There are many local or regional outdoor clubs and trail organizations that range in size and activity. Trail Clubs usually focus on maintaining trails; hosting other activities is a secondary concern. Outdoor clubs can have a wide range of purposes and activities. Both are wonderful communities that offer amazing opportunities.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker, avid mountain biker, or budding adventurer, here are five reasons (in no particular order) you should join an outdoor or trail club:
1. Trail Maintenance
Trail clubs (and some outdoor clubs) do much more than plan cool trips. Many do the lion’s share of keeping the trails clean and beautiful. They are often responsible for installing or repairing benches, stairs, and other things along more popular trails.
Equally important is their advocacy to local or regional government on behalf of trails and outdoor recreation areas. Advocacy can include everything from fundraising and helping the community use facilities well to legal advocacy and lobbying.
Getting involved in a trail club is an act of protecting our outdoor areas for future generations to enjoy! A few nationally recognized trail clubs include the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the American Hiking Society, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Colorado Mountain Club, and many others.
2. Gear Swaps and Rentals
Many outdoor clubs host annual gear swaps or have a “gear library” for members to rent or borrow. If you are just getting into backpacking, kayaking, or other outdoor adventures, this is a wonderful way to get experience and test equipment before purchasing your own. It also allows people to try new sports or hobbies at relatively low cost.
If you have friends visiting from out of town, no need to run out and buy new kayaks or pay top dollar to rent from an outfitter if you are a member of an outdoor club with gear rentals.
And, if you’ve already built your gear library, it offers peace of mind that you will have access to a backup just in case your tent rips right before that epic trip you spent all year planning (or some other misfortune).
3. Expand Your Horizons
Active outdoor clubs have a variety of opportunities from hikes to paddle adventures and many more. Joining a club gives you the chance to try new activities and explore new areas in the company of friends.
4. Shared Costs
Often outdoor clubs offer discounts or other perks to their members. Whether it’s reduced price event registration, shopping discounts at stores, or group rates for activities, it’s one way to share costs and make activities accessible to more people.
Many clubs use membership dues to help bring in speakers or host classes like wilderness first aid certification. These are great opportunities to expand your knowledge and broaden your horizons.
5. Shared Wisdom
A wise person once told me, “There’s always someone who knows more than you. Learn from them. And there’s always someone coming behind you. Mentor them.” Outdoor clubs are wonderful places to create these types of relationships. You might be surprised that begins with knowledge about the outdoors and, if you let it, will extend to life lessons as well.
6. Bonus: We all Need Community!
In an increasingly fragmented society we need community. We are designed to have friends and a network of people we know, like, and trust. It’s healthy for us to have a community with which we work toward a common interest or goal. In an outdoor or trail club you will find a diverse community, drawn together by similar hobbies and passions and a love for the great outoors.
How to Find an Outdoor or Trail Club
Google is a great resource in identifying local trail clubs. MeetUp is another fantastic resource to locate outdoor clubs. Ask your local Gander Outdoors or YMCA if they know of any active clubs in the area.
Once you find some clubs in your community, try a few events. Don’t judge a club or organization by just one experience. Try the “three experiences policy”: go to three different events hosted by the group before you decide. This will give you time to get a sense of what the members are like, how active the group is, and what kinds of activities they typically host. Get to know a few of the group leaders and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
After you join, participate early and often! Look for opportunities to lead and contribute your skills, talents, experiences, and resources. And, finally, get outside your comfort zone! Try new things; visit new places; hang out with new people; participate in maintaining trails. It’s all part of the adventure!
Are you a member of a local club? Share in the comments below so others can find your community!