Emilie Winter stands in room 135 of the Rey Meyer Fitness Center wearing brown combat boots and pinned up hair as she reviews what to put in a first aid kit. Her appearance mirrors that of someone who is about to hitch up a tent, but on this day, she is explaining the basic rules of backpacking in her “Emergency Preparedness in the Wilderness” Workshop to a small group of curious students.
Winter is DePaul’s Outdoor Adventure Program’s trip leader. The program plans and leads several hiking, canoeing, camping and kayaking trips during the fall and spring quarters. During winter, the program goes snowboarding and skiing instead. These programs give city dwelling students a brief escape, and throughout the year, several workshops are held for aspiring or experienced campers to learn how to navigate the outdoors.
For junior Christina Origel, attending the workshop was one of her first steps before she ventures on a backpacking adventure in California.
“I’m going to go to Big Sur this winter break to get away from the cold and go hiking,” said Origel. “This workshop was great it gave me a perspective on what I should or shouldn’t bring before beginning this trip. Anything can happen outdoors.”
In the workshop, Winter explained the basics of emergency preparedness, gave tips on healthy camping, and provided a list of essential items a camper should always have with them in order to prevent accidents and safely navigate the outdoors.
Winter began as an outdoor adventure participant her freshman year. After her passion and motivation was obvious to program leader, John Washo, he hired her in the spring quarter of 2012 as a trip leader. She considered herself strictly a city kid and with zero camping experience before joining the program, but was amazed by how naturally inclined she was to the outdoors.
“It has been an intense experience. I learned so many intense skills that I would’ve only learned by doing it,” Winter said. “The best way to learn is to actually experience it. The more trips I did the more I learned and then your skills develop over time.”
Winter has attended every outdoor adventure since she has joined the program. She’s been able to travel to Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and the Appalachian Mountains all through DePaul. Her involvement in such an active program has led her to become a certified wilderness first responder through a month-long Medicine in the Wilderness course provided by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
Mia Jennsen, another member of the Outdoor Adventure Program, is expecting to go on her first trip with NOLS this January and February to Patagonia, Argentina for a backpacking trip.
“I’ve been in the club for about a year and fell in love with it right away I love being in the city. I’m a city gal, but I’m more of myself when I’m hiking or camping,” Jennsen said. “I plan on going to every trip this year since being a part of this has really showed me what I love.”
Winter is excited to prepare her last year as trip leader. Her senior year at DePaul she will spend time planning the group’s major seven-day camping trip to Colorado and Utah for spring break.
“The audience we serve here at DePaul are students who have little to no experience,” Winter said. “I love to see their faces when they crawl out of a tent for the first time.”