The origin of the poncho project began in February 2018 during an Innovation Days event where REI Senior Innovation Engineer Steve Nagode was connected with NatureBridge. It was there he discovered a problem that needed solving.
At NatureBridge, we aim to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion among all of our students—we believe it is essential for learning. At NatureBridge in Olympic, that means feeling comfortable in the outdoors, equipped with the proper gear.
Coincidentally, REI had a quandary that also needed solving. REI had a surplus of functionally fit fabric that, due to cosmetic flaws, was likely destined for the landfill. Equipped with this knowledge, Steve went right to the REI Co-op Brand’s prototyping lab.
"We decided to work together with NatureBridge because they had a need, and we had the materials and designs," said Steve. "At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived. We know that getting people outside comfortably requires great gear, and this project pairs the two."
Before long, he had designed a poncho big enough to comfortably fit over a child’s backpack, using all excess high-end material, known as liability fabric. With the help of pattern maker Beb Santo and prototyper Adam Kurth, the poncho was finished with a hood, brim and cinching cords, making it the ultimate protection from inclement weather.