Backpack Fabrics Detailed Guide

Backpack Fabrics – A Detailed Guide

The best gear in your inbox

All the tips you'll need to get started in Urban Survival:

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

The importance of a backpack is often undermined. How important can something made from fabric, zippers and straps be? Only a true hiker, trekker, or military person would know. Military backpacks are an essential tool for a lot of circumstances.

One of the most commonly asked questions is “What is the best fabric for a backpack?” To be honest, there is no particular answer to this question. It depends a lot on what you are using the backpack for. A daily-use backpack is made from a different material than a high-end military backpack. We will try to give you as much information as we can about backpack fabrics to help you pick the right fabric per your requirements.

To find the answer to “Which backpack material is the best for me?”, you first need to know all the types of backpack materials out there. Let us take a look at the various materials you can use to make backpacks.

Types of Backpack Fabric/Backpack Material

There are a number of backpack fabrics out to choose from, let us take a look at them in detail!

1. Cotton Canvas

Cotton Canvas Fabric

Cotton canvas was a material that was used more traditionally. These backpacks were susceptible to decomposition and rotting, and were therefore coated with a layer of wax and left to dry out. You are less likely to find pure cotton canvas backpacks in today’s time, but there are some “impure” versions, i.e., canvas poly mix available on the market.

A Sample Backpack Made From Nylon Fabric

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Cotton Canvas

  • Extremely sturdy material
  • Can be a great option for creating fashionable and stylish backpacks
  • Retain look especially due to the wax coating
  • Somewhat expensive
  • Although fashionable, mostly only available in simple colors
  • Isn’t breathable
  • Susceptible to abrasions
  • Can be itchy on the skin

2. Nylon

Nylon Fabric
Nylon Fabric

Nylon fabric is one of the most commonly used materials in today’s time for making a military or hiking backpack. Nylon is a whole family of synthetic fabrics. You can say that it is actually plastic. It is a kind of polymer that can be shaped into anything by the process of melting.

According to research by the Science History Institute, the invention of nylon in 1938 spurred a textile revolution for consumers and the military.

Nylon is a tear-resistant material, strong enough to be even used in the manufacturing of hot air balloons.

Sample Backpack Made of Nylon Fabric
Sample Backpack Made From Nylon Fabric

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Nylon Fabrics

  • Highly water-resistant
  • High level of abrasion resistance
  • Lightweight
  • Expensive
  • Hard to recycle
  • Have a tendency to produce static electricity

3. Ripstop Nylon

Ripstop Nylon
Ripstop Nylon

Ripstop Nylon is one of the more commonly used versions of the nylon fabric. You will find that a majority of hiking backpacks and camping equipment are made using Ripstop Nylon. This Nylon variant has a very peculiar weave that makes it unique.

Ripstop Nylon combines a grid of thicker threads that are sewn directly into the nylon very closely. The grid makes the fabric more abrasion-resistant and adds to the waterproof capabilities.

Sample Backpack Made of Ripstop Nylon Fabric
Sample Backpack Made From Ripstop Nylon Fabric

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Ripstop Nylon Fabric

  • Highly water-resistant
  • Less susceptible to abrasions
  • Very durable
  • Special weave design prevents the fabric from unraveling even in case of punctures
  • Isn’t the best material for hot weather as it absorbs heat

4. Polyester

Polyester Fabric

Polyester is the most commonly used fabric for making backpacks in the modern era. It is a synthetic fiber that is extremely cheap and has the ability to hold color really well. It is mostly used for making daily packs and school bags and is not as durable as the materials mentioned above.

However, many brands do not prefer Polyester as it is not a very environmental-friendly material.

A Sample Backpack Made From Polyester

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Polyester Fabrics

  • Highly affordable
  • Dries up really fast on getting wet
  • Resistant to wrinkling and creasing
  • Very flexible material
  • Polyester backpacks are not as durable as nylon or cotton
  • Stain very easily and the stains are hard to remove
  • Can bleed color easily

5. Polypropylene

Polypropylene Fabric

Polypropylene, also called PP, is a thermoplastic polymer that has a number of uses. You will find that polypropylene is used for making carpers, ropes, etc. When it comes to bags, it is a widely used material for making drawstring bags or tote bags as it is versatile. Therefore, it is used by a number of industries viz. fashion accessories, medical equipment, sports equipment, consumer items and the automotive industry.

Polypropylene backpacks have never been a popular choice due to their inability to keep up under repeated or sustained exposure to the sun. With the ever-growing technology, most of the flaws of a polypropylene backpack have been somewhat covered up.

A Sample Backpack Made From Cotton Canvas

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Polypropylene Fabrics

  • Extremely waterproof material; hydrophobic
  • Dry up really fast, absorb water
  • Very durable; can withstand wear and tear
  • Lightweight
  • Not UV resistant, susceptible to UV degradation
  • Can lose color and fade under prolonged exposure to the sun

6. Neoprene

Neoprene Fabric
Neoprene Fabric

Neoprene, also known as polychloroprene, is technically a foam but is really more like synthetic rubber. It has really impressive thermal properties which is why it is often used as a material for lunch bags or thermoses. Research shows that the global neoprene market was valued at $1.9 billion in 2020, and is estimated to reach $2.4 billion by 2030, expanding at a CAGR of 2.5% from 2021 to 2030.

It can be seen being used for a lot of water sport related equipment due to its high flexibility with water. You are sure to be safe from having wet items in your backpack.

Neoprene is a highly suitable material for backpacks, thanks to its insulation properties as well as high level of waterproofing. Backpacks made from Neoprene offer a level of padding as well, thanks to the foamy texture of this material.

A Sample Backpack Made of Neoprene
A Sample Backpack Made From Neoprene

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Neoprene Fabrics

  • Highly waterproof
  • Have great insulation
  • Can be recycled
  • Are naturally padded
  • Expensive backpacks compared to other fabrics
  • More suitable for daily use

7. Ballistic Nylon

Ballistic Nylon Fabric

Ballistic Nylon fabric is the strongest variant of nylon fabric. As you can understand from the name, its initial intended purpose was to protect soldiers from artillery shell impacts, bullets, or shrapnel. It is now one of the more highly sought-after military backpack materials. In fact, it is a very thick fabric that is highly regarded for its durability. Most of the best military backpacks are made of Ballistic Nylon.

For those who know more about fabrics, Ballistic Nylon is made using a 2×2 or a 2×3 basket-weave. The Denier may range from 800D to 1700D. Therefore, unlike other nylon backpacks, the ballistic variant is the one that lasts the longest. Scientists are also performing research of the ballistic strength of woven fabric such as Ballistic Nylon for personal protection.

A Sample Backpack Made From Ballistic Nylon

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Ballistic Nylon Fabric

  • Extremely durable
  • Have the highest longevity among backpacks made from different nylon fabrics
  • Best suited for tougher physical conditions
  • Highly abrasion-resistant
  • Very difficult to dye, mostly found in basic colors
  • Heavier backpacks than other nylon variants

8. Cordura

Cordura Fabric

Cordura is another type of synthetic material used for making a backpack (among other things). It is one of the most high-quality materials used for making a backpack. It is made with a blend of Nylon (main material) and Cotton, which makes it very durable and gives it great tear strength.

Cordura material was created in the early 1940s by DuPont, for military purposes. It is more of a brand than material as of today.

A Sample Backpack Made From Cordura

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Cordura Fabrics

  • Extremely durable and long-lasting
  • Premium quality backpacks
  • Virtually indestructible with high puncture resistance
  • Highly waterproof
  • Expensive in comparison to other materials
  • Heavier in comparison to other backpack materials

9. Denim

Denim Fabric

Denim is one of the most popular fabrics on the market. Backpacks made from denim are cotton backpacks only in a way as denim is also a type woven cotton.

We mostly see denim material in our jeans and jackets. Denim is an incredible material for daily use backpacks. It is highly tear-resistant, extremely fashionable, and mostly pocket-friendly. Scientists around the world are using multiple percentage-based combinations of denim fabric variables such as fibers, Lycra and yarn and weaving methods to cater to users in different climates and geographies.

A Sample Backpack Made From Denim

Pros and Cons of Using Backpacks Made From Denim Fabrics

  • Most fashionable backpacks
  • Lightweight and comfortable to use
  • Mostly washing-machine-friendly
  • Durable
  • Easily affordable
  • Only suitable for casual use
  • Cannot carry too much weight
  • Limited color options, mostly hues of blue
  • Not waterproof unless given a coating (PVC or polyurethane coating)

10. Leather

Leather Fabric

Leather backpacks are timeless. Be it in the 20th century or present day, leather backpacks have remained in style. They don’t just look apart but are also very durable and age really well. You wouldn’t be wrong in saying that it is one of the ‘longest in-use’ materials for making backpacks.

A Sample Backpack Made From Leather

Pros and Cons of Using Backpack’s Made From Leather

  • Extremely fashionable and chic
  • Age really well
  • Very durable
  • Water-resistant, not waterproof
  • Expensive material
  • Heavier than other materials on the list
  • Not popular with animal activists, subject to judgment

11. Vegan Leather

Vegan Leather Fabric

For those of you who did not know, leather can be vegan too. Vegan leather is not the same fabric as leather. It is instead a synthetic variant of leather, which is completely free of animal hide. The concept of vegan leather was introduced as more and more people raised voices against animal cruelty for making leather items. Therefore, vegan leather is environmentally friendly and animal-free leather.

Vegan leather has some advantages over genuine leather. It is more water-resistant than genuine leather as the latter has porosity and is therefore not waterproof. A vegan leather backpack also comes at a fraction of the cost of a leather backpack.

A Sample Backpack Made From Vegan Leather

Pros and Cons of Using Backpack’s Made From Vegan Leather

  • Inexpensive compared to genuine leather
  • Highly waterproof
  • Animal-friendly alternate
  • Not as durable as genuine leather backpacks

Now that we are done discussing the types of materials, let us take a look at some of the strength indicators of different fabric types. It can be one of the more important features to pay attention to when choosing the best backpack for yourself.

Strength Indicators of Different Materials

Denier Rating (D)

Denier Rating or D is one of the most common indicators that you’ll come across when looking to buy a backpack. This rating is used to tell you the density or thickness of a certain material. It is denoted as 500D or 1000D.

So how exactly is this calculated? A Denier Rating tells you the mass of 9000m of the particular strand of material. For example, if you read 680D Polyester, it means 9000m of the fabric being measured is 680 grams in mass.

The general belief among people is that the higher the D rating, the better the quality. This stands true in most cases. The best backpacks will have a high Denier Rating. But it is important to know that this belief applies to “Intra-material” and not across fabrics. For example, 680D Polyester will be a more durable Polyester than 480D Polyester. But a 480D Nylon will be stronger than a 680 Polyester. Military-grade backpacks use 600D Nylon and above.


In simple words, it is the number of stitches per square inch. To put into perspective, backpacks made using a fabric with less than 6 stitches per inch will be weak and less reliable. More than 10-11 stitches per inch can cause your backpack to lose structural integrity. Therefore, the sweet spot lies between 6 and 11 stitches per inch.

Information about stitches is of a lot of importance to any part of the backpack that needs to bear any kind of load, be it the straps or the main pockets themselves.


The ability of a fabric to resist tearing further after a tear has already begun is measured by its tenacity. The measuring unit for tenacity is grams per Denier. Most Nylon backpacks have a 3-6.5g/D tenacity which is low. The higher quality kind comes with a tenacity of 6.5-9g/D.

Thread Count

Similar to stitches, thread count tells you the number of threads in one square inch of fabric. The more the number of threads, the stronger the fabric will be. More threads also mean less porosity, making the fabric more water-resistant. Stitches and thread counts apply to woven fabrics and not non-woven fabrics.

Which Is the Most Durable Material for Backpacks?

The durability of a material is of utmost importance when we are looking for a backpack. Different fabrics have different levels of durability but none come close to our undisputed two choices – Ballistic Nylon and Cordura.

These two materials are super durable. Most backpacks with even a mention of either of these fabrics will become an automatic choice for a backpack expert. Ballistic Nylon has better tear resistance whereas Cordura has better abrasion resistance. Most manufacturers of high-grade military backpacks also regard these two as popular materials of choice.

So, if it’s a durable backpack you are looking for that will be your companion for a long time, go for one made from either of these fabrics. What will separate the two, in the end, is a personal preference.

Final Words

The above-mentioned information should be more than sufficient for you to decide which backpack fabric is the best one for you. Different backpacks will have different upsides and downsides, and in the end, it all comes down to your preference in requirement.

Someone looking for a backpack for daily use may not choose to go for a backpack made from Ballistic Nylon. At the same time, someone looking to get a backpack for hiking will definitely not choose a denim bag.

We hope we have been able to answer your questions about backpack fabrics, and as promised, we are letting you leave as experts and not rookies! If you have any comments or questions, feel free to let us know in the comments below!