacturers around the globe. It has a supply chain transparency program with a zero tolerance for slave labor, and trains its workers to be on the lookout for child labor, exploitive labor, and human trafficking.

[Read Camelbak’s supply chain transparency statement.]

This week, Camelbak was pushed into publishing its own statement about the boycott of its parent company:

As you may know, in the wake of the recent tragic shooting at a Florida school, there have been calls on social media for a boycott of CamelBak products because of its association with Vista Outdoor, a company that also owns separate businesses in the shooting sports industry. A major concern for the boycott centers around the incorrect assumption that the purchase of any of our products may support a cause that does not fit the mission/values of our brand. That is not the case. Our brand falls within the Outdoor Products segment of our company, which operates separately from Vista Outdoor’s Shooting Sports segment. Since 1989, CamelBak has been committed to forever changing the way people hydrate and perform. Our passion and love for the outdoors is unchanged. We are deeply committed to the individuals and communities we serve and we proudly partner with organizations to promote the enjoyment of the outdoors.

We recognize, support and respect the right of every individual to decide for themselves what brands they will purchase based on whatever criteria they believe are important. As we drive to make positive change, it is our hope that you stand by our nearly 30-year reputation as we maintain our promise to obsess on what we make, how we make it, and the way it impacts people’s lives and the environment.


REI has picked its battles. It gives lip service to human rights, doesn’t support American jobs or pay its retail workers enough to live on, and is now punishing a company that owns responsible brands — brands that are either made in America or are made with strict adherence to workers’ health and safety. This is the company that former Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell ran before she joined the Obama team and worked to shut down Alaska’s economy.

At this point, REI is looking for a certain kind of customer — the kind that doesn’t support the National Rifle Association and the kind that believes in gun control.

Perhaps REI will get what it wants in Alaska: Alaskan outdoor enthusiasts can pick their battles too.


  1. That figures, I would expect nothing less from the Left Wingers. My Piggy Bank should fill a lot quicker w/the business’s I have abandoned this week.

  2. Perhaps someday, people will no longer need guns to hold their governments in check, but will need them to hold big business corporations, with bazaar ideologies, in check. REI has a vision of what is a perfect world and how to attain it, would they someday with power, be willing to euthanize the unwanted to get it?

  3. “….to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month…..”

    So they’re going to start advocating the benefits of raising children in two parent families, teaching them morals and ethics, and teaching them about safe and responsible gun ownership?……Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    “At this point, REI is looking for a certain kind of customer”……..so, that would be the same kind of customer they’ve always sought? Leftwing, tree hugging, Commie loving, enviro-wackos?……Yep

    I was in the Anchorage REI store once years ago, didn’t buy anything, and will never set foot inside it again.
    I believe in free enterprise, so believe REI is free to run their business however they want, and also believe I am free to never shop there, preferring instead to take my hard earned dollars to stores that mirror my beliefs. If I need guns or ammo, I continue to shop at 3-Bears here in the Valley.

  4. I just called Anchorage REI. He thought I should read the statement, which I told him I had and he thought I I had misunderstood. Of course I told him I fully understood. I don’t like boycotting, but in this case, I will and I will be bringing this up to the next AMAC meeting and will be asking members to boycott as well.

  5. Well, when I go to Cabela’s to buy my rifle ammunition for my next hunting trip in Alaska, I will also buy all of my supplies there. I do not need any REI supplied equipment.

  6. I am done with rei. Others businesses in anchorage have better products better prices better ideology

  7. I’ve been here 30 years and have usually tried to buy locally in Fairbanks before I go online. Our local REI I’ve considered local in that they employ local Alaskan but that’s out now. Them and their leftist freaks see my constitutional rights as something to be belittled and condemned. I know I’ll never bankrupt them but I’m going to try doing my part as much as I can and put their Fairbanksans on the unemployment line. They need customers more than customers need them. Other Fairbanks businesses and the Internet are more deserving.

  8. This didn’t surprise me. REI is a retailer that trades on arbitraging quality. Having an alt left perspective is necessary for that business model to succeed. The arbitraging quality tactic works only by having an upscale image while selling in part Chinese goods that carry a 1,000% mark-up. The store brand is all that distinguishes the good from what is found at Walmart. The brand soared when Obama sourced is Interior Secretary at REI. If you want to receive honest value for your dollar go to Sportsman’s Warehouse or Cabelas.

  9. They have also done away with their lifetime return policy and closed a production center in the US to move it to Mexico.

    If you want to show them you no longer support them cancel your membership!
    Call 1-800-426-4840
    And do the same if you have their credit card.

  10. So which is it, Suzanne, reporter or flak for conservative politics? You failed utterly to make a connection between REI and “communist slave labor” other than to point out that some of their goods are made in China. If that makes them supporters of slave labor then most American retailers and all American consumers are also. But you are correct that way too much of our stuff is made in Asia, stuff that could be made in the U.S., if American consumers were willing to pay the prices of American-made stuff rather than demanding the lowest possible price. Problem is, we’re not, so retailers have to source based on price, which means low labor costs, which means made in Asia and Latin America. Rather than boycotting REI over guns, how about boycotting REI and all the other retailers who sell Chinese-made goods until they demand suppliers provide them U.S.-made goods, and then show your commitment to American labor by buying the more expensive American-made options.

  11. I’ve been a member of the “REI Co-op” since 84. But I’ve never regularly purchased much from them because it’s all essentially priced at MSRP. You can buy the same stuff for less at lots of places. You overpay for that sorry “dividend” all year.
    After reading CraIg Medred yesterday, I emailed REI and said drop me from your membership, I want no part of a left wing activist co-op (remember Sally Jewel?). They got back to me quickly, provided me a link to their statement about Vista Outdoor, and told me I’m deleted.
    It was easy! I’ll be at Cabelas or Sportsman’s Warehouse if anybody needs me.

  12. I saw this trend coming about 10 – 15 years ago with REI. I switched all my purchasing from REI (been a member since about 1982) to places like Cabela’s who support hunting and conservation (Rocky Mountain Elk, Ducks Unlimited, etc. . . .). REI started out as a coop to help people who wanted to climb alpine or rock faces with buying power to help reduce the costs of limited and expensive climbing technologies and advanced mountaineering equipment. Today it supplies those things as an aside, it is predominantly a fashion outlet for people who want to project outdoorsiness. A good majority of them who are vehemently opposed to the petroleum industry as they fashionably show of their petroleum derived clothing, tents, kayaks, canoes or their mineral derived bicycles, popup tents and Gaz stoves.

  13. Concerning REI’s suspending business with the Vista Group. Let them red and then re-read this short quote:

    “If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” – Samuel Adams

    JSW Captain USMC 0302, [retired]

Comments are closed.