Adventurist Backpack Co. brings affordable, fashionable bags to Colorado

Walker Discoe

Backpacks are almost as numerous in Colorado as river guides or Chacos. Ranging from tiny hand purses to massive, multi-day backpacking bags, Coloradoans use backpacks for everything from grocery shopping and schoolwork to mountain climbing and skydiving.

backpacks
Adventurist Backpack Co. backpacks are for sale at the Colorado State University Bookstore. The company was started by a Colorado couple and CSU graduate. Their backpacks are meant to look fashionable and hold up on an adventure, while the company provides 25 meals to people in need for every backpack sold. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

That’s why 2014 Colorado State University alumnus Kelly Belknap and his wife Matilda Sandstrom founded the Adventurist Backpack Co in 2017, with the goal of providing backpacks while doing charitable work.

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Belknap and Sandstrom wanted to make quality bags but leave behind the expensive price tags that many backpacks have.

“We couldn’t find a backpack for our own travels that was high quality, fashionable and affordable,” Sandstrom said. “We wanted to take the minimalist style from my home country in Sweden and use that as inspiration to create a backpack that filled the gap we had found in the market.”

Affordability was an important distinction both Belknap and Sandstrom wanted the Adventurist Backpack Co. to embody so their products would be more accessible to the public.

“Every backpack we could find was $150 or $200, which I think is really a lot to be spending for something simple like a bag,” Belknap said. “What we really want to do is like what Warby Parker did with glasses, making a backpack that was high quality and fashionable for under $100.”

Their bags are manufactured in China in a factory owned by Coloradoans, but Belknap doesn’t want that to diminish the quality of the bags or the ethos of their brand.

“To put it as plainly as I can, we would obviously love to manufacture in the U.S.,” said Belknap. “But even though there is this view that American quality is the best, it’s not exactly true in our experience. If we wanted to have our backpacks cost the same as they do right now, like the one we have now is at $65, American factories need to start being a little more competitive.”

I believe that if every business in the country were to give back in some way, we could truly solve real problems.”-Kelly Belknap, co-founder of Adventurist Backpack Co.

But the Adventurist backpack Co. isn’t just a backpack retailer. The company partners with Feeding America, “the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization,” according to their website. In their partnership with Feeding America, the Adventurist Backpack Co. has helped provide around 65,000 meals in the short year and a half they have been in operation and plans on doubling their contribution within the next year.

“We’re trying to make [food donations] sustainable, not just something that is like ‘50,000 meals here, 50,000 meals there,’” said Belknap. “We want to be making it so that people who have struggles in life…or especially kids who haven’t had a choice to be born poor… we want to help feed them so they can focus on things like education and doing something for themselves. We’re not really trying to give people a crutch for the rest of their lives. We want to show kindness and support, and help feed them so they’re able to go off and focus on doing something for themselves.”

Ultimately, Belknap and Sandstrom want their company to be part of a larger trend in emerging, millennial-founded business that practice “compassionate capitalism.”

“We want to be part of the new generation of businesses that give back,” said Belknap. “Making it known that it’s a company’s responsibility to give back in some way, that its not good enough just to provide a great product or service…we need to be doing something that matters as companies…I believe that if every business in the country were to give back in some way, we could truly solve real problems.”

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The Adventurist Backpack Co. can be found online at their website, or on Instagram @adventuristbackpacks.

Walker Discoe can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @wdiscoe.