Best Materials for Backpack Making: An Ultimate Guide


There are countless factors to consider when searching for the perfect backpack: fit, capacity, feature set, style and more. But perhaps one of the most critical choices – one that influences the look, performance and durability of the bag – lies in the bag’s material.

The materials used for backpacks are as diverse as the backpacks themselves, and navigating the sea of technical terms can bring headaches for even the savviest shoppers.

Today, we delve into this world, breaking down the key fabric types used in backpacks, so you can make an informed choice that aligns with your needs and preferences.

Speaking from our extensive experience, we, at BagManufacturer, a time-cherished custom bag manufacturer based in China, will lead you through this exploration of trusty textiles.

Understanding Key Terms

Diving into this realm, there are several terms you’ll frequently encounter. The term denier, often represented as ‘D’, is one of them. This refers to the thickness of thread within a woven fabric. Generally, higher denier indicates a heavier, and often more durable, fabric. Nonetheless, certain fibers can surpass others in strength even if they weigh less. Durability is not solely influenced by denier; the weave of the fabric is of immense consequence too.

Two much-admired weaves are ripstop and ballistic. Found in materials like nylon and polyester, these weaves offer great durability, making them ideal for backpacking through rugged terrain or for peace-of-mind during regular travel.

Ripstop weave earns its name for its characteristic ability to “stop rips” from spreading, thanks to the reinforced threads that create a grid pattern. Meanwhile, the ballistic weave, fabricated with thicker threads and typically higher denier, boasts excellent abrasion and puncture resistance.

Now that we’ve decoded some of the jargon let’s dive deeper into the specifics of the various fabric types.

Versatile Nylon

Whether you’re commuting to the office or hiking along your favorite trail, nylon is well-equipped to handle just about anything. First developed in World War II, this material has found broad use in various fields, from outerwear to toothbrushes, and more notably for our purposes, backpacks.

Nylon is a frontrunner in the creation of the ballistic and ripstop weaves we mentioned earlier. Not only does it provide excellent strength-to-weight ratio, but it also offers a wide array of choices.

However, nylon isn’t super breathable, and possesses less UV resistance than some other fabrics, making it more susceptible to tears and wear over time with extended sun exposure.

Budget-Friendly Polyester

If you want a cost-effective alternative to nylon that still offers good toughness and wearability, consider polyester. Developed in the 1940s, polyester sky-rocketed in popularity owing to its low production cost. It resists staining, wrinkling, and shrinking, making it a practical fabric for clothing, and, of course, backpacks.

Polyester sports greater UV resistance than nylon, rendering it ideal for outdoor bags that face a significant amount of sun exposure. Additionally, polyester holds dye well and allows for digital printing, offering you an array of design choices. However, it doesn’t boast the same strength-to-weight ratio as nylon, even with equivalent denier.

Weather-Fighting Pack Cloth

An excellent choice if you’re looking for a sturdy fabric that offers greater water resistance is pack cloth. This fabric, typically made with 400 or 500 denier nylon, is then coated with a thin layer of polyethylene, rendering it water-resistant and easy to clean.

However, it’s less durable than ripstop and ballistic nylons and can easily be scuffed.

Tough Tarpaulin

If you appreciate the water resistance of pack cloth but require additional durability, look no further than tarpaulin. This material has its roots in the sailing industry before making its transition to the manufacturing of equipment covers, temporary shelters, and gear protection, among others.

Tarpaulin offers impressive strength and weather resistance that doesn’t wane over time. The downside is that tarpaulin can add considerable weight to a backpack, and its more rubbery feel may not appeal to everyone.

Quality-Assured Cordura

For a wide variety of choices and celebrated quality, Cordura stands as a commendable brand. Though it isn’t a specific fabric, Cordura offers a range of excellent fabrics like ripstop and ballistic nylon.

However, most of their fabrics are on the heavier side, so if weight is a primary concern, some Cordura options might not suit.

Ultra-Light Dyneema

If weight is your number one concern, you may find your answer in Dyneema. This fabric, originally known as Cuban fiber, claims the title of the ‘strongest fiber in the world’.

It’s used in everything from bulletproof vests, armored vehicles, to backpacks, making it an impressive choice for someone seeking a light, robust, and water-resistant material. The downside, however, lies in its price point, which can be significantly high.

Multi-Layered X-Pac

Also boasting a substantial strength-to-weight ratio like Dyneema, is the material called X-Pac. More of a fabric sandwich, X-Pac is composed of several materials layered together, leading to an end product that’s strong, lightweight, and weather resistant.

Vintage-Feel Wax Canvas

For enthusiasts of vintage-style backpacks, wax canvas is a superb choice. Originally utilized in the sailing industry, wax canvas wins hearts with its unique aging process, forming a beautiful patina over time. It needs to be re-waxed every couple of years to keep its water-resistant properties, though such maintenance is part of its charm.

Ever-Classic Leather

Surging forward as the time-honored choice in backpack materials is leather. Dating back to ancient Greeks and Romans, leather bags can be quite an investment. They age beautifully, adapting to your form over time. However, leather is considerably heavier compared to most other materials we have discussed, which might make it inefficient for those who wish to carry additional gear.

Moreover, you can find alternatives to traditional leather in the form of faux leather or vegan leather. This material marks an excellent choice for those wishing to preserve an animal-friendly lifestyle without compromising style.


Navigating the myriad of choices in backpack materials can be a daunting, convoluted task. But understanding the unique properties of each fabric can make this journey a lot more approachable and enjoyable.

Remember, choosing the right material for your backpack isn’t only about aesthetics or budget. It’s equally about the performance the bag can deliver in various circumstances, its durability, and how well it aligns with your personal needs and preferences. You now possess a broader understanding of these materials to make an informed choice.

So, be it for everyday commutes or for intrepid adventures, selecting the best candidate for your next backpack-making endeavor just got a lot more feasible. It’s time to reflect on what you’ve learned, evaluate your requirements, and make a formidable backpack choice that will serve you best. Happy backpack hunting!


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