Choose Your Adventure

There’s a lot going on in the Outing Club, and it can be difficult to figure out where to get started. If you don’t know what you want to do in the great outdoors, this guide might help. Choose a link below to begin.

I want to get wet

The Outing Club owns a large fleet of boats suitable for a variety of environments, from snowmelt-swollen creeks to the Great Lakes. No matter what type of boating you want to do, you’ll need to take a swim test. If you just want to get out on Lake Mendota by yourself using club boats, see the FAQ. Otherwise, decide whether you want to see the world via boat, shred gnarly whitewater, or relax in a boat with friends:

Sea kayaking

Want to paddle miles away from the nearest dry land, guided only by compass and map? Up for island-hopping through the Apostles of Lake Superior? Even if a pleasure cruise through Madison’s chain of lakes is more your style, so long as you’re drawn to the idea of exploring large swaths of nature via boat, sea kayaking is worth a try.

Whitewater kayaking

If you like roller coasters, but feel that they’re too dry and linear, you should get in a tiny plastic boat and let the river make you its plaything. Few things are as thrilling as wrestling with powerful hydraulic forces for control of your boat, knowing that false moves will put you swiftly underwater. If you stick with it, the power dynamic will soon reverse, and you’ll be playing and surfing and spinning like an ungainly dolphin.


Are you drawn to sea kayaking, but upset that the kayak’s small size prevents you from bringing the kitchen sink on trips? A canoe’s vast bulk allows the luxury of bringing really whatever you want on the water. The tandem nature of canoes also permits the development of a wide variety of feelings with regards to your co-paddler, including contentment, acquiescence, and resentment.

I want to stay dry

Contrary to the beliefs of some Outing Club members, we aren’t living in a Kevin Costner movie, and paddling is not the only thing in existence. If you have powerful thighs and strong lungs, try getting out on foot. If you believe that all parts of the body should suffer equally, maybe rock climbing, trail-building, or caving are more your speed.

On foot


Can you without cell service for days on end? Are you capable of pulling the rug out from under the base of Maslow’s hierarchy for a chance at improvement in its upper rungs? Want to see vistas that could be in National Geographic with your own two eyes? Try backpacking!

Road biking

Through the magic of slick tires and mechanical advantage, road biking empowers you to travel impressive distances under your own power. Whether you just want to pedal for a day, or bring a gear rack and tent to really get out there, road biking is a great fit for those with that stiff upper lip.

Mountain biking

It’s like a roller coaster, but with less safety and more sweat. Much like whitewater kayaking, mountain biking is ideal for those thrill-seekers who feel constrained by the pre-programmed nature of conventional thrill rides.

Getting the whole body involved

Rock climbing

Best described as a puzzle that you solve with your body, rock climbing is an addicting mixture of technical skill, physical strength, and systematic knowledge, leavened with the fear that comes from being perched on an unyielding cliff for as long as you have the guts to stay there.

Ice Age Trail Crew

Do you, like so many others, believe that trails spring magically into existence when the Trail Fairy flies over them with its little pickaxe-shaped wand? This is not so! Trails are built by a community of real humans who volunteer occasional weekends in exchange for companionship and delicious, hot meals.


Are you free from claustrophobia and unafraid of mud getting into crevices you didn’t know you had? Caving lets you get into adventure down under without expensive plane tickets to Australia. Local caving has been significantly curtailed by white-nose syndrome, but dedicated spelunkers are keeping the faith.

I want to embrace the cold

Madison is downright chilly for a significant chunk of the year, and there are two basic responses to the cold: holing up inside and yearning for spring, or gearing up to get out and play with Jack Frost.

On skis?

So you don’t like friction? That’s okay, you’ll be right at home in the company of skiers.

Cross-country skiing

Cross-country (or Nordic) skiing is much like hiking or running, but the gliding mechanic of travel and pristine snowscape lends skiing a grace that summer sports can only dream of.

Telemark skiing

Although it may look ungainly, practitioners of telemark skiing swear that it’s the best way to get down a snow-covered hill. As an added bonus, the addition of high-friction ski skins lets you go up hills, too!


Winter camping

Whether you travel to a primitive campsite on snowshoe and build shelter using only the materials at hand, or glide on skis to a heated yurt, winter camping will bring you to a better understanding of the elements that govern Wisconsin for a third of the year.

I’d rather be hiking


If you’re put off by the ungainly sticks and planks used for skiing, and would rather get around in winter with the help of ungainly ovals, snowshoes allow you to travel across the frozen tundra without postholing.

Keeping it casual

If you like your activities delivered at a slower pace than described above, the Outing Club offers a great framework to organize low-key gatherings around Madison. Possibilities include:

  • Broomball on frozen Lake Mendota
  • Ice skating in the Shell or at Tenney Park
  • Day hikes at local parks (the Arboretum, Governor Dodge, Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Devil’s Lake, and many more)
  • ‘Bood’ (beverages and food) after Tuesday night club meetings
  • Film viewings (typically outdoors-related)
  • Biking out to local restaurants and breweries
  • Bonfires at Picnic Point

Since all that’s required for a Hoofers trip is the attendance of three club members, you can make a club event out of almost anything that appeals to you in the great outdoors. If nobody is offering trips of the variety you’d like to attend, talk to one of the trip leaders and offer to help lead a trip!