Hiking around Berlin with the Cozy Hiking Club

An interview with its founder, Nini Nagele.
Photo credit: Laura Schaeffer
Cozy Hiking Club is a collective of outdoor enthusiasts committed to [re]connecting with nature and the community, with a central focus on embracing and celebrating queer and flinta identities. Background team had a chat with Nini Nagele, the founder of this collective that is diving into nature in Germany through activites like hiking, trail running, yoga, and breathwork. Most of the time they explore the outdoors around Berlin, so all hikes are accessible by public transportation. Some hikes are open for everybody, some hikes are for Queer Folx and some are for people who identify as FLINTA* – all hikes are limited to 25 people and are between 10 km and 20 km long. Last year they collaborated with Arc’teryx for a trip to the Sächsische Schweiz, and Nike ACG for some wholesome Yoga & Hike.

Can you share the origin story of the Cozy Hiking Club and how it came to prioritize the intersection of queer and flinta identities with outdoor exploration? Why COZY and why now?

I started COZY in JAN 2022, so at the end of Covid. During the pandemic I was outside every weekend and at some point I thought about inviting more people to join me – posted a story on instagram and got sooo many replies that I was like: maybe we need a hiking club. quite a random origin story, but it grew to something very beautiful over time. I’m Queer, I identify as Nonbinary, so I guess the focus on creating a safer space for Queer and FLINTA* Folx came very naturally, since I’m part of that community. I mean, we still have hikes that are open for everybody, so people can bring allies and homies, but the majority of people joining COZY identify under one of the umbrellas mentioned above. I think the “Why” and “Why Now” are because of personal experiences: I don’t drink, I don’t go to bars (yes, I live my cute lil senior lifestyle) so there are not many other opportunities to connect with like-minded people other than sports and outdoors. And I’m sure there are more people having the same experience – especially if you live in a city that is centered around nightlife, it can be hard to meet new people. And that’s where COZY comes in: it’s a space to meet people, connect with your community and also escape the city for a bit.
Photo credit: Laura Schaeffer
How do you create a welcoming and inclusive space for individuals with diverse identities and backgrounds within the outdoor community?

Tough question, but I think for me personally it’s to show people that the outdoors is for everybody. You don’t have to look a certain way, you don’t need expensive clothes and you don’t need to be super sporty to join COZY. It’s basically the first level of outdoor exploration. I think if you never went hiking, camping or spent much time in nature, it can be scary – you don’t know what to wear, how to navigate, what to bring, or where to go. So doing all that in a group with like-minded people might make everything a bit easier – especially in the beginning of your outdoor career. But here I want to mention that there is so much COZY, and the whole outdoors community could do, to be more inclusive. For example I am looking into hikes that are accessible for wheelchairs, activities that are more inclusive to families or different ages for 2024. So I feel like even though COZY is already doing something good, it’s not even close to being completely inclusive and accessible.

"It’s a space to meet people, connect with your community and also escape the city for a bit."

What role does outdoor exploration play in fostering connections and building community among members of your club?

Society really loves to put people in boxes – tell us what to do and how to look and what to say – especially Queer and FLINTA* Folx. Nature is the exact opposite. The woods don’t care how you look or where you come from – the only important thing is that you respect your surroundings. So I feel like being outdoors, and enjoying the beauty of nature takes away pressure. It’s so easy, you just have to walk and drink and sit and walk again – there is nothing else you have to worry about. You can really focus on what's important. That’s why the connections you make outdoors are so real – you talk about completely different things, than you do in a crowded, loud bar for example.

How do you balance the desire for outdoor adventure with the need for creating a comfortable and supportive environment for all participants?

I think when it comes to COZY, it’s not so much about crazy adventures but more about wholesome experiences. It’s not about climbing mountains, but more about fleeing the city and enjoying a stroll through the woods. Even though we’re planning some more advanced experiences in 2024, the base of COZY will always be cute afternoon hikes with lovely people and long snack breaks.
Are there any initiatives or projects that your club is involved in beyond hiking, such as advocacy or education efforts related to queer and flinta representation in outdoor spaces?

No, not yet. I feel like 2024 will show what COZY is becoming but for now it’s really just some people meeting for afternoon hikes.

What advice would you give to individuals who may be hesitant to explore the outdoors due to concerns about acceptance or inclusivity?

Just go outside! Grab some water, yummy snacks and some friends and just go outside! No matter if it’s two hours or two days – exploration doesn’t have to look a certain way. And everybody who’s telling you, you’re not an outdoor person is lying. Also: power in numbers. If you feel unsafe or hesitant, try to find some people to join you. It’s less scary, the more you are.

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