A Focus on Understanding All About Backpack Material Fabrics

So basically, I consider myself a nerd when it comes to backpack material fabrics. Most people when buying packs don’t really go into detail on finding out what it is actually made of and just stick with basic questions such as

  • How many compartments does it have
  • Does it have a laptop compartment
  • How about its organizational panels
  • Is the back of the backpack padded
  • Please I need a pack that would not damage my clothes
  • What about its shoulder straps, are they comfortable
  • What unique features does this bag have
  • I want to be able to charge my phone directly from my backpack
  • Can this backpack actually print out money because it is so darn expensive

You know just some basic questions like these but very few people actually go into detail and ask questions like

  • What material is this bag made of
  • Would this material make this pack waterproof or water-resistant
  • How resistant is this material to wear and tear
  • If it does have a little tear would this tear continue to expand at a rapid rate or would it expand at a very slow rate or better still not expand at all?
  • What is the durability of the material
By Ben PL https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BYUtv_display_(28319247427).jpg

These are some questions backpack nerds like myself usually like to ask when we decide to purchase a backpack. Now I can go further into questions I normally ask when I decide to buy a backpack either online or offline but maybe I would leave that for a future post and just focus on this post.

In this post, you would find the answers to most of the questions above as I do my best to explain backpack material fabrics in as much detail as I can. The information on this post was put together after intense research from various websites as you would find the name of these websites below these posts as my reference points.

So you can be assured that before I put any info here I made sure I confirmed it from various sources. Due to the fact that I also wanted to know more about this made it more interesting piecing together bits and pieces of information until I finally had a detailed post.

Without wasting any more of your time, let’s go into what you need to know about backpack material fabrics.

Cotton Canvas Fabric

We can decide to go into the history of cotton canvas but that won’t do us much good as we are only interested in the backpack aspect of this. So the first question we need to ask ourselves is what is cotton canvas fabric or what is canvas cotton fabric.

Canvas is a heavy-duty plain woven fabric that is used in the manufacturing of backpacks that are required to be able to withstand stress or rough use. Cotton canvas it seems was the preferred fabric of old but this has changed in recent times as more modern fabrics are now been used in the manufacturing of backpacks.

This is not to say that cotton canvas is not been used but other fabrics such as nylon and polyester are preferred to this.

Canvas itself has a really good water-resisting property but unfortunately, it is not waterproof. To make it waterproof it would have to be given a wax treatment. The good news is that most of the bags we buy has already been given a wax treatment but if it hasn’t then we would have to do it ourselves.

The procedure is pretty easy and if you intend to do this cotton canvas waterproofing yourself you can follow the procedure below.

Make sure you properly dry after this treatment before storing otherwise your pack might rot or decompose.

Cotton canvas fabrics are quite heavy which invariably makes the products they are made with to also be quite heavy.

If you take a closer look at the backpacks currently being produced with this type of fabric you would notice that they are used on those packs that do not really put lightweight into consideration.

But for packs whereby weight might be a major problem, the use of cotton canvas fabric is avoided. For example hiking backpacks. Hikers carry a bunch of loads on their bags so it makes sense that the packs they would make use of would have to be as light as possible so it doesn’t add extra weight to the load.

This is one of the reasons the use of cotton fabrics on hiking backpacks have been drastically reduced although they are preferred as a really good option for traveling back packs.

Nylon Fabric

You can say that nylon fabrics were the introduction to the new generation of backpacks. This was way back in 1967 and our history claims that Gerry Outdoors was the first to make the modern nylon backpack.

That should be a fun fact for the post we created on some facts about backpacks but that would be for some other time. We are more interested in knowing more about this fabric and I seriously doubt you came to this post for fun facts.

Anyways, nylon belongs to the synthetic polymer family that can be melted and processed into fibers, films, and different shapes. These fibers are actually woven and used on backpacks. They are actually one of the most common fabrics used on packs.

When cotton canvas and nylon are compared in terms of their water-resisting capabilities, nylon fabrics comes out on top. They have higher water-resisting property and are also more durable. Though nylon fabrics are more resistant to abrasion than cotton, their tears still have the ability to expand which was why rip-stop nylon was introduced.

Ripstop Fabric

Ripstop is basically a technique used to enhance the toughness of materials. They are mostly used on polyester and nylon fabrics using special reinforcing technique woven to make the fabric resistant to wearing and tearing. If for any reason your nylon backpack should become punctured or have a little tear, rip-stop nylon would reduce the rate at which the tear or puncture expands.

What you need to know is that no fabric is invisible at least none that I have come across and they are going to eventually wear or tear. Bags made using rip-stop fabrics can drastically help when a backpack does tear and it does this due to the pattern by which its threads are interwoven to form thicker threads.

I don’t plan to bore you with the actual technique itself but basically, the short gist to this is that during weaving, thick reinforcement threads are interwoven at regular intervals in a cross-hatch pattern with the intervals being between 5 to 8 millimeters. So with this, is ripstop water resistant? Yes, they are water-resistant.

Ripstop is a technique that is not only used in reinforcing a backpack but has also found its way to tents, parachutes and a lot of gears out there.

Ballistic Fabric

When going through the specs or features of a backpack, there is a chance that you would come across a pack made with a ballistic fabric. This is a common term for backpack nerds but for those that don’t know about it, I would do my best and explain just what type of fabric this is.

Ballistic nylons are thick and tough and they were designed for maximum durability and abrasion resistance and from its name I am sure you can guess where they were coined from. The term ballistic was actually coined with the intent of protecting warmen from debris and fragmentation caused by bullets and shell impacts.

From our research, we found out that the original purpose for the developments of ballistic nylons was for flak jackets for World War II airmen but due to its durability and cutting resistance, it eventually found useful its way into noncombat applications. They are found in backpacks, luggage, belt and straps, motorcycle jackets and many other applications.

Polyester Fabric

In terms of hierarchy, polyester fabrics can be considered the next common fabric used on back bags aside from nylon. Polyester is another lightweight and synthetic fabric and it has some really good properties such as

  • It is able to dry rather fast
  • It is highly abrasion resistant
  • It is easy to dye
  • It is resistant to wrinkles.

Polyester fabrics are not waterproof but rather are water resistant. They are basically plastics and can withstand a good deal of wear and tear. Backpacks made of polyester materials are not my go-to kind of backpack but I guess to a lot of people they can be pretty useful.

One stand out feature on backpacks that make use of polyester fabrics is that these fabrics are able to withstand UV and adds an extra layer of protection to the backpack.

These type of fabrics are not environmental friendly because they are kind of plastic like materials. They are mass-produced and this makes them rather cheap and they are mostly used on school bags used by younger kids.

Polypropylene Fabric

Not a common fabric used on backpacks but nevertheless, they still are because they are good insulators and do not transfer heat. They are thermoplastic addition polymers that are made from the combination of propylene monomers. These are chemistry stuff and the last time I checked this was not a blog on chemistry so we would just skip to the good stuff.

They are resistant to water and other chemicals and have a high abrasion resistance. Due to the properties of polypropylene fabric, you can find their application in military wear, food packaging, ropes, tote bags, sportswear and in backpacks.

They break down when exposed to sunlight for a lengthy period because they are less resistant to UV than other fabrics. This is one of the reasons why you don’t find them in a lot of backpacks.

Cordura Fabric

A name associated with top-notch high-quality fabric is Cordura fabrics. Most of Cordura fabrics are made of nylon but they can be blended with cotton or other natural fibers.

Cordura is not considered as just a single type of fabric but rather they are a brand name with a collection of fabrics used in a wide array of products spanning from luggage to backpacks, trousers, military wear, and performance apparel. Their fabrics are known to be durable and highly resistant to abrasions, tears, and scuffs.

Backpacks made with Cordura fabrics are considered to be top-notch and of very high quality. They are considered to be waterproof and water beads up and rolls off them.

Kodra Fabric

Kodra fabric is another high-quality fabric which is very similar to Cordura fabric. They were ones originally manufactured in Korea but the name is now being used by numerous factories in Asia and for this reason, the quality of the fabrics can no longer be easily proved to be of high quality.

So there you have it, a detailed explanation on backpack material fabrics. If you have been able to stick around this far I congratulate you because this is actually not a hot discussion or topic and is only meant for those that are really interested in knowing more the materials used on backpacks.

If you would like to go a little further on this you can check out some the terms everyone making use of a backpack should know about or you can also check out some facts about backpacks that some people don’t know about. I won’t call them fun facts but rather just facts about backpacks.

Understanding the Strength of Backpack Fabrics

Most of the time when we are going through the specs of a backpack we normally see things like the backpack was made with 600D nylon fabric, 100gsm or a backpack made with type 66 nylon. If these alphabets or figures look a bit confusing to you no worries because it is also confusing to a lot of people.

We are going to do our best to try to explain it so you can understand.

What is Denier Rating

First of all, the alphabet D which is attached to the figure 600 means Denier. So you can understand what this means we are going to answer the question of what is denier rating. Looking at it as a scientific term, it is a unit of measurement that is actually used to determine the fiber thickness of individual threads used when making textiles and fabrics.

In simple terms, it refers to the weight of a fabric is. What you need to know about this is that the higher the number of the denier strength, the thicker, sturdier and more durable the fabric is. Which is why some manufacturers like to indicate the denier strength of the material used so you know your backpack would last you for a long time.

Some commonly used denier ratings are 400D nylon, 500D nylon, 600D polyester, 1050D nylon, 1680D polyester and while the statement the higher the denier strength used is thicker or better, this is mostly true when referring to the denier strength of the same fabric as it has been shown that a lower number of a particular fabric might be stronger than a higher number of a different fabric.

A typical example of this is nylon and polyester fabric. Nylon fabric is actually stronger than polyester fabric and from experiments, it has been proven that a lower denier rating of nylon is actually stronger than a closely higher denier rating of polyester fabric. For example, 500D nylon is actually stronger than 600D nylon.

You can read about this in detail by checking out this post to read the detailed report of the experiment carried out on the strength of some popular fabrics.


When there is a tear in a piece of fabric the ability of the tear not to increase any further is a measure of the tenacity of the fabric. Nylon which is actually one of the most common fabrics currently being used has two types of tenacity which are type 6 nylon and type 66. Type 6 nylon has lower tenacity and strength and is more commonly used on backpacks than nylon 66.

It is pretty difficult to tell the difference when a backpack is made with either nylon 6 or nylon 66 unless it is actually taken to the lab and tested. You might just have to take the word of the person selling you the product when they tell you the type of nylon that was used.

Thread Count

Normally represented using the symbol T. This is another factor used to indicate the strength within a fabric which actually measures the quality of the fabric. It is measured by counting the number of threads contained in one square inch of fabric. The higher the number of thread, the thicker the fabric.


This stands for grams per square meter and is used to measure the density of polypropylene fabrics and not necessarily the quality of the fabric due to the fact that some polypropylene materials might contain fillers which will bring down the cost but will also reduce the strength of the material.

This is another unfamiliar term most backpack users don’t know of. Just like thread count, denier rating and tenacity, it is also used to determine the strength and durability of the fabric and the higher the gsm value, the stronger and more durable the fabric is.

The term GSM is used more on unwoven bags and you should be able to notice a significant difference between a product with a low gsm value and one with a higher gsm value.

You hardly find most of these terms mentioned in the specifications when purchasing a backpack and are only really important for those that intend to know more about the bag they plan on buying. Providing this information can help you get a bag that would last for a long time.




















The information on this post was gotten from Wikipedia, blogs, websites, youtube videos, and my personal experiences.

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