Modern luggage is often bulky and heavy, and the capacity of even the best-designed suitcases is diminished by up to 20 percent to make room for their rigid internal frames. In the words of the inimitable Billy Mays (rest his soul): “There has to be a better way!” Swiss manufacturer Freitag agreed, which is how Zippelin — ostensibly the world’s first inflatable travel bag — was born.
We admit the concept of inflatable luggage sounds like a silly and unnecessary novelty. But Freitag looked to modern bicycle technology, including inflatable inner tubes and folding bike frames, to solve the capacity problem. Working with the company’s design team, product developer Nicola Stäubli pulled inspiration from his days as a former bike messenger to help bring the bag to life. He “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.”
The benefits of this design translate to typically cumbersome rolling luggage in a clear way. For travelers living in urban areas where storage space is at a premium, the bag’s collapsed footprint is ultra-compact. At roughly the size of two liters of booze (Freitag’s words), it can easily be stowed in a closet or under a bed. Once rolled out, the bag is inflatable via a standard bicycle pump, expanding to a cavernous 85 liters (33.5 by 16.5 by 10 inches). What’s more, the bag’s exterior is water-repellent, slash- and puncture-resistant, and built to last. It’s made first and foremost as a duffel that rolls on two included wheels that can be attached and detached without tools in seconds. Over uneven surfaces, sturdy hand and shoulder straps allow it to be carried like a traditional duffel or backpack.
Freitag is well-known in Europe for its catalog of backpacks, shoulder bags, laptop bags, and wallets, all crafted from recycled tarp material. Like all other products, the source tarps for the Zippelin are hand-cut, so the company guarantees that no two bags are alike. This results in a utilitarian and intentionally “rough around the edges” look that’s clearly not for everyone. Regardless, at least you know no one is going to mistake your bag for theirs at the luggage carousel.
As of October 2017, Zippelin is only a Kickstarter project, but the campaign is more than 400 percent funded by nearly 1,000 backers. The odds of it seeing final production are good.
Feature image courtesy of Freitag/Facebook