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REI Co-op acquires guided adventures and travel partner Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA)

Published February 28, 2019

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Acquisition unites two values-driven leaders to offer even more life-changing outdoor experiences



  • REI has partnered with Scottsdale, Arizona-based AOA for more than 15 years
  • Deal combines two industry-leading adventure travel and experience companies focused on providing life-changing outdoor experiences 
  • REI’s adventure travel business is strong, growing double digits annually in recent years
  • AOA will continue to operate out of Scottsdale, as a subsidiary of REI 
  • AOA currently guides over 50 percent of REI’s U.S. multiday adventures
  • Together, the companies will continue to expand in iconic recreation destinations


SEATTLE and SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – REI Co-op announced today the acquisition of its long-standing adventure travel partner Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA). For more than 15 years, REI and AOA have partnered to deliver fully guided active adventures in national parks and iconic destinations across the Western United States. The acquisition complements REI’s broader experiences offering and brings together two like-minded, values-driven organizations focused on providing life-changing outdoor experiences.

As a subsidiary of REI, AOA will remain in Scottsdale, Arizona. The team will stay focused on growing its successful multiday, day and rentals business. AOA founder Seth Heald will continue to oversee AOA’s operations, program development and more than 120 expert outdoor adventure guides and office staff. He also assumes a leadership role in REI’s experiences division.

“AOA shares our commitment to customer service and outstanding, uniquely REI experiences. Together we will continue to innovate to help people play, adventure and explore the outdoors,” says Leslie Garrard, REI vice president of experiences. “The talented AOA team guides a significant portion of our current domestic multiday active adventure trips with some of the industry’s best guides.”

AOA has been the Southwest’s premier outdoor adventure company since 1997, receiving accolades such as Outside’s Best Places to Work and National Geographic’s Trip of a Lifetime. Today, the company leads guided adventure trips across eight states for road cycling, mountain biking, hiking and backpacking. AOA also operates an adventure center at the foot of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve where it offers bike rentals, day tours and guided local adventures for hiking, rafting, mountain biking, kayaking and more across the Sonoran Desert, attracting tourists, destination management companies and corporate and charity groups.

 “We’re thrilled to join with REI as we continue to grow our business to get more people outside through life-changing experiences,” says Heald. “Our companies have always shared a growth mindset and strong values. In this new relationship with REI, we have a vast opportunity to expand our adventure offerings in more national parks, iconic wilderness areas, and recreation destinations across the United States.”

 Since REI launched its travel offering in 1987, it has brought enthusiastic adventurers on epic, active trips to experience destinations around the world, not just visit. Every itinerary is designed around outdoor adventure, including hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing and more. Today, with more than 250 itineraries across all seven continents, the co-op serves a growing traveler base with broad interests through categories such as family travel, women’s travel, volunteer trips and easier active options. REI’s local guides are at the center of every experience, sharing their love of their region through exploration away from crowds and meaningful interactions with local cultures, communities and businesses.

 Under REI’s guidance, AOA helped develop innovative experiences that set REI apart in the adventure travel industry. This year, AOA will operate more than 50 REI adventure travel itineraries at 20 destinations across the American West, national parks and monuments, including new cycling and mountain biking trips, classic camping and hiking adventures.

 About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 17 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips and outstanding customer service. REI has 154 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Customers who can’t visit a store, can shop at REI.comREI Outlet or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company, a global leader that runs unique group itineraries worldwide. REI Outdoor Programs is run by professionally trained, expert instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.

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