Recreational Equipment Inc., commonly known as REI, is Seattle’s premier retailer of outdoor wear and equipment. It is the largest retail co-operative in the U.S., with over 1.4 million members.

REI was founded in the 1930s by Seattle climbers Lloyd and Mary Anderson. Lloyd had wanted an ice ax but the one he wanted wasn’t sold in the U.S. He had to order it from Europe. Soon after he purchased it his climbing buddies wanted one, too.

So in 1938, 23 climbers together formed a member-owned cooperative to obtain mountaineering equipment that wasn’t available in the U.S. Today, REI has 90 stores in 25 U.S. states, with an average of six to eight new store openings a year.

The store features a 65 feet-high (20 m) climbing pinnacle, which is the world’s highest. Under staff guidance you can put on a harness and try to climb it. There’s even a “hiking trail” where you can test your boots, a trail for mountain bike test rides and test stations for water filters and camp stoves. Here you’ll also find a large selection of books and outdoor apparel.

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