Get To Know Paul Dobie
Cotswold Outdoor expert Paul Dobie tells us what he loves about the outdoors.
How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors and how has it changed over your time at Cotswold Outdoor?
“I’ve had a relationship with the outdoors for the last 35 years. I started climbing first, and fell into the outdoor industry as a by-product of what I loved doing. I used to climb 3-4 times a week with very good climbers, and was in the gear shops more than I was anywhere else. I used to live in Liverpool but shop in Manchester because the Cotswold Outdoor in Manchester had the kit, and there wasn’t anywhere in Liverpool that could match what we did.”
What does the outdoors mean to you?
“It’s a bit of everything. I live in the hills, I work in the hills and I love going out in the hills. I’ve got a few different disciplines in the outdoors that I do, so if I go on a trail run I’ll feel brilliant because I’m on my own in the middle of nowhere with nothing to think about and no worries in the world, and that’s really good for me. If I’m going out with the kids, or my brother or we’re out as a family together - be it here in the Peaks, the Lake District, the Alps - wherever it may be, I feel like I’m home. If I go to Chamonix and look up at Mont Blanc, I’m like “yeah, I’m back”. And I’ve been doing that for the last 30 years.”
Why is the outdoors important, not just for you but for everybody?
“A major thing for me is for the kids to get out, because they can be sitting in front of a screen for an awfully long time and you miss so much. I’ll have a great day with the kids, we’ll all run around, we’ll all enjoy ourselves and then if they want to go back inside, they can, but they need to be out of the house in my opinion. It’s very important for me to get them grounded in the outdoors, so we go camping, we cycle, we run, we do everything. It’s super important to me.”
What’s your favourite part about the outdoors?
“I love to push myself. I like being totally shattered after a hard day, and it’s a euphoric feeling at the end like “yes, that went well”. Sometimes I even break a smile, which is rare but it does happen! But when I take the kids out, I’ll point out what they’re missing if they don’t look up and see the world. I’ll tell them which hill is which, what path we’re aiming for and they’ll take it all on board, they love that part of it. I’ll show them where a badger set is or go and listen to the owls on the side of the reservoir where we live, flying backwards and forwards to each other. And at night, we go night running with Sofie and sit on top of the hill watching the stars. She keeps claiming she sees a shooting star - we’ve seen one once! ”
How would you say the outdoors had shaped who you are today?
“I think it makes you quite relaxed about the world and then you can enjoy it more. I’ve got quite a high threshold for staying chilled - I’ve swung a mile off the floor on a piece of rope, so nothing seems much of a problem anymore! I love the outdoors, it’s moulded me.”
What would you say are the fundamental elements of an adventure?
“An adventure to me is challenging yourself, because it wouldn’t be an adventure if it wasn’t a challenge. I rode coast to coast with some friends, off-road on some mountain bikes, and that was definitely a physical challenge for me. I felt broken every day. But the fact that the next day you got up and repeated; I could have thrown in the towel so many times, gone down to the train station and gone home but you’ve got to keep going. The people you’re with too, the camaraderie, your friends. Even if it’s people you don’t know. I did an ultramarathon around the Peak District in November and met loads of new people; it was great because they were all having the same adventure as I was.”
How do you prepare to go on a microadventure or weekend adventure, and what would your advice be to someone who wants to do the same?
“I prepare for a microadventure usually by looking at things that pop up on social media and spending the next month planning to go away and do it: what do I take, what’s going to work? The only thing I hope I won’t use is a first aid kit, but everything else gets used. That’s over years of preparation though; I’ve even got a spreadsheet that tells me how heavy my stuff is. Very geeky but I’ll know what’s in the bag and how much it weighs, and then how much food I can take and still cope with the weight. Planning’s the good bit, I love planning stuff like that. Planning where to stay is great, I love planning accommodation, looking on Google Maps to find a nice north-facing lake or something that’ll look great in the morning, finding out what other people have done. But yeah, planning and talking to people is my advice to anyone looking to go on their own adventure.”
What inspires you to get outside and to take on new adventures?
“What inspires me is my personality to be honest with you – and I’m not getting any younger! It’s the people that we hang around with as well, we’re all quite like-minded so there’s always something going on. If a friend’s going to do something, it’s not a one-upmanship but it kind of is, just to do a step further and keep pace. I go out with my brother, my twin, and we’re about as competitive as it gets so we’re always pushing each other. I walk with Mark, I climb with him, I’ve had some of my best adventures with him. I’ve camped with him in the Alps, and we were in a field in Switzerland, because we got to the campsite and there was no campsite because the map hadn’t been updated for 20 years, so I’ve got a really cool photo because we were literally in this cornfield, set up a tarp, got under the tarp in bivvy bags, and in the morning we were watching two eagles floating around above us and some deer walking right past, it was just so cool. He’s 28 minutes older than me and I can’t get a better, closer friend than that. Mark drives me, I want to be better than him!”
What does sustainability mean to you?
“It’s super important to look after where we are, otherwise it won’t be there for the next generation. We paddled to an island in the middle of Derwent Water years ago, and we collected all the rubbish off the island and brought it back to shore. There were 5 huge bags of rubbish that tourists had just left on the island, it was a mess. When you see the photos of beaches with all the plastic on them, the mountains aren’t far off – all the energy drinks and energy powders wrappers are all over the floor. And we go around picking them up. The environment won’t be there in 50 years, it’ll just be a rubbish pile you’re walking over. And for us, and the brands we work with, sustainability is key. Dealing with the National Trust, brands like Patagonia, we’re dealing with ethical companies. The impact is less on the environment with those types of products.”
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