A Local’s Guide to Denver with the Founders of Adventurist Backpack Co.
It's a love story for the traveler's soul: Swedish expat Matilda Sandstrom and Colorado native Kelly Belknap first met in Denver while still in college, where they discovered their shared love of seeing the world. Many countries (and one wedding) later, they're back in the town they met and on a mission to change the world—one backpack at a time. We caught up with the entrepreneurial duo on their brand and where they love to eat, shop, and play in Mile High City.
Tell us about you!
I (Matilda) grew up in a small town in northern Sweden called Brunflo, and moved to the U.S. when I was 19 after graduating high school. My plan was to be an au pair in Denver for the year and then return home to study at university. Kelly grew up in a small mountain town called Monument, which is about an hour south of Denver, and was going to school at Colorado State University while I was working nearby. We met there in 2014 at a coffee shop, and got married five short months later! We ended up moving around the country but eventually found our way back to Colorado and made Denver our home base.
So, how did Adventurist Backpack Co. get started?
Our shared passion for travel has taken us around the world—Colombia, Mexico, Hungary, Switzerland—and we also return to Sweden multiple times a year to visit family. When we were searching for backpacks for our own travels, we couldn’t seem to find one that was stylish and high quality while also being affordable. That’s why we started Adventurist Backpack Co. in 2017. The minimalist, Scandinavian design was inspired by my home country, and we incorporate high-quality, all-weather materials (like durable, water-resistant polyester and 100% vegan synthetic leather) that can hold up during any adventure. Each bag also comes with a Lifetime Guarantee, because our hope is that when people buy our backpacks, it’s the last one they’ll ever need.
Our backpacks go for just $65, and for every bag purchased, we provide 25 meals to families in need across the U.S. We like to think of ourselves as the Warby Parker of backpacks—our product is stylish and affordable while also giving back to the community.
I love your mission to give back! What are your big dreams for the brand?
We aim to be at the forefront of companies using business to do something larger than just provide a great product or service. We believe that it is every company’s responsibility to give back so that we are able to start solving basic problems around our country. Hopefully, we can inspire other brands and consumers to make a commitment to the world though every purchase they make.
We’re excited to announce that we just signed an agreement with Urban Outfitters to begin selling our backpacks this July, and we’re currently working on two new backpack designs and a fanny pack that will be released this summer! Our goal is to provide over 200,000 meals by the end of our second year in business.
What do you love most about living where you do?
Denver is really a big city with a small town feel. It’s everything we could ask for in a place to live—it’s got beautiful nature, great food and nightlife, diverse culture, and an airport with low prices for international travel. What more could you want?
What local spots do you recommend to visitors?
Our favorite restaurant is Los Chingones in RiNo (also known as the River North Art District), which serves up non-traditional and delicious tacos with a rooftop view of the city skyline. Try the rattlesnake tacos during happy hour (with a margarita to wash them down), and you won’t leave disappointed. Finn’s Manor, the bar that we always recommend to visitors, is right down the street. It’s got delicious local beers and specialty cocktails, cozy fire pits and communal seating, as well as a patio lined with food trucks and people jamming out to local bands.
Where do you love to shop?
We love roaming around downtown, hopping into any local boutique that catches our eye. Our go-to stop for clothes is Buffalo Exchange, a consignment shop with a mix of newer items added in from local labels. When we’re not looking for clothes, our all-time favorite place to shop in town is Tattered Cover Bookstore, which occupies an old brick building near Union Station. It first opened its doors as a reader’s paradise back in 1971 and has become a local landmark.
What would an ideal Saturday look like for you in your city?
The perfect Saturday starts with a walk from our apartment in Capitol Hill to Voodoo Doughnuts, then scarfing down our delicious fried dough in nearby Cheesman Park. After our picnic, we’ll head out to the foothills near Golden for a hike (or some snowshoeing, depending on the weather), which usually ends with us driving back into the city to quench our thirst at a local brewery. Bierstadt Lagerhaus is always a great choice—it’s located in a warehouse shared by C-Squared Ciders, where both companies brew on site. We love sipping their brews while playing a round of super-size cornhole, then ordering some snacks from Rackhouse upstairs. After a quick power-nap back at the apartment, the best way to end the day is with some live tunes at one of the many venues around the city. Actually, we’ll probably end with 2 a.m. street gyros in LoDo, and then we’re off to sleep—promise!
Show us your carry-on! What do you never travel without?
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