On a fateful day in 2014, Kelly Belknap was driving from Fort Collins, where he attended Colorado State University, to visit his parents in Monument when he stopped at a local coffee shop. There, he met Matilda Sandström, and their adventure began. Their first date, on the Fourth of July, gave way to a summer full of traveling, followed by their engagement while snowshoeing in Breckenridge that winter.

Since then, the globetrotters have traveled to more than 28 countries, including an extended stay in Sweden, where Sandström was born and raised. Despite their passion for travel, the couple craved a philanthropic mission to positively impact the communities they visited. “I was raised by my parents to have a mindset of helping people. Growing up, I spent a lot of time volunteering and serving at soup kitchens in Colorado Springs,” Belknap says.

The couple started carrying extra fruit, water, and bread in their packs while traveling to hand out to homeless individuals they met along the way. “When you travel, you see so many people in need,” Belknap says. “With one meal, we wanted to provide hope and to let people know that someone wants the best for them.”

Adventurist Backpack
Kelly Belknap and Matilda Sandström, founders of Adventurist Backpack Co., pose on a backpacking adventure in 2017.

When they returned home to the U.S., the couple realized that they wanted to do more to help those in need. So in September 2017, they launched Adventurist Backpack Co., a travel gear and apparel company with a philanthropic twist. For every daypack sold, Adventurist provides 25 meals to those in need through the national hunger relief organization Feeding America, which has a network of more than 200 food banks across the U.S.

“We believe the world needs more random acts of kindness,” Belknap says. “Our mission as a company is to feed hungry families, in order to help keep their stomachs full, but also to feed their ability to learn, progress, create, and succeed in society.”

To develop the Adventurist Daypack, Sandström employed her interior design degree to sketch a blueprint of their dream travel pack, and they went through trial and error with a handful of manufacturers. “There aren’t many backpacks that are high quality and priced well. A lot of fashionable backpacks are upwards of $200,” Belknap says.

Adventurist’s Daypacks retail for $60, and boast a streamlined style inspired by Scandinavian minimalism and Colorado’s rustic elements. It was built with travel in mind, with a water-resistant exterior and double-sided interior padding that protects electronics. The shape slides easily beneath airplane seats, and the front pocket perfectly holds a passport and small journal.

But it’s the philanthropic element that truly makes Adventurist stand out. To date, the company has provided more than 12,400 meals, with a goal to reach 30,000 meals in the next five months, before the brand’s one-year anniversary. According to Feeding America, one in eight people—more than 41 million individuals—struggle with hunger across the country. “There are so many families in need right here, in the U.S. It could be your neighbor who loses a job or has a medical emergency,” Belknap says.

Adventurist recently launched Classic and Retro Totes ($20 each), which provide five meals for every item sold. The couple also plans to release more travel packs and accessories, such as passport holders and jackets, in the near future.

“We want to give people every opportunity to succeed on their own, which will strengthen our communities at home and in the entire country,” Belknap says.