Tackling the Outdoors with the Outings Club

November 3, 2017

Grace Blinkoff

Outing Club students take a quick break from canoeing in Michigan
Students take a quick break from canoeing on Manistee River in Michigan on an Outings Club trip during fall break.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Ora Hammel

Outings Club trips take place almost every academic break, when students lead trips from Tennessee to Michigan to explore, camp, hike, and more.

What better way is there to spend your break than hiking through the woods with only a backpack, a few extra pairs of socks, and a handy roll of duct tape? According to Nikhil Villani and Julia DiFiori, the co-representatives of the Oberlin College Outings Club (OCOC), these trips can truly be life changing.

OCOC’s primary goal is to provide students with an affordable way to experience the outdoors with annual memberships that cost only $10. Given that the club is entirely student-run, it aims to empower students through allowing them to lead and design all aspects of the trips, including the location, daily mileage, and most importantly, the menu. Students can also decide on a trip’s theme, and focuses span from meditation retreat or an environmental justice-oriented excursion.

“That Oberlin students collaborated to organize a trip, where we chose to only experience forest for four days straight, was really powerful,” says Villani.

Before taking on his position with the Outings Club, Villani felt that his biggest responsibility to other people was his role as head cook for the Fairkid Dining Co-op. “If I messed a meal up, 60 people weren’t going to have an adequate dinner.” Now, as an OCOC representative, he hopes to replicate his leadership experiences in the co-op to inspire others to embrace the outdoors on these trips.

Similarly, DiFiori hopes to share her passion for camping with students who may not have had much exposure to the woods. “I really want to be of service to others and help them have similar experiences that I’ve had in the outdoors,” she says. DiFiori believes that being thrust into an immersive natural environment brings people together in positive ways.

Villani and DiFiori both had one of their first backpacking experiences with the Outings Club. Last year during spring break, Villani hiked for four days to the Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest in East Central Kentucky. He fondly remembers camping out in a cave while it rained, despite his group’s goal of covering five miles that day.

During fall break of her first year, DiFiori traveled to the Smoky Mountains, completing a loop from Tennessee to Kentucky, and back into Tennessee. One of the benefits of traveling during fall break, she added, is being able to see the changing leaves and take in the scenery. That spring, DiFiori took another Outings Club trip, backpacking in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

This fall break’s activities included hiking the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York, canoeing on the Pine River in Michigan, and attending the Mountain Justice Summit on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia, a conference tackling environmental issues such as surface mining and mountaintop removal. Trips typically cost $100, but OCOC has a no-questions asked, pay-what-you-can policy.

Villani and DiFiori anticipate further developing the Outings Club and giving it a greater presence on Facebook and the OCOC website. The club also has a brand new gear available to rent, including collapsible stoves, snow shoes, and standup paddleboards.

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