Our product developer Mathijn on sustainable production

Sustainability has always been an important topic for NOMAD as a producer of outdoor gear. We spoke with our product developer, Mathijn, and asked him everything about his vision, experiences, and knowledge in this area. Mathijn has been working at NOMAD for over 20 years and has dedicated himself with passion and love to designing and developing new collections. He knows better than anyone where NOMAD stands when it comes to sustainability. 

Hey Mathijn, how have you seen NOMAD grow over the years in terms of sustainability?

“From the very beginning, the mission has always been to make only ‘long-lasting products,’ and that has remained unchanged. By using improved techniques and materials, products now last even longer, which is already a positive change. Additionally, NOMAD has made significant strides in the past five years in using environmentally conscious materials and techniques - from recycled fabrics for sleeping bags and backpacks to using less polluting inks for dyeing and printing. The down we use for our sleeping bags is certified according to the RDS (Responsible Down Standard), and all products are completely PFC-free (free of harmful chemicals).

When developing a product, we always have to weigh whether the use of a certain material compromises quality. Fortunately, the use of environmentally conscious materials and techniques has become more accessible and increasingly meets technical requirements. Ten years ago, there was a much larger difference in quality between recycled and virgin tent fabrics when it came to tensile strength or abrasion resistance, for example. The quality standards have improved, making them more suitable for our industry. As a result, demand and usage have increased, and the price gap between regular and recycled fabric has decreased by at least 75%. That has really changed over time. 

I also see less and less use of animal materials. The use is increasingly restricted, and there are gradually more synthetic, long-lasting alternatives to down.”

How do you ensure sustainability is considered when developing new products?

“Basically, we always look for materials that leave the lowest possible carbon footprint. We do this, for example, by using recycled materials, if the product allows it. However, a product must always be functionally sound. There are certain functional requirements associated with the use of a product, such as a specific weight or a certain tensile strength or waterproofness of a tent fabric. Once we have defined those functional requirements, we always first look for recycled versions of the materials we need to create a product as responsibly as possible. We are increasingly succeeding in this! 

As mentioned earlier, we always strive as a brand to make a product last as long as possible. Unfortunately, even the strongest products can wear out or break with frequent use, that's inevitable. A product always has a weak spot; it is, after all, an item meant to be used. Therefore, when developing a product, we always pay extra attention to those weak spots by making the right material choices and ensuring that the product is constructed in such a way that it can be repaired. If your tent, for example, gets damaged over the years due to wear and tear, we always have spare parts available and offer repair options.

We always provide repair kits with our mats, tents, and bags. In short, we make all products in a way that they can have a long life, but if they do break, they should be repairable. We want to lower the threshold for consumers to repair their product instead of buying a new one. Often, a new product is not necessary at all! A used product is also much more beautiful, in my opinion; it gives a product a story.”

A used product is much more beautiful, in my opinion; it gives a product a story.”


What choices are made regarding transport and packaging?

“When it comes to packaging, it's simple: as little as possible! We try to keep packaging as minimal as possible. Our sleeping bags and sleeping mats have come in recycled 'stuffsacks' for years, as we call them. These stuffsacks are made from PET bottles and are 100% recycled.

If a product really needs to be packaged, we usually do so with recycled cardboard. However, in some cases, we cannot avoid transporting a product in a plastic bag (recycled PE-bag). This mainly has to do with the fact that a sea container is not waterproof, and we can only prevent mold by packaging it in (recycled) plastic. 

Regarding transport, our goal is to keep production as close to home as possible, ideally producing locally. Local production is very difficult due to the lack of local factories that have the right skills or materials to make most of our products. Fortunately, our socks and their raw materials come from Europe. For the other products, we cannot avoid producing in the Far East. For transport, we consciously choose the partner Rotra, who also highly values environmental friendliness and sustainability. Rotra is the first forwarder that is 100% climate neutral and aims to be a leader in the transition to an emission-free transport sector. As a result, they are not always the cheapest, but they are a responsible party.”

And what about social responsibility?

“Every country has its own rules and regulations, and we have our own specific requirements. We only work with factories that are BSCI (or similar) certified. With the BSCI certification, we are at least sure that our products are made in factories with respectful working conditions.”

Which products would you recommend to the conscious traveler?

“As a conscious traveler, I would definitely look out for the new NOMAD backpack collection coming out in 2022. This will be our first backpack collection made entirely from recycled materials. The collection is, of course, also designed to be taken on many trips and to last a long time!

I would also recommend our Inca Pro sleeping bag series. Also made entirely from recycled materials, from the seams to the filling. I think this is a huge step forward and really proves that you can make a technically advanced product in a fully sustainable way. Sustainable, technically advanced, and comfortable. This way, we uphold our core values and add a bit more sustainability to them."