5 Non-intimidating Ways to Join the Outdoor Community

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“Just take that leap forward, because once you get out there, it becomes so enchanting that you’re going to want to do it again and again,” says Mark Durnin, an outdoorsman and employee at Denver outdoor gear store, Feral

Being new to a sport in the mountain community can be a bit daunting. Whether it’s issues with accessibility, fear of judgment, or just general apprehension toward starting something new, the outdoor community has often been misconstrued as out-of-reach for many. But now, there’s a movement that includes first-timers and experts, reassuring us all that the mountains are our playground and everyone is welcome to play. 

If you’re someone who’s just getting into skiing, climbing, mountain biking, hiking or another outdoor activity, here are a few simple non-intimidating ways to join the outdoor community. 

Tip one: Start small 

A leisure CO hike. non-intimidating ways to join the outdoor community
A leisure CO hike. Photo by Ella Williamson.

You don’t need to bag a 14er, climb a V8 or ski a black diamond right off the bat. Be kind to yourself and ease into it. When you’re just beginning, you want to search for joy in whatever activity you’re trying. Even if you’re taking a two-mile walk with the sole goal of getting outside, you’re still a hiker.

Leisure athlete” is a term coined by outdoor comedian and director Katie Burrell. The term helps to point out that you can be an adventurous athlete without being “the most extreme” and putting yourself in danger. There’s no concrete definition for being an outdoorsman or woman, so don’t shame yourself for taking it easy. Trying to hop right into advanced terrain might feel discouraging. After all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the ride at your own pace. 

Tip two: Find your squad

A group of women mountain bikers.
The camaraderie at its finest. Photo courtesy of CO Mountain Bike Association.

Get a group of friends together to embark on these journeys with you. Learning and laughing with people makes being a beginner a whole lot easier. If you’re struggling to find that circle, there are plenty of online communities available. Facebook groups are a great place to start. Go to the Groups section of your Facebook page and seek out a community that looks right for you. For example, if you search “mountain biking for beginners,” there are plenty of options to choose from. The same goes for almost every outdoor activity you may be interested in. Some groups we recommend checking out include Colorado Mountain Club, Front Range Explorers, Denver Social Climb, Denver Random Adventures, Colorado Mountain Bike Group and Wild Women Outdoors

Tip three: Get the right gear

used outdoor gear, non-intimidating ways to join the outdoor community
Photo Courtesy of Feral Outdoor Gear Shop on Facebook

The price of outdoor gear is often the biggest barrier, but there are ways to crack the system. EBay, Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace are going to be your best friends. Lightly used gear is usually more than half the price of new gear and serves the same function for the most part. You can also check out the used gear stores in Denver such as Feral or Wilderness Exchange. “Let’s say you just moved to Colorado and you wanna go backpacking for the first time,” says Durnin. “You can shop at either one of these places and I guarantee you could find a great backpack and it would be one-third of the price of a new pack.”

Tip four: Talk to an expert 

Nine times out of ten, an expert in the field will be psyched to talk to you. Despite some stereotypes, most outdoors people are kind and free-spirited. “In general, the outdoor community will embrace you with acceptance and open arms,” says Durnin, a man who practices what he preaches. Tap into the expert mountaineers and use them as guides. It is as simple as walking into an outdoor store and having a conversation with an employee, reaching out to people on social media, or even connecting with someone on one of your adventures in the wild. You just have to be willing to exchange experiences and ask questions. 

Tip five: Enjoy it for what it is. 

Hiking into the abyss. non-intimidating ways to join the outdoor community
Hiking into the abyss. Photo by Sofia Stopeck.

The last non-intimidating way to join the outdoor community is to simply enjoy it! At the end of the day, we’re all just playing in the mountains. A lot of these outdoor activities are about finding freedom and flow, and that’s what makes them so special. There’s a very simple reason people are so drawn to moving within the mountains. It’s really fun. There’s no right way to do it, and there are no requirements for who’s allowed to do it. Connect with any and everybody you can, get your body moving and make sure you don’t lose sight of why you’re out there in the first place. 

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