REI Halts Orders for Popular Outdoor Brands, Including CamelBak, Bell, and Giro, in Response to NRA Boycott

In response to a petition, REI has halted orders for products from popular mountain bike brands like CamelBak, Giro, Bell, and Blackburn, due to their ownership by Vista Outdoor, a conglomerate that also owns gun-related businesses.
Photo: Savage Arms Facebook Page

Following the recent school shooting in Florida, yet another in a long string of shootings across the United States, boycotts against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and brands associated with the massive lobbying organization have spilled over into the outdoors world. The primary connection between the two is Vista Outdoor, a conglomerate that owns popular outdoor brands like CamelBak, Bell, Giro, Bolle, and Blackburn. However, Vista Outdoor also owns a rifle and shotgun manufacturer named Savage Arms, the popular Federal Ammunition brand, and 11 other shooting-related brands. Plus, the company reportedly has strong ties to the NRA.

A petition asking REI to drop all brands owned by Vista Outdoor has garnered almost 19,000 signatures as of press time, prompting REI to reach out to Vista Outdoor, asking for their stance on the issue. However, after communicating with Vista Outdoor, REI has made the decision to put a hold on future orders from all of Vista’s brands.

REI released this statement on Thursday, March 1:

REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month. In the last few days, we’ve seen such action from companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership.

This week, we have been in active discussions with Vista Outdoor, which has recently acquired several companies that are longtime partners of REI. These include Giro, Bell, Camelbak, Camp Chef and Blackburn. Vista also owns Savage Arms, which manufactures guns including “modern sporting rifles.”

This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.

Companies are showing they can contribute if they are willing to lead. We encourage Vista to do just that.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op has also dropped Vista brands. Dick’s Sporting Goods has stopped the sale of “assault-style rifles” in their Field and Stream stores and, along with Walmart and L.L. Bean, has raised the minimum age required to buy a firearm of any type to 21.

Mountain Bike Brands Caught in the Crossfire

Photo: Aaron Chamberlain

The Vista Outdoor boycott by REI, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and individual mountain bikers around the world affects mountain biking brands CamelBak, Giro, Bell, Bolle, and Blackburn. But are these brands simply caught in the crossfire of negativity toward unrelated brands owned by their parent company?

Conglomerate companies own many brands in the mountain bike industry, including some of the most influential bike manufacturers. Yet those brands have no say in what other brands their parent company chooses to acquire, or how those other brands are managed. While it’s clear that thousands of mountain bikers are passionate about gun control issues, it appears that fellow passionate riders who work for these four brands–many of whom worked for these brands before their acquisition by Vista Outdoor–are being swept up in a controversy not of their making.

Savage Arms sells 645,000 firearms per year, “[representing] a third of the total market for traditional firearms,” according to Against the size and revenue of their firearms-related brands (Vista owns 13 shooting-related brands), it’s not clear that boycotting the bike-related brands will have any effect. While it’s difficult to compare the size of the brands under the Vista Outdoor umbrella, consider the purchase price for Savage Arms of $315 million in 2013 to the price paid for Bell, Giro, and Blackburn ($400 million in 2016,) and the $412 million purchase price of CamelBak in 2015. But again, Vista owns 13 shooting-related brands compared to the five mountain bike-related brands identified here.

Statement from CamelBak

CamelBak has released a statement in response to the call to boycott their products:

As you may know, in the wake of the recent tragic shooting at a Florida school, there have been calls on social media for a boycott of CamelBak products because of its association with Vista Outdoor, a company that also owns separate businesses in the shooting sports industry. A major concern for the boycott centers around the incorrect assumption that the purchase of any of our products may support a cause that does not fit the mission/values of our brand. That is not the case. Our brand falls within the Outdoor Products segment of our company, which operates separately from Vista Outdoor’s Shooting Sports segment. Since 1989, CamelBak has been committed to forever changing the way people hydrate and perform. Our passion and love for the outdoors is unchanged. We are deeply committed to the individuals and communities we serve and we proudly partner with organizations to promote the enjoyment of the outdoors.

We recognize, support and respect the right of every individual to decide for themselves what brands they will purchase based on whatever criteria they believe are important. As we drive to make positive change, it is our hope that you stand by our nearly 30-year reputation as we maintain our promise to obsess on what we make, how we make it, and the way it impacts people’s lives and the environment.

One final fact to chew on today: while we most often think of CamelBak as a mountain biking brand, they also make packs for other applications, including “Military/Tactical.”