Kanga Climbing – Custom Crafted Climbing Chalk Bags.
Based in Southern Ontario, Kanga Climbing creates custom chalk bags for the discriminating climber. We caught up with Ana Paula Becerra, owner of Kanga Climbing, and discussed custom fabrics, upcycling and making custom chalk bags that match VW vans.
A selection of custom-built Kanga Climbing chalk bags.
Tell us a little bit about what motivated you to start Kanga Climbing?
Kanga Climbing: My primary motivation to start Kanga Climbing was my friends. I wanted to gift them a handmade chalk bag one year for the holidays, and I tried to choose specific fabrics to match their personalities. Once those were done, I couldn’t help but think of all the climbers out there who might also love a personalized handmade chalk bag! Kanga Climbing seemed like the perfect way to meld my creative nature with my love for climbing.
What do you think sets Kanga Climbing’s chalk bags apart from other brands?
Kanga Climbing: Kanga Climbing chalk bags are unique in that my customers can participate in the construction process. They get the opportunity to choose which pattern and colours they want, and if I don’t have something in stock that they like, I try to find the fabric they want. I strive to make these chalk bags as unique to the individual as possible. Also, Kanga Climbing chalk bags come with the option of adding a tape holder, which also works as a ring holder!
Ana Paula Becerra, owner of Kanga Climbing.
Who’s is involved in the production of Kanga Climbing chalk bags?
Kanga Climbing: Currently, I am designing the patterns and sewing the chalk bags. I recently hired one other person (my 14-year-old brother) to help me cut out all the fabric, which has been a tremendous help. He gets a little extra cash and is available when I need him! I also can’t forget to mention my climbing friends who give me feedback, suggestions and support!
How many styles of chalk bags do you offer?
Kanga Climbing: I currently offer two styles of chalk bags, a cylinder style and a pouch style. Both of these bags can be altered to include a zipper pocket or a little pouch.
This is where the magic happens!
Any thoughts on expanding the product line?
Kanga Climbing: Definitely! The two questions I get asked most often when I do demos are: Do you make boulder buckets? And can I put my friend's face on a chalk bag? The answer will soon be yes to both of those questions! Boulder bucket production will start in the new year, and I am working on creating fully customizable chalk bags/boulder buckets.
Most climbers that have started a new company have had to overcome a few interesting challenges. Care to share any noteworthy hurdles?
Kanga Climbing: The most obvious hurdle is trying to compete with bigger companies that sell their chalk bags for $15. It’s difficult to agree on the value of handmade products, considering the time and material costs that go into making each of these chalk bags. At the same time, I acknowledge that most climbers are not looking to spend $50 on a chalk bag. Nonetheless, I try my best to offer competitive prices with my most affordable chalk bags starting at $25, and the most expensive ones retailing for $37.50. Even with these price options, someone once told me my prices were too high.
Another hurdle has been finding materials that would increase both my productivity per chalk bag and more importantly, the durability of my chalk bags. It’s difficult to source tough materials with unique prints, but I recently found an amazing website called Spoonflower that has a great selection of materials! But I wish it were Canadian, as those duty fees add up quickly!
Stephanie (climber and chalk bag model extraordinaire) rocking a Kanga Climbing chalk bag at The Swamp.
Ok, how about some notable wins or moments that reaffirmed your faith in humanity!
Kanga Climbing: My favourite story so far was of a boy who ordered a red pineapple chalk bag with a funky purple lining. He and his uncle were climbing together the day he received it. Not even an hour later, the boy's mom was messaging me to order an identical chalk bag. The boy wanted to gift it to his uncle for his uncle's birthday!
I’ve had customers paint kids handprints onto fabric that I built into a chalk bag. Others want their country's flag sewn on their chalk bag, and I've had a few folks request chalk bags that match their vans! I love making those very personalized bags!
The best surprise recently was when I had a customer tell me I should be charging more for my bags and that they couldn’t imagine a better bag. I think all the trial-and-error involved with creating the perfect chalk bag is starting to pay off!
Paul Bonnici’s Kanga Climbing chalk bag matching his VW van.
You offer an “upcycle” order option. Can you describe how this works?
Kanga Climbing: When I do demo nights, I encourage people to bring in their own fabric or their old pair of pants that they think might work well with their prints. Once I have made their chalk bag, I can use the rest of the fabric for the insides of pockets, to back up any flimsier cotton prints or for any of the exterior panels. Denim and other pant materials are pretty durable, and I’ve found they work well with my chalk bags! I think upcycling is important as it minimizes waste and reduces our impact on the environment. Also, when you bring in your upcycled clothing, you get 10 percent off your purchase!
Kanga Climbing upcycles fabric into beautiful chalk bags.
So how can climbers get their hands on Kanga Climbing chalk bags?
I am finalizing my website and working on getting options available on my Etsy page so my customers can order online. I've started offering customization options on www.kangaclimbing.com
, which are still a work in progress. Currently, the best way to get a customized chalk bag is to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. I can then send you pictures of the fabric I have in stock as well as style options. In addition, you can follow me on Instagram @kangaclimbing to stay updated on upcoming demo nights at different climbing gyms in Southern Ontario.
Finally, any upcoming climbing trips?
Kanga Climbing: Climbing trips are always on my mind! I recently got back from one in October and I’m planning another one for sometime in March or April. I would love to attend the Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop, CA! I might also head to Mexico sometime next year and check out the climbing.
Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 25 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid 80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.