All I knew about Chris Nelmes (of Family Outdoor Adventures) going into our interview was that he’d recently bought a boler trailer - a symbol of the “new style of adventure” he planned to experience with his family.
Being the sometimes jaded mountain-dweller that I am, I thought this was an interesting choice. I often felt that people who used trailers were selling themselves short of the true outdoor experience. At the end of the day, I was happy to see people at least leaving their homes and venturing into the mountains. But I knew how much the “outdoor” experience - the kind found inside a flapping tent, rain streaming down while you’re attempting to boil pasta in a pot and keep your thermarest dry – meant to me. I needed to learn to appreciate that the outdoor experience comes in many forms, including a hard-sided trailer called a boler.
As it turned out, my conversation with Chris went in a direction I could never have predicted. For weeks I’d been talking to outdoor adventurers of all kinds, none who had ever lost sight of the role that their outdoor passions play in their lives (or at least they hadn’t mentioned it). But though he had enjoyed outdoor activities since he was a kid and truly needed the outdoors to keep a clear mind, Chris went through a stage just prior to having kids when the rat race really took over and his commitment to the outdoors evaporated.
Originally from Surrey, British Columbia, and now living in Edmonton, Alberta, Chris’ professional background is in the areas of investments and insurance. For a while, making money and getting ahead became the priority. These were things you were supposed to do to have a good life, he thought. So, by the time he and his wife, Alane, had a family, he had sold all his mountain bikes, given up camping and abandoned the outdoors. The irony of it all? He gave up on having fun to have kids. “But when kids come along all they want to do is have fun,” he explained.
His kids made him ask himself, “why did I give up all the best parts of my life?”
Now, almost every trip is with his boys, Carter (5) and Ewan (4). And after many years in investment and insurance planning, Chris has a goal of moving into more lifestyle planning – “taking people from a broken life that they seem to accept to a life they really want,” he described. (Sounds like he’s the right guy for the job.)
For Chris, adventure is really about getting out and having fun, not necessarily about being hardcore or risky. Enter: the boler. Chris purchased it last November after looking for an alternative to tenting. Some people have thrown him the odd comment about it not being a ‘real’ camping experience, as my internal dialogue had. But it’s all about “choosing to use the best tool available for that time,” he says. If they were headed out on a canoe trip, for instance, they’d bring a tent (“bolers don’t float,” he added).
He caught me off guard again when he explained how the boler can actually create a more enriched family experience (rocking my tent-flapping world again). “When I get to camp I don’t have to get distracted by the work of camping,” he said. “I have more time to go off and play with the kids. I don’t have to set up, tear down or worry about drying out the tent when I get home.”
Because when you’re a parent, time is everything.
This father of two has a few other tricks up his sleeve, like how to help his boys hike farther. Bring a friend seems to be the top of every parent’s list. Encourage them forward with snacks and interesting things to come. But, my favourite?
“Pull a hot wheels out of your pocket. It’s amazing how much further they can walk with a car in their hand.”
Thanks Chris! You can check out the latest on the renovations and customizations of their family boler here.