By Julianne Heberlein
The REI OptOutside program hosted a campus scavenger hunt on Nov. 15 to encourage students to spend more time outdoors, instead of stuck in McKeldin studying or in their dorm watching Netflix.
The OptOutside campaign, run by Recreational Equipment Inc., was launched in an effort to help people reconnect with friends and family while outside. The campaign expanded to college campuses, including the University of Maryland, this semester to host free outdoor yoga classes, climbing nights, concerts, camp coffee events, and hiking trips at least once a month.
Junior communications major Megan Tuncer got involved as an REI ambassador because she has loved the brand forever and loves to stay active outside, she said. She spends about 10 hours every week scoping out trails, obtaining permits, and sending emails to plan events.
“REI wants students to embody their values like getting outside,” said Tuncer.
“The program has a series of events to encourage students to get off their couch and relax outside because we know they’re so stressed out with classes.”
This week, the REI OptOutside program is hosting a free climbing night with an instructor at Earth Treks in Columbia.
“I’m most excited for climbing night because I’m a climber,” said Tuncer. “The climbing wall [on campus] is closed, so we’re giving students another free option. It’s a great climbing area, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
Freshman government and politics major Andrew String participated in his first REI event at the campus scavenger hunt after hearing about it at the Farmers’ Market the previous week.
String said his favorite part of the scavenger hunt was “getting to run around campus and see things we haven’t experienced before like the rock climbing wall. I had no idea where it was, so it was really cool.”
Junior aerospace engineering major Sarah Onimus heard about the REI OptOutside program through an advertisement, so she brought her roommate to the scavenger hunt.
“My favorite part was that the clues required us to run around campus and do various poses,” said Onimus. “All of the clues had something to do with REI and outdoor exercise – it was definitely challenging and fun.”
Tuncer and another REI ambassador, Tionna Wells, work to organize outdoor events on campus that UMD students can participate in for free.
“We are trying to encourage people to get outside and be the supporters for people who don’t have as much experience with hiking or climbing,” said Tuncer.
“This was a great outdoor experience,” said String. “I definitely think I’ll participate in more REI events.”