This category is aimed at shedding light on products that I feel are in the limited category of being absolutely great. It’s not meant to cover everything and rate them as “good” or “bad” or “okay”, rather things that I’ve personally used extensively and would be rated as “excellent” or “amazing”.
FREITAG MESSENGER BAG
The gist of Freitag is creating products from reused materials, mainly truck tarps and bicycle tires. They’d been doing this years before the green movement.
My Product History
I got turned onto the bags by a roommate who raved about his messenger bag. What drew me in was not so much the reconstituted materials, but the fact that each bag was a unique design. Since they were made from old truck tarps, there was no mass production of any one design.
Up to that point, I’d had a history of going through a messenger bag almost annually. I’m not exactly sure how I wore them out so quickly. I take a bag to and from work everyday, but it’s not like I was subjecting it to harsh climates or rough activities.
I recall having a black, generic, cheap messenger bag whose strap was giving out at the stitching. My quick fix was to re-sew the seams but that only temporarily prolonged the life-span.
Next I had a green, cloth bag from Urban Outfitters, with leather straps and metal rings. These rings were looped to heavy duty cloth which were stitched to the bag but those started ripping off before too long.
After tossing that bag, I went with a Swiss black bag, thinking that if I upped the budget then I could get a better quality product. The bag used magnets to hold the flap closed which I thought would make it easier to access the contents but ended up being a bane if I tried to fill the bag up, causing the magnets to not line up. Also the metal clasps connecting the strap looked like they would be the solution to my strap wear and tear, but to my astonishment they quickly ground down and came apart.
That leads me up to my Freitag bag, which has lasted over 5 years of daily use and has virtually no wear and tear to show for it.
The materials are amazing. The truck tarp was meant to stand up to heavy exposure on the road, so nothing I did to it would affect it. I was worried about the strap and it’s basic stitching to connect to the bag but the stitching has held up without any problems. I was also surprised to discover that the straps are made from car seat belts, which are also extremely durable.
As noted above, each bag is unique unto itself. While the basic product designs are consistent, you will never stumble across someone else with a bag exactly like yours. I recall that Freitag used to have a section on their site that allowed you to choose the specific tarp to make into your own bag. You could literally see the entire truck tarp spread out and hone in on a section and designate it for yourself. I’m guessing that due to customer growth, this became unsustainable and is sadly not a feature anymore.
The bag is waterproof. Now if you dunk it in a pool of water, which I’ve unfortunately done, it will collect liquid inside of it from the open flap. But walking around in the elements of rain, sleet, and snow will not be a problem. The insides will be bone dry. I was surprised at this since the flap doesn’t seal close and you can even see openings at the ends near the straps. But when you sling the bag onto you, the straps actually cover up the openings!
The velcro enclosures aren’t the most elegant solution, but they do the job admirably. Flaps stay closed, and are a good warning sign of anyone trying to pry open your bag.
This may be only an issue for my specific Freitag bag model, but it gets full very fast. I can get my 15″ MacBook Pro into it, but everything else is a squeeze, including the power cable. I know there’s a built in way to expand the bag, but I’ve never done it out of it being a hassle and looking kind of ugly.
The main flap is big, making access quick and easy. But if you need to get at something while wearing the bag, it becomes a big unwieldy.
Also, when you fill the bag, the strap can get a bit uncomfortable; cutting into your shoulder. Normally it’s fine, and I wouldn’t want some ugly cushion on the strap so I deal with it.
Price. These don’t come cheap. However if you take into account the fact that you probably don’t need to buy a replacement for at least 5 years (and counting, personally), it becomes a good deal.
As you can see, those are pretty minor quibbles against a great bag. The uniqueness and the eco-friendliness are big angles to please a lot of people.
I’m not sure if and when my bag will finally bite the dust, but I do know that I will look to immediately replace it with another Freitag bag.