Some go to a monastery, other people go to see a guru in the East. Philipp Clodius, 31 years old and an expert on backpacks at Globetrotter Cologne, goes into the forest. Philipp’s ticket to peace starts with a ride on the Eifel railway accompanied by a friend. They get off the train somewhere, hike for a few kilometres and look for a field to pitch their tent. »And then, a beer after work and I will sleep like a stone. When the sun rises and the birds start singing, I wake up straight away. We start walking, have breakfast at a nice spot later on and then try to hike as much as possible.«, he explains and laughs. After an XXL hiking day like this or a similar intensive climbing trip he feels exhausted but happy: »I feel as snug as a bug in a rug, simply free and balanced.«
Inner balance means a lot to him. He demonstrated this two years ago when he drew a line under his first career. He had studied the media sector at the Fresenius college in Cologne and then started working for Electronic Arts, one of the biggest producers of computer and video games. Philipp wore a suit, a tie and angular designer glasses – all in black, of course. The game world is a creative and dynamic field to be in but Philipp did not feel he quite fitted in: »The job was creative but I was sitting in my office all day.«
Philipp grew up in Bergisch Gladbach. He was no city kid, he preferred to go off into the green foothills of the Königsforst. His restart brought this feeling back alive: off with the suit and away from the virtual cyber world, and straight back into nature. And into a job that is closely connected to nature. Globetrotter Cologne was just looking for new staff. Philipp applied – knowing that he did not have a broad knowledge about the great outdoors or equipment.
Gaining knowledge in fast motion
His lack of experience was no secret to the store manager Klaus Weichbrodt when Philipp sat down with him. And anyway, why would a successful man with a diploma want to become a salesman? Philipp put his cards on the table: he wanted to learn the job from scratch. If there was a chance later on to climb the career ladder he would not refuse… He convinced the boss. Philipp started in the branch store‘s department for women’s travel, moving to the backpack department after half a year.
For some people it takes years to broaden their knowledge about the perfect equipment. Not for Philipp: He studied everything in fast motion. He read books, did his research online, asked his colleagues. »At the beginning, I had so many questions and asked all of them – so I gained lots of knowledge in the first months.« Philipp’s mentor is the manager of the backpack department Ralf Hünerbein, who boasts experience from backpacking in Asia, and colleague Maik Bunzenthal, who likes to spend his time on winter treks in Scandinavia. Theory needs its practise though. So Philipp went around with his bicycle and canoe, started climbing and indulged himself in his intensive camping trips in the Eifel. The best thing about his autonomous education program: He loves it.
In autumn 2011, head of department Barbara Esser suggested Philipp for the Outdoor Academy of Scandinavia (OAS) event – a five day trekking tour through Jämtland. Philipp gets the chance to test products by Woolpower, Klättermusen, Optimus, Hilleberg and Haglöfs and broaden his know-how at the same time. A priceless experience.
The perfect advice on backpacks
Meanwhile Philipp has got infected with the outdoor virus, and happily passes it on to everybody else. »You are moving under your own steam, you overcome obstacles and experience yourself and nature so intensively – that’s the best about outdoor tours! When you come back into everyday life, you feel truly grounded.«
By now, Philipp knows all the backpacks in the Globetrotter range by heart. More than 50 models, from daypacks to backpacks for touring, trekking and climbing. Backpacks for children, bikers and even dogs. The range is impressive, advice is needed.
How do you give the perfect advice? First of all, Philipp says, you need to know the area of use. It is a common mistake to use the wrong backpack in the wrong area. »Some people use a touring backpack as a trekking backpack or as a backpack for long distance travel. The touring backpack is usually made for a weight of up to 12 kilograms – most of the time, it is overloaded. So it’s no surprise when it is uncomfortable and fits like a wet bag on the back.«
The fit is similarly important. »We convince the customer to choose the backpack that fits the best«, explains Philipp. »Brand and colour are not so important.«
Globetrotter’s most sold backpacks are mainly day and touring backpacks: backpacks for daily use when shopping, going to work or for shorter and longer hiking tours like the Eifelsteig or the Camino de Santiago trail.
Super light daypacks start off at 15 euros. The most expensive model is Bergan’s Alpinist Large, almost as big as a fridge and it might get as heavy as one. 135 litres volume, more than 30 kilogram capacity. »This is a very special backpack made for long independent trekking tours where you take lots of fuel and food«, says Philipp. »For example when you go on a winter trekking tour with warm clothes or on hunting trips. The Alpinist Large costs almost 500 euros. It does not get sold very often. However, if somebody really needs this backpack and buys it, the customer will be very happy with it…«
All backpack models are packed with weights so customers can get a realistic test experience. Daypacks usually take 5 kilograms, trekking backpacks for men around 16 kilograms, a little bit less for women. »We send our customers on a little travel tour through our store, up the stairs and down again for at least 15 minutes. Then you will start to notice if the backpack moves around and how the weight sits on your muscles and the body.«
Philipp also helps to adjust the backpacks so they sit perfectly and the pressure is on the right spot. »Often, the backpack hangs too low. Customers cannot understand why it feels so heavy and pulls them backwards. Everybody’s body shape is different and we help to adjust the backpacks to fit perfectly: customers feel the difference. They are suddenly in a totally new world of backpacking«
Friendly and easy-going
Philipp really likes to work with customers: »Every day, even when it gets exhausting, I enjoy giving advice and having direct contact to customers. It is exciting every day, there is always something new. A man came in the other day in full hiking outfit and started talking shop about the backpacks 30 and 40 years ago.«
As different as colleagues and customers can be, they all have one thing in common: »Everybody is very friendly and easy-going. I haven’t met any outdoor person who is uptight.«
This opinion seems to be mutual. Cologne’s head of the backpack department Ralf Hünerbein will go on a longer vacation from autumn on. The young man who came to backpacks only two years ago will represent him during that time: Philipp Clodius.
Last question: Which backpack does Philipp use the most? Like almost every Globetrotter employee, he has a full range at home. His first choice for climbing and weekend trips or tours to the Eifel in summer is the Deuter ACT Trail 32. »It is perfect for my back and I can carry up to 12 kilograms: sleeping mattress and sleeping bag, clothes, dinner and breakfast; and a bottle of beer or wine for the after-work drink in the tent.«
Philipp Clodius does not need much more to be at peace with himself and the world around him.
22. August 2012, Text: Manuel Arnu