Mr. Poler: An Interview with Benji Wagner
Meet Benji Wagner, co-founder and creative director of Poler Camping Stuff—a brand that's quickly becoming one of our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors.
Interview by Bob Myaing
Were you an outside kid growing up?
Yeah, I was for sure. My parents didn't have television and my dad was always cycling, hiking or going camping. He is a photographer, so we were always going to National Parks and places like that. When I was a bit older, I got really into skateboarding and snowboarding and even though those aren't traditionally thought of as 'outdoors,' they are done outside and that always felt good.
What made you want to start your own company offering outdoor products?
I am a photographer and filmmaker and I had done a lot of work in skateboarding and snowboarding, and then as I got a bit older I was working for outdoor brands and cycling brands. I realized that I didn't feel that any brand out there was really speaking to young people the way I thought they should, so I set out to bring those worlds together and get people stoked on doing stuff outside whether it be camping, surfing or just having a picnic.
Got any memorable trail encounters? Human, animal or otherwise? The Pacific Northwest is home to Bigfoot after all..
I had a rattlesnake strike at me once, but I was lucky and it just missed me! Something that really sticks with me is seeing moose battle while up in Alaska. I don't think most people know just how big a moose is. They are super-tall, gangly prehistoric looking creatures. They are so big and awesome when you see them in person.
What's your ideal perfect camp meal?
Man, that's a tough one. It really depends on the season. I always like fishing and then cooling something like fresh trout in the summer. In fall, I would go with a stew or chili of some kind in a big cast iron pot with apple crumble for dessert. I love eating good food in the woods. I can't really explain it, it's like smoking and drinking for some people I guess. Perfect combo.
Got any notable summits or thru-hikes under your belt? It's okay to brag, I'm asking.
I would say no. I'm not much of a real Alpinist. I have done some backpacking and pretty decent hikes, but I'm an amateur. I hiked up Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland with my dad once and that was super amazing even though it was just a day hike. Part of what I am trying to express with Poler Stuff is that it's just as fun and can be just as meaningful to camp on the beach or hike one mile as it is to summit Everest. It's all about intent and personal vantage.
What places are on your bucket list to visit?
I would go everywhere if I could, and I mean that. I have never made it to anywhere in South America. I went to Egypt but haven't made it to anywhere else in Africa. I would love to go to the Poles.
Does your beard give you super outdoorsman powers?
No, it does help set the tone though, haha.
What would you say the Poler philosophy is?
Get outside and experience some camp vibes anyway you can. Get out from under your computer, your TV, your phone and do something that seems like a stretch. You won't regret diving in, even if you have difficulties, it will make your life more interesting and better for it.
Who are some people the the 'outdoor sports' realm who you admire?
Honestly, I have a thing where I really admire people that are non-competitive enthusiasts. I think it comes from being a skateboarder which is fundamentally not a sport but rather an art. It's rooted in individual determination and expression and can't be timed or judged. It's more like painting than it is like team sports.
Where do you turn when you need a dose of inspiration?
I love the internet and I'm not afraid to say it. If you are an inquisitive person it's a black hole of inspiration and wisdom—if you want it to be. It can also be the worst influence ever. It all comes back to your intent and how you use it. Beyond that I have three kids that are endlessly fascinating and inspirational. Kids speak truth and have no ego so that leads to all kinds of interesting stuff.