Backpack Materials 101 – How To Choose A Backpack That Will Last

By | June 5, 2023

Backpacks are everywhere, and it’s no wonder. They free our hands. They hold lots of stuff. They simply give us a sense of freedom in knowing that we can toss our things inside and go.

However, a backpack is only as good as the materials that it is made out of.
Matching your needs with a backpack made from the right materials will help to ensure that your backpack will serve you for years.

Let’s take a look at the most common backpack shell materials.

Early on, most backpacks were made of cotton canvas. These backpacks were often made water-resistant using a wax coating. Unfortunately these backpacks were often heavy and were prone to rot if stored wet.

Today there is a resurgence of interest in cute backpacks made of modern canvas. Canvas packs are now very popular with college students, hikers and professionals.

Modern canvas is often a combination of natural and synthetic materials that reduce weight, increase strength, repel moisture and prevent rot.

Polyester (sometimes referred to as Pack Cloth)
Often backpacks for kids and teens are made of a combination of materials including polyester. Polyester is not the most rugged material for a backpack, but it is usually strong and tough enough for little kids. Backpacks made of polyester are affordable, hold color well (meaning they can be very vibrant in color), can be different textures, and are sometimes machine washable. In general, canvas and nylon are stronger and more durable than polyester.

600D and 1200D Polyester
Many backpacks are made from 600D (“D” is for denier) polyester. Many tougher backpacks for hiking or camping are made from 1200D polyester. The thickness of the threads in 1200D polyester is twice that of packs made from 600D. If you are looking for strength, a backpack made from 1200D is better. If you want a lighter-weight backpack that has a smoother fabric choose 600D. For most students looking for a backpack, 600D will prove durable and stylish and a better deal than a comparable pack made from 1200D polyester.

Rip-Stop Nylon
Often found in backpacks used for camping, rip-stop nylon has replaced regular nylon in recent years. Standard nylon has a tendency of continuing to rip when torn or punctured. Rip-stop nylon has a grid pattern of heavy threads sewn into the fabric to prevent tears from worsening. A major benefit of nylon is its excellent waterproofing.

Cordura Nylon
This is a special nylon used mainly in higher-end backpacks for its strength and abrasion resistance. You won’t see it used as much in lower-end backpacks. You’ll generally see this type of nylon is serious backpacks made for adventure.