Pictured is the OAC on one of their outdoor adventures. Photo courtesy of UD OAC from @ud_oac on Instagram.
Lucy Waskiewicz | News Editor
Want to explore a national forest, spend a night under the stars or simply toast marshmallows around the campfire with fellow Flyers?
Look no further than the Outdoor Adventure Club.
The Outdoor Adventure Club, or OAC, is a special-interest club on campus promoting all things outdoors and, well, adventurous. Not to be confused with OEC — the Outdoor Engagement Center run out of UD Campus Recreation — OAC is a student-run organization that independently plans and executes its adventures.
The club offers a diverse slate of events each semester with enough variety to suit any level of outdoorsman — from an hour of hiking at local trails to three days and twenty miles of backpacking in a national forest. Last fall, their roster included a day hike at Dayton’s Englewood MetroPark, backpacking through Big South Fork National River & Recreational Area in Tennessee and a cabin trip at Red River Gorge in Kentucky.
OAC treasurer and senior biology major David Speth said the club sets itself apart through its variety of adventures and relaxed, welcoming environment.
“For all of our events, everyone is welcome to join us, and they have proven to be fun-filled ways to escape from the stresses of classes,” he said. “We believe the outdoors can be beneficial for both our physical and mental health. We strive to ensure that our trips exemplify this effect and we love to share these experiences with fellow UD students.”
OAC’s adventures are open to all UD students, however, those who pay the club’s $15/semester dues get early registration to popular events like cabin trips and backpacking. Dues-paying members can also borrow equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, flashlights and backpacks at no cost from the club’s reserve of supplies (non-dues-paying members must pay a small equipment fee).
For students who are new to the outdoors, OAC offers a stress-free opportunity to try hiking, camping, or backpacking for the first time with experienced club officers, many of whom are also trained in Wilderness First Aid.
“We work to create a relaxed environment so that people who want to get involved in the outdoors but may be intimidated, can,” said Liesl Carter, OAC co-trip leader and junior mechanical engineering major.
OAC’s executive board is currently made up of five students from a variety of years and majors. Alongside Speth and Carter, there’s co-trip leader Carter Banks, a junior biology major; reserve officer Olivia Westendorf, a junior pre-medicine major; social media chair Keira Fortunato, first-year electrical engineering major; and coordination chair Annika Hall, a sophomore music therapy major.
Like many officers, coordination chair Hall joined OAC’s executive board after a positive experience on an adventure. She participated in the club’s backpacking trip at Big South Fork during the 2023 fall semester and said the trip drew her to become more involved.
“We slept in tents overnight, made fires, cooked our own meals and saw some really beautiful scenery,” she said. “I really enjoyed this trip because I got to meet some really cool and fun people.”
Co-trip leader Banks also highlighted the significance of more intensive adventures like backpacking trips in building solidarity and community among trip attendees.
“All different students from different backgrounds are able to come together for an amazing trip in a physically strenuous environment,” he said. “I believe that this really creates the best bonds between people since a common goal has been put in place from the very beginning of the trip.”
Like many campus clubs, OAC took an attendance hit after the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down for over a year. However, the executive board is dedicated to increasing member participation by offering a variety of different events and asking for student input — efforts which, Carter said, are slowly but surely drawing in a group of regulars.
“This year has brought a lot of new faces into our OAC circle,” Carter said. “To encourage participation, we are trying to get more input from our members in terms of ideation for our monthly activities.”
OAC has also begun collaborating on events with other student organizations to offer a wider variety of activities and draw in participants from other clubs. The spring semester’s activity roster alone includes a hike with the Running Club, rock wall night with the Climbing Team and a water activity with the River Stewards.
Other spring events include a cabin trip and car camping.
As OAC looks toward the future, its officers are focused on encouraging as many Flyers as possible to do one thing — get outside.
“We want to make OAC accessible to people from all previous outdoor experiences so we try to have a variety of events geared towards students of all levels of outdoor adventure,” Carter said.
Or, in the words of the club’s motto — to be wild, be free, be OAC.