This article was created in partnership with REI.
The REI member co-op have acted as Autostraddle’s personal Holigay Elves for so many years now. They sent our writers gear and signed us up for some of their raddest classes. They sponsored hikes and meet-ups around the country. They partnered with us on our Outsiders Issue. They even sponsored A-Camp. This season, they gave us something extra special — the ability to give gifts to each other. Getting presents is fun. Giving presents is even better. REI opening up their outdoor catalog to allow us to give each other gifts for free? It’s like winning a golden Wonka ticket but the prize is a whole entire Holigay Workshop!
It went like this: Anya Richkind, Autostraddle’s Director of Brand Partnerships, matched us all up, in secret, and asked us to choose a gift from REI to be sent to one of our fellow writers. And while we were each choosing a prezzie for our pals, our pals were choosing prezzies for us. Then! A few weeks later, we all received a gift in the mail without knowing which colleague it came from. We tested them out, posed for some photos, and — of course, we’re writers! — documented our joy with words. As you’ll see below, everyone was delighted with their gifts. We’ve all already put them to good use, and will carry them with us, outside, for years to come.
Drew Burnett Gregory
I am so excited to receive the Co-op Flexlite Camp Chairs! One of my favorite things to do in nature is sit by a campfire or a body of water and read. But I don’t own any outdoor chairs because I don’t have a ton of closet space! And as a classic queer woman in a long distant relationship, I’m never sure where my nature trips will be anyway. That’s why these chairs are so special because they fold up to be so tiny. At first, I didn’t even believe a whole chair could fit in that little bag but it can! I’m so excited to take these with me to the deserts and beaches of California and the forests and lakes of Ontario.
Her Giver (Heather Hogan)
Drew Burnett Gregory is one of the most engaging human beings I have ever met in my life. It is so rare to meet someone who is full of ideas, bursting with passion, a deep and critical thinker, hilarious, empathetic, knows so much about so much — and who also loves to hear what other people have to say. She listens with her whole face, eyes bright with curiosity and compassion. When I imagine her enjoying the great outdoors, I imagine her sitting somewhere out in nature, maybe lounging near a campfire, maybe she and her partner hiking to an overlook, and then she just wants to sit and chat and ponder life, the universe, and everything. Or kicking back and reading a book. Or, heck, maybe even watch The Watermelon Woman on her tablet at a campsite. One thing I know about Drew is she loves to share her joy. So that’s why I chose two REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Chairs for her gift. Comfy, portable, shareable, versatile.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
These overalls are no lie one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. They’re comfortable, cute, and very gay. I have worn them already to do so many gay activities, including going to the farmer’s market, eating oysters, and bowling. Every time I wear them, someone compliments me! They are my magic overalls!!! The fanny pack has also been great for farmer’s market days or when I’m just going on a coffee run and don’t want to deal with a giant purse. I wear it sling pack style around my shoulder LIKE THE COOL KIDS. Even though I’ve yet to wear both at the same time (feels like too many pockets even though I did NOT know that limit existed), I love my two gifts equally.
Her Giver (Drew Burnett Gregory)
No one takes a selfie like Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya. If there’s one thing I know about Kayla it’s that she’s going to have a photo-worthy fit no matter where she’s going. So while for some people nature clothes are all about practicality, I know for Kayla it has to be about practicality and fashion. That’s why I chose the Co-op Trailsmith Overalls and the Co-op Trail 2 Waist Pack. This combo is going to look great on her and be useful for any outdoor excursion. Whether it’s scenic shot in nature or a mirror selfie at a bar afterward, I for one can’t wait to see Kayla showing off these overalls on Instagram.
Meg Jones Wall
Whoever had me chose exactly what I would’ve picked for myself: a lightweight but clever backpack along with a waterproof but easy-to-transport blanket. I am not as mobile as I used to be, with knee and back injuries keeping me from the long runs and hikes I once enjoyed – but I still love to be outside when I can find a quiet spot to sit and read, write, or pull cards in one of NYC’s bigger parks. The backpack has lots of useful pockets for keeping snacks and pens handy, and the blanket packs up small enough to bring anywhere, but works perfectly on the ground or as an extra layer on colder days. NYC finally remembered that it’s autumn in the last few weeks, so the blanket came in handy for making a bench in my favorite park a bit more cozy. Thank you so much to my gift giver – you nailed it!
Their Giver (Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya)
Meg is a photographer, and if there’s one thing I know about photographers it’s that they always have STUFF. Just so much stuff! Carrying stuff all the time! So I knew right away I wanted to get them some form of bag or pack for lugging said stuff. I went with the cute and simple REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack, which can be filled with equipment, snacks, etc. I picked black because anyone who has met Meg even once knows she wears a lot of black! I also know Meg lives in New York where colder weather is coming, so the Rumpl Original Puffy Recycled Blanket could come in use and be a nice addition to any wintry park hangs.
I am hard to shop for, especially because I am trans and huge and sizing is difficult. I don’t know how they made this happen, but this fleece fits perfect! I almost only wear black, but I have an orange puffer, so this being black and orange is also the perfect color. I can wear the puffer over it when it’s really cold. I don’t usually like fleece, but I love this! I’ve worn it almost every time I’ve gone outside. I also have a couple insulated mugs but they are for hot drinks — I never had one for cold drinks, and I love it! I even call it Stanley. When I go for a walk, I say, “Come on Stanley, let’s go.” When it’s time for bed and I need some water on the nightstand — “Time for bed, Stanley.” I love Stanley.
Her Giver (Meg Jones Wall)
I got to choose a gift for Abeni, which felt really lovely as I haven’t gotten to meet her in person but know that she’s extremely outdoorsy! I wanted to give her something that would work for different temperatures and activities, as Abeni camps, hikes, backpacks, and spends a ton of time outdoors in both movement and stillness. The Outdoor Afro + REI Co-op Fleece Pullover Hoodie felt like it hits that sweet spot of warm but not TOO warm, while also being easy to layer and offering lots of pockets and functional features. I also picked a Stanley Quencher Tumbler, since staying hydrated is essential no matter the weather! I really hope that these gifts help Abeni spend as much time outside as possible, no matter the weather.
Whoever chose the Raspberry & Canyon Cotopaxi Capa Insulated Hooded Jacket for me could never have known: 1) The first time I saw this jacket, I texted it to my sister and said, “Does this look like it sprang fully formed out of my imagination, or what??” 2) I had already put it on my Christmas wish list! When it arrived and I opened it up, I thought at first that my wife had gotten it for me and I’d spoiled her surprise. I couldn’t believe it when I realized it was from my REI Secret Giver! This jacket is my absolute all-time favorite color scheme. It has WNBA orange AND University of Tennessee Lady Vols orange, on the same coat! It’s also exactly what I need for cold weather cycling here in New York City. It’s lightweight enough that it actually fits in my saddlebag, if I need to shed a layer — but it’s supremely insulted too. I wore it out in 40-degree bonkers windy weather today and didn’t even get one chill; it even repelled the rain when the clouds finally burst open. It’s also really movement-friendly. I didn’t feel constricted at all when I was racing home to beat the thunder. It looks good and feels good and it’s going to carry me through the winter when I’m riding my bike, my very most favorite thing in the world.
Her Giver (Abeni Jones)
When I don’t know what to get for someone as a gift, I end up usually defaulting to getting them something that I know I would want. And I’ve been envying these Cotopaxi puffers for a long time! They’re so cute and functional. The colors were amazing. They have a great mission. It’s getting colder where Heather lives, and in addition to cycling she’s been going on walks and hikes in New York, and this will hopefully be perfect for that so she can stay warm!