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Support September: The Venture Out Project

Support September: The Venture Out Project

Update: We raised $2078 for The Venture Out Project!

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.  

people smiling with Wy'east/Mt. Hood in the background.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.


The Last Trekking Poles You'll Ever Need to Buy on Mars?

This image of the flight model of NASA's Mars Helicopter


Nice landing. Is there something familiar about that helicopter?

We have some really cool news about our manufacturing partner Goodwinds Composites! Along with them making our carbon fiber tubes for our new Cnoc trekking poles, they are also providing parts for the landing gear of NASA's first helicopter on Mars, scheduled for launch in 2020. The helicopter will prove the "viability of heavier-than-air vehicles flying on another planet" and deliver beautiful high resolution color photos of the stark red landscape.

That's big news for a company in a little town like Mt. Vernon. We couldn't be more excited to be working with them. Here's an exclusive interview with Amelia Cook, one of the two owners of Goodwinds. 

How did you end up working with NASA?woman (Amelia) holds a trekking pole in a warehouse

We were contacted by NASA and they were wonderful to work with. We helped design and wholly manufactured the wrapped carbon tubes that will be used as landing gear in the NASA Mars Helicopter, set to launch in July 2020. We leveraged the same composites engineering expertise and used the same process to create the wrapped carbon tubes used in the CNOC hiking sticks.

How similar are the carbon fiber tubes used for helicopter and for our trekking poles?

The fantastic thing about wrapped carbon tubes is that they are extremely versatile in attributes. The things that make a wrapped carbon tube a great choice on Mars, like strength-to-weight ratio and impact resistance, make them an excellent choice for trekking poles. Like we did for NASA, we were able to customize the tubes we manufacture for the CNOC hiking sticks in terms of stiffness, length, diameter, hoop strength, straightness, and many other technical aspects to build the absolute best tube for the intended use.

 How has the collaboration with NASA affected business?

We've had some great publicity from this project—it's just so cool. We all touched those tubes before we sent them out the door. NASA has since cleaned them so as not to transfer anything from our planet to Mars; did you know that is the job of the Planetary Protection Office? We've been geeking out ever since.

If given the opportunity would you ever go to Mars?

I think I'd love to go to Mars, but I'm probably not the best candidate... I have high hopes for my kids!

Helicopter Lands in Jezero Crater February 2021

When the helicopter lands on those sturdy carbon fiber legs, we can say our trekking poles are literally out of this world, or at least their cousins are. Why be content with making the ultimate trekking poles out of terrestrial carbon fiber when we could be making the ultimate poles in the solar system?

Animation of Mars helicopter and Mars 2020 rover.
Credits: NASA/JPL-CalTech

Back our Kickstarter to get the poles that are going to Mars!