“How well do you know your backpack? I guess some know a lot about their trusty backpacks, while others don’t. But I’m positive that in the long run, what matters is that it is durable, functional, and versatile depending on your usage and purpose. Correct? As an avid backpack user, I make sure that I know my backpack through and through. Do you? In this article, we hope to further help you understand your backpack (or future backpack).” – BBB Team
What is your backpack made of?
A backpack is made up of different parts. The most fundamental of these would have to be the fabric. It is the fabric or material that the backpack is made of that determines for which purpose the backpack serves. It is the most crucial part of the backpack.
Backpack fabrics have evolved and are still evolving. In order to cater to our complex and ever-changing needs, there was a need for the fabrics used for backpacks to improve in order to adapt to our needs.
Getting to know your fabric
Did you know that there are different factors that contribute to how your backpack’s fabric will function?
- Weight – Your backpack’s fabric may come in a variety of weights. With this, the backpack’s weight lies primarily on the fabric. Not just the weight of the pack, but the strength and durability of the fabric is linked to the weight of the fabric. How does one measure fabric? The weight of your backpack’s fabric is measured by denier. It is the unit of the yarn’s fineness equal to 1g per 9000 meters of yarn. You do not need to know the specifics but just know that the higher the denier, the heavier, stronger, and more durable the fabric is.
- Tenacity – What is tenacity exactly? By definition, it the tear strength or the fabric’s capacity to resist more tearing after a tear is in place. In order to measure a fabric’s tenacity, the tensile strength is divided by the thickness of the thread used. The tearing resistance varies between fabrics.
- Tensile Strength – The tensile strength differs immensely in fabrics. The construction, weave, denier, material used and other special treatments are involved in the tensile strength of the backpack’s fabric.
- Water Resistance – An advantage that some backpacks have over others is because they were made resistant to water. This is because the fabrics used in these water resistant packs underwent some treatments and coatings to repel water. Aside from treatments, the material used as well as the type of weave utilized affect the fabric’s ability to resist water.
Types of Backpack Fabrics
Here are some of the types of fabrics that are commonly used in backpack construction. You might be familiar with a few of them. One (or some) of them might even be the fabric used in your backpack.
- Cordura Nylon – One of the toughest backpack fabrics was originally created and designed by DuPont, the Cordura Nylon. The Cordura is an air treated fabric that is the top choice for backpacks used for tough and rough environments. This kind of backpack fabric is used for heavy duty luggage. Even the military chooses no less than Cordura. It is known to be resistant to water, abrasion and is ultra-durable. Since Cordura is heavy and rugged, it is oftentimes used as the base of the pack so that the backpack’s contents will be given protection. Cordura is one of the most widely used fabric because not only is it strong, it is lightweight as well! A similar fabric from Korea is Kodra.
- Cotton Canvas – One the most basic and earliest used type of fabric in backpacks is cotton canvas. Using cotton canvas in packs has existed for a long time and has somehow remained unchanged! Before, cotton canvas was considered as the fabric of choice in backpacks. However, as the needs of backpack users evolved, cotton canvas was not able to meet the demands of the modern world. It was not as abrasion resistant and water resistant unlike other fabrics. Also, cotton canvas has a tendency to rot and is generally heavy. But despite its disadvantages, it is still used today. Cotton canvas is usually used for children’s backpack as well as women’s fashion backpacks wherein abrasion and water spillage is not much of a concern. The primary advantage in cotton canvas is that it is inexpensive. As a result, backpacks using cotton canvas is inexpensive as well.
- Nylon – Nowadays, it is quite essential that backpacks are able to provide protection to your items from different factors of travel. The most common factor would have to be water. With this, waterproofing backpacks has become a popular trend now. Nylon fabric is one of the most common materials used in backpacks. Today, finding an untreated nylon fabric is seldom. Most of the nylon fabrics are coated with polyurethane or undergo silicone treatment. Treating the nylon fabric makes the backpack heavier, more durable and water resistant. So with unexpected rain, the items of your pack are given protection. However, because of the heavy coating, your backpack is not able to allow air circulation.
- Rip-stop Nylon – Rip-stop nylon is one of the fast emerging backpack fabrics. Many manufacturers have started using it and I’m pretty sure, soon, more will follow suit. Rip-stop nylon is a fabric that is noted for its grid pattern of durable and heavy threads that is sewn closely and fills all spaces every quarter-inch. The term “rip-stop” was coined because the heavy threads can “stop rips” in cases where a rip takes place. The durable interwoven threading pattern virtually allows the fabric to stop a tear from worsening. For others, a puncture or rip is the least of their problems; however, for some, it is a challenge. Especially when you’re in a situation where no remedy can be done, a torn backpack is indeed a dilemma. Carrying a huge load with a tear can rip apart your backpack. Imagine that! With rip-stop nylon, your backpack’s fabric can put a stop to a growing rip. What’s more with rip-stop nylon is that it is lightweight and can readily be waterproofed. The fabric might not be puncture resistant, but it is abrasion resistant.
- Polyester Pack Cloth – Anther backpack fabric that manufacturers use is polyester pack cloth. Polyester pack cloth is not as strong or durable as nylon or rip-stop nylon. But the good thing about it is that it is able to resist ultra violet degradation. In fact, polyester pack cloth has a relatively high UV resistance. If your backpack is subjected to continuous exposure to UV, it can result to cracks or breakdown of the fabric. Having a feature that protects against ultra violet is a big advantage especially for those who expose their bag often to heat or UV. Polyester pack cloth is used in a lot of backpacks manufactured in Australia as well as in Europe.
- PVC Fabric – PVC fabric is another type of backpack fabric that is widely used in the market. A great quality that PVC fabrics are known for is their ability to be multi-purpose. Meaning, it can be utilized to add color, durability and waterproofing. PVC fabric is known to be very sturdy and is most often used in workwear and other workwear products. The fabric can be customized depending on use. It can be tear resistant, waterproof, or even flame retardant!
- Pack Cloth Nylon – Another variation of nylon is pack cloth nylon. It is a smooth nylon fabric that is characterized by threads having an equal diameter. It runs in the vertical warp and fills out horizontal directions. You might notice that the material is sort of glossy and smooth to touch. A lot of backpacks make use of pack cloth nylon. Despite the fact that this material is gradually declining in popularity, it is a great backpack fabric. The main benefit you get from pack cloth nylon is that it can be readily waterproofed, has high abrasion resistance and is puncture resistant as well! But a major downside of pack cloth nylon backpacks is that the material is somewhat heavier in comparison to other nylon fabrics.
- Leather – One of the most classic and probably earliest fabrics used in making backpacks is leather. Although leather is known to be pricey, it is stylish and long lasting with proper care and maintenance. Leather is not only used in backpack making, it is widely used in other goods such as clothing, shoes and accessories. You can check our selection of leather business backpacks here: Leather Backpacks.
Note: When it comes to the Internal Frame and External Frame of the backpacks, the material or fabric commonly used are as follows: Cordura Nylon, Pack Cloth Nylon, Rip-stop Nylon, and Cotton Canvas.
- Dyneema – Probably one of the strongest of the fabrics in the backpacks industry, DSM Dyneema is being used less commonly in backpacks. This is due to the fact this super strong fabric is very costly. It is generally used in bullet vests, fishing nets, cables, ropes and safety gloves. However, Dyneema is utilized as a grid stop or rip stop in some nylon fabrics by very high end and custom backpack brands.
- Spectra – Another super strong fabric is Spectra. Spectra is created by Honeywell. The fabric is an immensely high molecular weight polyethylene fiber material. Spectra has a high weight to strength ratio and is highly resistant to abrasion. Another bonus is that the fabric does not absorb water and has UV resistance. The main downside is its cost. Spectra is very expensive. When you purchase this material, it comes in white but can be tinted in different colors. Due to its price, Spectra is rarely used in full for backpack making. However, it can be used at the rip stop material in nylons and are also mostly used in ropes.
Which Fabric is for you?
These are just some of the fabrics used in making backpacks. I’m sure there are lots more out there that you might have come across. Just know that each type of fabric has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages identified in some may be considered advantages for others and vice versa. It all depends on your purpose and use. What you should remember is that it is very important that during the selection process, you know what you need. Aside from the style and structure of the backpack, the fabric it is made of should be considered since it has an overall impact on the backpack and can greatly affect your usage.