Roads Rivers and Trails

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College outdoor clubs can introduce students to landscapes such as the Wind River Range.

College Outdoor Clubs: A Necessary Resource

Image you’re a parent and your kid has just come home from college. They joined a club with a crazy group of dirtbags and now spend every weekend outside getting sunburnt, climbing, backpacking, and caving. Your first thought might be, “Oh lord, they’re gonna drop out and live in a van down by the river.” I want you to know it does not always end up that way. However, you probably will have to work with them on showering more often. Whether you are the worried parent or the adventure-driven kid, college outdoor clubs are important and can be life changing.

When I went to the University of Cincinnati, I initially struggled to make friends, especially my first semester. I joined the UC Mountaineering Club (UCMC) at the start of the fall semester, but a demanding chemistry lab prevented me from being active in the club. First thing spring semester, I went to meetings and became an active member of the group. It was incredible! I fell in love with these people. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel included. I tried all sorts of new things, like canyoneering, more serious backpacking than I had done as a kid, and hanging out at the crag (climbing wall) at Red River Gorge.

College outdoor club students connect over a shared passion for adventure.

UC Mountaineering Club students at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

You are able to see so much with these clubs, even as a college student. They can put on a week-and-a-half long trip to western national parks for around $250 per student. Although that doesn’t include food, it is still phenomenally cheap. Without this group, I would not have explored as much of the country as I have.

Opening young adults up to new adventures is not all these clubs are good for. They provide the interested college kid with a group of individuals who share the same passions. This will help them find their identity and create lifelong friendships. Some of my friends from the mountaineering club later became my roommates!

College outdoor clubs also teach new skills; UCMC taught me to climb. I had tried it as a wee Boy Scout but never got into it. Then, UCMC really taught me. I learned the importance of climbing safety and having the right gear. I grew from top-roping to belaying others and eventually lead climbing. When my time came, I was the one teaching other mountaineers how to climb, passing on the lessons I had been taught.

College outdoor clubs are an avenue to discover passions and valuesr

UCMC students connect around shared passions at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

These club relationships can even help with careers and networking. If it was not for UCMC, I would not be working for the best store in the world: Roads Rivers and Trails! Several RRT staff come from UCMC and I’m grateful for that. In the summer of 2019, RRT needed more gear ninjas (that’s what they call us sales associates when we start). Another member of the club helped me apply and get the job. Now, I’m the “Director of Gear Science and Technology.” Pretty fancy, huh! I learned so much about outdoor gear and had some incredible co-workers and supervisors. Emily even helped me get a chemistry job with the Food and Drug Administration by writing a letter of recommendation.

Furthermore, these clubs are instrumental in helping a kid build their identity and adult life. I don’t know what I would have done without UCMC. So, if you’re the kid thinking about joining, just try it out. If you’re the parent, relax. You have to let your kid become the person they want to be, although it may stress you out and make you worry. Just ask my mother, she’ll have some stories for you. But more importantly, it will make a huge difference for your kid.

I love UCMC and I wouldn’t trade its people or experiences for the world. College outdoor clubs are awesome and so important to your personal growth. Check out the UC Mountaineering Club or a similar outdoor club at your college of choice; the impact can be astounding.

College outdoor club students visit Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a favorite destination for college outdoor clubs over fall break.

by: Joe Carver