REI launches new search engine to help us #OptOutside on Black Friday

For the third year in a row, outdoor gear retailer REI has announced that it will close all 151 of its stores, as well as its website, on what is considered one of the busiest shopping days of the year. In a press release sent out today, the company says that it will once again give each of its 12,000 employees a paid day off, allowing them to spend time with friends and family exploring the outdoors. As with the past two years, REI customers are also encouraged to do the same, using the hashtag #OptOutside to share their own adventures.

To help facilitate this plan, the retail giant will launch a new experiential search engine that is expected to go live on its website Thanksgiving weekend. A preview of this new tool is available now, but in a nutshell it will allow users to search for outdoor activities based on a specific location, type of activity, or a hashtag. The search feature is meant to inspire more people to get outdoors by collecting and displaying images from Instagram posts from anyone who uses the #OptOutside hashtag.

But behind the scenes, the search engine will do far more than just that. It will also have the ability to pull real-time data on the location of the photo, offering users information such as the location of the trail, its level of difficulty, and directions to the trailhead. It will also display recent reviews of the particular route and offer advice from REI experts for anyone intending to hike it.

In the press release announcing the #OptOutside 2017 campaign and search engine, REI’s CEO Jerry Stritzke said, “We are doing this again to unite people and to find common ground in the outdoors. Right now, I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath, reground themselves and come together.”

He went on to add, “More than 700 organizations and nearly 8 million people have joined #OptOutside over the past two years. We could not be more thankful. But last year we stepped back and said we can do more. We asked how we could offer new practical tools and inspiration. So we have captured the experiences of the outdoor community and organized them in a way that no one has done before.”

To add your own images and adventures to the new search engine, just snap a photo, share it on Instagram, and use the #OptOutside hashtag. That’s all there is to it. Who knows? Perhaps your outdoor experiences will end up inspiring others to do the same.