Each September, Cnoc Outdoors pledges 10% of the revenue from our website to an organization working hard to keep up our trails and care for our communities. For 2019, our recipient is The Venture Out Project, an organization that leads backpacking and wilderness trips for the queer and transgender community. In the past, Cnoc Outdoors has donated Vectos to make it easier for The Venture Out Project to take groups on trips with long stretches between water sources.
Perry Cohen is a trans man who saw a need to create safer spaces in the outdoors for queer and transgender adventurers, so he left corporate life to found The Venture Out Project. We asked Perry about running The Venture Out Project via email.
Which trips have been your favorite?
It seems like every trip I'm on is my favorite at that moment. I know that sounds corny and like it can't possibly be true but there's something about being on a trip with other queer folks, out in the woods that just makes me feel so present that all I can feel is how much I love that very moment and the group of people I'm with. In hindsight though my two current favorite trips were our Rocky Mountain National Park trip where we climbed Mt. Ida and spent an amazing week in the Rockies seeing elk, 14ers, crystal clear streams, traversing glaciers, and climbing to nearly 13,000 feet. The other amazing trip was this August in Churchill, Manitoba, where we saw polar bears, kayaked with beluga whales, and even saw the aurora.
What’s planned for the rest of 2019 and for 2020?
We are currently packing out a trip to climb Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of NH, then we have some mountain bike clinics, Mt. Monadnock (where I first came up with the idea for Venture Out), a few winter hut trips in the White Mountains, a weeklong ski trip in Oregon, more of our Classic long weekend backpacking trips in NH, VT, OR, and CO as well as our big 5th year anniversary trip to a super exotic and exciting location that will be revealed in a few months. See a list of upcoming trips here.
What are the primary ways that gear companies can promote queer and trans inclusiveness?
First and foremost companies can employ queer and trans folks and provide good wages, benefits, and HR policies. Make sure you're thinking about who's behind the camera as well as who's in front of it. When you're marketing and promoting your gear, consider if it makes sense to say this is a woman's pack or if it's more appropriate to say, "This pack is for folks with larger hips and smaller shoulders, whereas this pack is for broad shouldered people with a long torso," rather than automatically assuming all people with a long torso and broad shoulders would want to buy a pack labeled as a men's pack. Consider if your gear even needs to be marketed or labeled as gendered. I once bought a tent and found a tag on it that told me it was unisex!
How will the funds from Support September be used?
We have a goal to never turn anyone away for lack of funds and for five years running we have achieved that. We have been fairly successful in raising money for scholarships, but it's harder to get funds for the non sexy operational costs we incur like insurance and internet and salaries so we are thrilled to have Funds from Support September to help fund our operating costs so we can continue to employ and support LGBTQ+ folks.
How have the Vectos been helpful to your programs?
It's been great to give participants a Vecto and let them carry their own water rather than having one person carry a 6 or 10 L dromedary bag for the whole group. We've also been able to give each participant their own mini filter to attach to the Vecto so they can be in control of their own water purification systems and learn to use them versus relying one someone else to treat their water.
For more information about Cohen and The Venture Out Project, listen to this episode of the Dirtbag Diaries.