Over the last few years, adventure and the outdoors has started becoming ‘cool’. Largely thanks to the Instagram scene in North America, but gradually heading across the Atlantic to the UK. Those of us who were already outdoor fanatics before might meet this sudden adventure craze with mixed thoughts, but one certainly positive aspect in my opinion is the amount of new outdoor apparel shops and websites aimed at younger people. I came across Rise Outdoors when looking for some new hiking gear that didn’t make me look like my dad, and what I found was a store that not only stocked cool and unique brands, but that also had an excellent ethos and was based on UK-soil.
Rise Outdoors was founded by British brother-sister duo Amelia and Jack Steele, who grew up skiing in France and camping in forests with their parents. After having travelled individually in South America and Canada they decided to establish Rise Outdoors, providing the UK with high-quality, ethical and good-looking gear. In this interview, Jack and Amelia tell us about their adventures in the Amazon Rainforest, dreams of hiking in Corsica and plans for expanding Rise Outdoors, with a strong focus on their desire to protect and support the environment through sustainability projects.
“The ethos really involves a shared enjoyment of being outdoors
whether it’s just going for walks, nostalgia for a childhood in the
countryside, surfing, skiing, climbing or all of the above.”
Can you tell us about your childhood and how you came to love adventure and the outdoors?
Amelia: I think we owe that sense of adventure in part to our parents. Our dad spent much of his 20s travelling and is always keen to get out in the wild, while our mum is probably the best skier I know and always encouraged us to be outside. I have distinct memories of spending portions of my childhood climbing trees and sitting in the canopy. Our family summer holidays consisted of road-tripping down to Lacanau in the South of France, were we would camp in an enormous pine forest, body-board at the beach, cycle through forests and kayak down rivers. I have memories of the flashes of lighting through our burgundy tent as summer thunderstorms occasionally struck in the night. I always wished we lived near the sea so that I could learn to surf. In the winters we would cram into a tiny apartment in Tignes in the Alps and ski for a week if not more, trying park tricks on wobbly legs and exploring off-piste sections. We only had to be rescued once!
Jack: Yes, we definitely have our parents to thank for supporting that sense of adventure by taking us to exciting spots. We never really looked forward to relaxing in the sun during the school holidays, I definitely always preferred doing something more exciting. I love skiing, skateboarding, surfing, biking and pretty much any other sport that gives you an adrenaline rush.
Can you tell us about your personal travel experiences? Are there any particular trips you consider significant to where you are now in life?
Amelia: I studied Spanish (and English Lit) at uni, partly because it meant I could spend my third year living abroad. I was lucky enough to live and work in Peru for a year, where I spent the majority of my time Lima. I finally learnt to surf, I ate burritos, danced to cumbia and took trips into the mountains with the school where I worked to hike, climb and mountain bike. The best part of the year though was probably the six weeks I spent volunteering in the Amazon Rainforest. Manu National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on earth and my experience there had a profound effect on me; not only because of the incredible beauty of the forest, but also because of the people I met, the disconnection from modern life and the need to conserve the area. After that experience I travelled in the San Blas Islands – a tropical paradise – and Colombia, where I learnt to scuba-dive on the Caribbean coast. Interestingly, after my time in the jungle, travelling without purpose felt slightly odd. While of course it was really fun, it made me realise that I need to be working towards something to feel fulfilled. In the future I would like to be able to connect with and support environmental projects with Rise.
Jack: I lived in Whistler in Canada for two years after graduating from uni. My time spent there confirmed that I want to be in the mountains as much as possible. I loved the amount of activities that the landscape has to offer in both summer and winter. Waking up and seeing mountains out of my window each day gave me so much energy and excitement. The outdoor scene over in British Columbia has had a huge influence on what we are doing with Rise. The clothing and lifestyle brands over there put a great emphasis on quality and sustainability, whilst also being driven by style.
“It’s not about the best technical gear for a particular sport, but
rather lifestyle clothing that appreciates and looks after our native
outdoor environments – forming a community that respects nature.”
How did Rise Outdoors come about? And what is the ethos behind it?
Back in March, Jack mentioned setting up an outdoor apparel website. His day job involves web-design and he was looking for a relevant and exciting project to hone his skills. Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent quite a lot of my spare time researching cool sustainable projects, particularly those that involve clothing and outdoor gear because that’s what interests me. The week after I got back to uni I messaged Jack and said “let’s do it!”. We both agreed that the shop should stock stock ethical products, and I had loads of ideas of products we could stock, new innovative brands and a vintage range. Jack got to work on building the site and we set up our social media to try and get our name out there. People really started to engage with the idea. The ethos really involves a shared enjoyment of being outdoors whether it’s just going for walks, nostalgia for a childhood in the countryside, surfing, skiing, climbing or all of the above. It’s not about the best technical gear for a particular sport, but rather lifestyle clothing that appreciates and looks after our native outdoor environments – forming a community that respects nature.
What do you think of the current adventure/outdoor industry in the UK?
It is definitely growing, I think influenced by the Instagram culture of the outdoors being “cool” which seemed to start in North America. While being outside has always been a part of our lives – whether it was trendy or not – over the past couple of years, brands directed at outdoorsy young people have sprung up in the UK. We’re really hoping to epitomise and encapsulate the UK outdoor scene as it grows, while providing our customers with high quality and ethical apparel and gear.
What are your favourite adventure travel destinations?
Amelia: Well there are just so many places I haven’t been to so it’s hard to say, I’ve had a list of interesting places I want to go since I was about fifteen. I think I would say Corsica. We went on a family holiday when I was twelve and stayed on the west coast of the island. It made a big impression on me. The landscape is really dramatic; pinkish red cliffs drop straight into the sea while lush greenery towers above you. I remember thinking it was something like Jurassic Park. The roads snake around the side of the cliffs and between jagged outcrops. We spent a lot of time hiking through the forests and swimming in fresh water pools and rivers. I’d love to return there as an adult and explore more of that coastline.
Jack: Of course, I would generally choose somewhere mountainous and good to ski; Andorra is an awesome little country. I went there for a week about three years ago and I would love to spend some more time there. Good mountains, less crowded than the alps, nice food and really good snow parks. Another place that I am desperate to go back to is the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. I spent a few weeks in Minca on a trip in South America and the jungle there was a great place to hangout. I stayed in a hostel called Casa Elemento which is home to the world’s largest hammock, incredible views of the Sierra Nevada and some really laid back owners. I’d love to get off the tourist track in this area and do some trekking.
What are your favourite places in the UK?
Amelia: I went to university up in Edinburgh and before that I had only been to Scotland once. I think, as a general rule, Scotland is a really underrated travel destination. A couple of weekends ago I went back up for the first time since I graduated this summer. We walked in the Cairngorm Range and climbed Cairngorm Mountain. We camped by Loch Morlich and swam in the loch. My favourite part though (and what has encouraged me to see even more of Scotland) was camping in Tentsmuir Forest in Fife. We arrived after dark and pitched our tent where a huge pine forest joins sand dunes. We cooked up our supper and sat around a campfire. In the morning there were blue skies and sunshine, and the real beauty of the place in which we had slept became visible. As I walked away from the tent over a ridge of dunes, the sparkling ocean came into view about a mile away. The dunes stretched out for miles and miles along the sandy beach, and turning around I could see the acres of beautiful pine forest which lead straight onto the beach. For now, that’s my favourite.
Jack: I’ve recently moved to London so I’m really enjoying finding lots of little skate parks and spots around there at the moment. That being said, you can’t beat getting out for the weekend. I would love to go back to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, it is truly wild up there with beautiful sea kayaking spots and beaches to explore.
Do you have any future trips planned?
Amelia: I’m actually heading to Canada in October. I’ll be doing a ski season for the first six months and after that I am hoping to find a job in conservation in the Great Bear Rainforest. Maybe I’ll become a forest firefighter in Alberta or a surf bum in Tofino, I’m not really sure yet. I’m excited to explore the incredible natural landscapes there, though.
Jack: I was supposed to be hiking the GR20 in Corsica this summer but unfortunately that never quite happened. That is still high on my list though. The Corsican landscape is insane and it’s been awhile since I’ve done any multi-day hikes. The terrain and backcountry look really challenging, so maybe a few Scotland and Peak District adventures could be good as a warm up. I’ll also try my best to get some snow this winter. I spent a month living in Bourg-St-Maurice in the French Alps last winter and drove to different resorts each day there was good weather. I’d like to do something similar again and take advantage of being able to work remotely.
What’s in the pipeline for Rise Outdoors?
We are hoping to reach out to many more people with our projects and increase the Rise community through meet-ups, pop-up shops and clothes-fixing workshops, as sustainability is really important to us. Jack has some innovative and exciting features in mind for the website to get more people involved. We would like to expand our range to include more relevant brands and work on our own Rise Outdoors branded gear. We have some pretty rad illustrations in the pipeline for the coming weeks! Eventually, though, we would like to offer a certain percentage of our profits to worthy environmental causes – perhaps through tree planting or other alternatives – and be able to work with a variety of environmental organisations to help preserve the British wilderness and promote its conservation.