We tried the new Freitag circular backpack designed with its end in mind

Mono[PA6] marks a clear break with everything we’ve seen so far from Freitag. Yet it is the most radical expression of its philosophy. But is it a good backpack?

In the daily shuffle of backpacks on trains and subways, eventually resurfacing on sidewalks and café tables in cities worldwide, Freitag’s new Mono[PA6] doesn’t immediately stand out. Its black color is quite common, and its rolltop closure follows urban trends, echoing the bicycle messenger culture that has significantly influenced early 21st-century bag and backpack design. Even the black-and-white drawstring evokes the style of popular recent models.

But a closer look reveals important details. What stands out first is the removable pouch, followed by the intricate features on the nylon surfaces. Even the stitching is distinct and meticulously crafted. The Mono[PA6] is truly different from most other backpacks you’ll see around. It uses a single material, Nylon 6 or polyamide 6, which is both easy to recycle and made from recycled materials. Unlike truck tarps, it is a perfectly circular material.

The new backpack Mono[PA6] by Freitag. Photo Elias Bötticher

This is a backpack “constructed to be deconstructed,” says Jeffrey Siu, the designer who collaborated with Freitag on its creation. The use of a single material heavily influenced its design. “The self-imposed restriction to a single circular material result in a completely unique design language,” Freitag explains. For the Swiss brand, this represents a significant first. To fully grasp its importance, one must take a step back.

The imagery of truck tarps

Anagraphically speaking, Freitag is a millennial brand. Founded in the early 1990s, it crossed the 30-year mark in 2023. Launching a new product at this milestone − its newest probably ever probably − therefore, is highly symbolic. This "new" we refer to is not an unrelated product to the brand, like a cell phone or a pair of headphones, nor a marketing-driven collaboration on furniture. Instead, it represents how Freitag questions its core identity.

The new backpack Mono[PA6] by Freitag. Photo Elias Bötticher

From the start, Freitag’s reuse of truck tarpaulins to create bags has perfectly blended ethics and aesthetics. Ethically, it embedded sustainability into the brand’s DNA long before it became a widespread concern at the turn of the century. Aesthetically, it made Freitag instantly recognizable worldwide, with products that are somewhat similar yet each unique.

The Mono[PA6] backpack comes from Freitag’s ambition to create an easily repairable and fully circular bag that, once its life cycle ends, can be dismantled and transformed into something else. This design fully realizes the brand’s ethical desires, fully sacrificing the distinct iconography that usually sets it apart in favor of a minimal, logo-free aesthetic, save for the small Freitag lettering on the left shoulder strap. “So, we hope that the people will say: Oh! that bag doesn’t look like Freitag at all - but the philosophy behind the bag is more Freitag than ever,” a brand representative points out.

Mono[PA6] is the first circular backpack by Freitag. Courtesy Freitag


Its mono-materiality and ease of repair are the two key design elements of this backpack and, without a doubt, what makes it special. As Freitag explains, it is a backpack designed “with the product’s end in mind.” Every one of its 17 elements is made of polyamide 6.

The self-imposed restriction to a single circular material result in a completely unique design language.

“Nylon can be extruded into yarns and woven into fabrics or molded into hardware”, Siu explains to Domus, noting that while this isn’t a new concept, it became a clear choice in designing the backpack to facilitate a circular system. The main body of the backpack features a "new three-layer laminate ripstop fabric" that is both lightweight and water-resistant. In fact, even when used under heavy rain, the backpack remains dry inside.

Components of the Freitag Mono[PA6] Backpack. Courtesy Freitag

The choice of using a single material and color should not suggest a monotonous backpack. There are numerous details that make it special and intriguing. Take, for example, the large, crinkled fabric patch noticeable on the exterior, “produced by a machine that pulls and stretches the nylon fabric in a short and repetitive motion, creating the special texture,” explains Siu.

The stitching is also noteworthy. There’s a functional aspect to it, as the designer reveals: “The external double folded seams and knots are for ’reversible disassembly. ’” He adds: “This will help the repairer’s work one day and enables the repaired product to look as close as possible to the original finish.” Furthermore, he explains, “all seams are easily accessible, and the cord, back padding and other trims can be easily removed and therefore replaced with little effort.” The white stitching provides one of the few contrasts to the backpack’s overall solid black appearance.

Details of the Mono[PA6] backpack by Freitag. Photo Oliver Nanzig

The shoulder straps are wide and unpadded, a deliberate choice to keep nylon as the sole material. “In the initial prototyping period we also experimented with padded straps,” Siu explains. However, “they turned out to be quite stiff”. This led to the decision to opt for “to move on with unpadded, lightweight but broad shoulder straps which are spreading the weight across the shoulders well.”

We hope that the people will say: Oh! that bag doesn’t look like Freitag at all - but the philosophy behind the bag is more Freitag than ever.

The thin shoulder straps come from a deeper consideration in backpack design: prioritizing lightweight and making it easy to fold and carry. Internally, the laptop storage pocket is softly lined, providing basic protection for the laptop’s base. The Mono[PA6] is designed as a nimble and stylish backpack that can be folded and put into a larger bag, not intended for carrying many objects or heavy loads. The complete lack of rigid elements means it can quickly become uncomfortable and burdensome if overloaded.

It’s a lightweight backpack for light living; it’s also great for a weekend getaway if you don’t plan on bringing a heavy camera. The side zipper (made from pa6, of course) and rolltop closure system ensure quick access to your belongings.

When we think of a Freitag backpack, we are usually used to it. Courtesy of Freitag

A new lineup

The Mono[PA6] features a drawstring closure and an adjustable clasp, original pa6 buckles replacing traditional buttons or metal parts, and bottom seams that give a distinct diagonal cut to the backpack’s corners. It teaches us that achieving sustainability goes beyond simply “swapping” materials. It demands substantial design innovation: embracing new solutions and discarding old ones we once took for granted.

Carrying this backpack feels like stepping into the future and a parallel reality at the same time. Throughout the testing, the backpack never felt uncomfortable, despite its compromises, like the minimalist laptop pocket. While Jeffrey Siu praises nylon’s versatility in taking different shapes – solid components, fabrics, and straps − Freitag acknowledges the unexpected challenges in sourcing materials: “We didn’t expect”, says the brand, “that reduction in the number of materials would increase the complexity of the project, especially as regards sourcing, so drastically".This complexity is somehow reflected in the price of the backpack, which exceeds the €300 mark.

The new Mono[PA6] backpack by Freitag. Courtesy Freitag

One feature that stands out is undoubtedly the detachable bag, which can also function independently with a shoulder strap. It attaches seamlessly to the backpack’s back, secured by either a visible or concealed zipper, and can alternatively be worn across the chest using the buckles on the shoulder straps. Siu explained to Domus that “the modularity and compatibility concepts” were foundational concepts from the start of Mono[PA6]’s development. “Various prototypes were explored to integrate this concept into the backpack design;” this resulted in “the detachable musette was adopted.”

The front and back attachments on the backpack suggest the potential for future detachable modules, envisioning a truly modular backpack − a concept closely tied to sustainability. While Freitag has not announced additional accessories, they plan to expand the Mono[PA6] concept into a family of products. Perhaps, in 30 years, Freitag will be synonym of these easily recyclable, recycled nylon bags.

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