The Healing Power of The Outdoors

November 10, 2015

Helping Veterans get outside and experience the benefits of the land they protected.  

Photo: Ian Shive

Those of us who spend a lot of time outside are familiar with the feeling you get when you disconnect and get close to nature. It's a feeling that is hard to describe but just plain feels good. Think of the rush you get when reaching the top of a hike or the relaxing sensation of stargazing. Our friends at the Sierra Club are no stranger to this sensation and are introducing the power of the great outdoors to our nation’s veterans.

Last year, BioLite outfitted part of the Sierra Club team with gear to provide cooking and charging support for their outings. We caught up with Stacy Bare, the Sierra Club Outdoors Director, to learn more about their work with veterans and military service members.

“Many veterans experience difficulty adjusting to civilian life after leaving the service," Stacy says. "Time spent outdoors eases the transition and improves both mental health and social skills.”

The Sierra Club launched Military Outdoors in 2011 to help veterans, service members and their families get outside and experience the benefits of connecting with the physical land they protected. Whether it’s a two day trip hiking through the Grand Canyon, a five day rafting trip, ice climbing expedition or time spent backcountry skiing, Military Outdoors gives veterans the opportunity to disconnect and build a community around a shared interest in nature. The Sierra Club estimates that 13,000 veterans and service members are involved in these outdoor programs each year and once this community experiences the outdoors, they often come back to participate in more adventures and even volunteer to lead outings.


The CampStove tags along on an ice climbing adventure to ensure everyone has a warm meal and an extra charge. (Photo: Ben Bare)

Veterans hike through the wilderness during a Military Outdoors outing. 
(Photo: Ian Shive)

The Sierra club is going one step beyond just sharing the outdoors with veterans and actually researching its healing power. Through The Great Outdoors Lab, they are testing out two hypotheses, 1) that the outdoors improves mental, physical and social well-being and 2) that the emotion of awe is important in driving these positive effects.

The research is still in its early stages but preliminary findings are promising. They show that being outdoors and experiencing awe due to an outdoor activity such as white-water rafting for the first time positively effects one’s well-being. Participating veterans even experienced a decrease in PTSD symptoms and stress. We’ll be following this study closely and will share updates once the research gets closer to being published.

If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in an event, see the Military Outdoors events calendar.