During Labor Day weekend, the University of Connecticut Outing Club went on a hiking trip to Mount Washington, New Hampshire, the tallest peak of New England. Organized by the five executive board members of the club, the trip was a success, leaving its participants with memories and pride.
“Anything and everything outdoors” is the motto of the club. Students involved can reconnect with nature and go above and beyond their limits. About 1,500 students are part of the organization, 400 of which are regularly active members. The club organizes hiking, backpacking and camping trips along with white water rafting and skiing.
In other words, “Anything to get people outdoors,” said Rachel Felder, a senior at the University of Connecticut and the president of the club.
Each member of the club can organize any activity they want to, from a backpacking trip to a simple hike in UConn’s forests. The club also lends to those who need outdoor gear such as tents, sleeping bags or sleeping mats.
“It’s a really big part making sure people are able to get involved, because I think a big issue that people face with getting involved in the outdoors is the cost of the gear as well as just making it more accessible,” said Felder. “I think little things like that really helped to make this a more accessible place for people and make it somewhere that people can feel more like they belong and that they have a place to be.”
For Marcus Franco, a sophomore at UConn and the secretary of the club, taking part in outdoor activities is really important for everyone.
“I think it’s important to do things outside because as the world gets increasingly disconnected from nature, there’s more things that we do indoors with computers, it’s a way to recharge your battery a little bit and reset, and it just feels really good after you’ve gone outside,” said Franco.
Finishing a hike or getting to a summit can be a great confidence booster because of the challenges these activities pose. For members of the club, there is no need for experience in order to feel that.
According to Felder, the club helps people reconnect with nature. A lot of people who sign up have never gone on a big hike. However, they can still go on trips and discover the experience of pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
Felder thinks that “People are able to try new things and find what they enjoy the most in the outdoors.” “[The club] is a great place to do it, especially because as time goes on, when you’re out of college, when you have a full-time job, you may not have the time to find these new passions,” added Felder.
Franco didn’t have any experience before joining the club as his family did not do many outdoor activities. However, he discovered hiking through the club and fell in love with it.
The club also cares about the environment and tries to teach its members how to leave no trace on the trails and leave nature the way they discovered it.
“Since we’re so involved in outdoor spaces, the environment is something that is very important to us,” said Felder.
Club members are very careful about the way their members act during outdoor activities to make sure that no harm is caused to anyone.
“We love to bring in more people but then it also poses the risk of bringing more people that have a bigger impact on the environment so we’re just trying to balance that and also make sure that people are aware of what they can do on their own to lessen their own impact,” Felder said.
Conner Caridad is a senior at UConn and a member of the club. He took part in the trip to Mount Washington and knew the area well as he already climbed it on his own. The most exciting part of this trip, for him, was to be with his friends, as it was probably one of his last trips with the Outing Club.
When Caridad first joined the club, he thought it would be exclusively hiking and backpacking.
“I was pretty amazed by the variety of things they are able to do and also the infrastructure that’s in place for the club,” said Caridad.
Caridad’s favorite experience in the club happened two years ago, when he did a presidential traverse. He and a friend led a trip of 10 people together. Caridad says it’s something he wanted to do personally, so doing it with people who share his passion about hiking made the experience greater.
Many students in the Outing Club consider it a place to meet and rediscover their surroundings and nature in a different way.
“I was already interested in it, but since joining the Outing Club I got way more into it and now, outside of my academics, this club is my purpose on campus,” said Franco.