Backpacks For Bricks: Startup Funds Volunteer Projects

Backpacks made using recycled tires and local fabrics, with proceeds staying in the community where they are manufactured. That’s the story behind just one new product by Project Latitude.


Project Latitude, makers of the Chaski backpack, is the brainchild of two New York City architects who are taking a new approach to raising money for volunteer building efforts in countries around the world.

Handmade backpacks are the pilot product for the brand. The Chaski (Andean for “messenger”) roll-top backpack is made in Ecuador. Currently, volunteers are organizing the first Project Latitude build project in La Isla – just outside Quito – where they will construct an entrepreneur workshop, intended to improve and expand production space for manufacturing workers.

Purchase a Chaski backpack to help fund projects in the developing world

The company plans to tie each new product to a region, centralizing all manufacturing – from source materials to production – within the project region. This ensures all money raised from sales stays in the community where it is working.

To fund this project, the full sale of each backpack helps cover the labor and materials costs for the build. Each new project will have its own Kickstarter launch with an item made for the “urban adventurer,” and to fully fund projects more quickly, Project Latitude will supplement the Kickstarter campaign with five to 10 other products made in the project country, for retail sale on its website.

Project Latitude co-founder Javier Roig works on a past volunteer build in Zambia Africa.

Packs From Sustainable Sources

The first of its product releases reflects the company’s goals to make its gear with a “majority of materials from sustainable” sources from areas near the build. A standard messenger backpack, the Chaski has detailing – bottom pad, top handle, and brand badge – made of 100 percent recycled car tires.

The bag is made of black, water-resistant nylon and sports an AstriAlpin buckle with a local textile strap, available in four colors that reflect the art of Andean culture. On the brand badge is “00,” the latitude for the La Isla project; each product line will have its own badge with unique latitude marker.

messenger slot

In addition to the backpack, the company is offering special T-shirts on its Kickstarter to page to benefit the relief efforts from the recent magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Ecuador, and will donate a bottle of water for every product sold.

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Currently, the Chaski is the only product available from Project Latitude, but the company said it will roll out additional products in the “00” line, for sale from its website, once the campaign ends.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the Editor In Chief of GearJunkie.

Adam has been covering daily news and writing about cycling, camping, hiking, and gear of all kinds for 15+ years. Prior to that, Adam lived in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, at which time he realized he’d never have a “normal job.” His pastimes — farming, bike racing, and fitness — provided a gateway to all manner of physical challenges and recreation outdoors.

Based in Kansas City, MO, Adam tests as much gear as he can get his hands, feet (and dog) into each and every day. As editor in chief, he works to maintain GearJunkie’s voice, style, and commitment to accurate and expert reporting across every category.