[UPDATE: We've added information at the bottom concerning a reader comment.]
Freitag is known for their sturdy bags made from recycled truck tarps. But one thing they've never been known for is a rolling suitcase, because they've never made one. Until now.
To design a rolling suitcase from their signature tarp material presented a design challenge. The tarps are heavy and require an internal structure in order to hold the shape of a suitcase. But adding a conventional structure would add even more weight to the bag.
Freitag Product Developer Nicola Stäubli came up with an innovative solution:
As a former architect, I'm familiar with air-supported structures. I also used to be a bike messenger and was impressed by folding bikes that are fully functional when mounted, and compact when you stow them away. I could not get rid of the idea of using a common bicycle inner tube to replace the rigid and space-consuming structure of conventional luggage.
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I sewed an inner tube into a big piece of tarp, had it inflated, and realized that the pressurized air was indeed able to replace the usual bulky metal structures. That was the moment when I realized, "Hey, this could actually work!" Thanks to our in-house prototyping atelier we then finally managed to make the big step from an unconventional idea to a product ready for manufacturing.
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The Zippelin, as they're calling it, can be deflated and neatly stowed away between trips, taking up just a fraction of the space of a regular suitcase. That should come as a boon to urban dwellers with little closet space. And a nice fringe benefit of Freitag's random-pattern material choice is that you'll never mistake which bag is yours on the baggage carousel.
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To gauge interest in the Zippelin, Freitag is holding a Kickstarter campaign:
Incredibly, the campaign launched just this morning and has already exceeded its $120,000 funding goal with $164,602 in pledges at press time.
UPDATE: A reader asked a question in the comments about the bag's airworthiness. Here's the answer from the campaign's FAQ:
Q: Do I need to deflate my ZIPPELIN when taking a plane?
A: No, you don't need to deflate the ZIPPELIN at any point of your journey. In modern commercial aircraft, the air pressure in the cargo hold is virtually the same as the pressure in the passenger cabin – approx. 75% of the air pressure at sea level. In other words, the difference in air pressure between the inflated bicycle inner tube and the air in the cargo hold at cruising altitude will increase by about 0.25 bar in camparison to sea level. Our internal tests and several flights have indicated that our design can withstand a much higher pressure than the additional 0.25 bar, so it is not a problem.