What are Backpacks Made Of? [The Big 4 Choices]

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What are backpacks made of anyway? In this post we’ll run through pretty much all the different materials they can be made from, and make sure you pick the right material for your next backpack.

There are several things to consider if you are in the market for a new backpack. First, you need a backpack that will do the job it is supposed to do – there are many different types!

For example, you won’t need anything too overly fancy if you use the backpack as a bookbag for grad school or take your laptop and other items to and from work.

On the other hand, if the backpack is for hiking and camping, there are several other considerations that become more important, including its materials.

This article will help you to choose the best type of backpack (material-wise) for your needs. So, if you wondering what are backpacks made of, let’s get started!

Article: What are Backpacks Made Of?

Backpack Materials

When buying a new backpack, the material it is made of is one of the most important considerations. If you are looking for something for work or school, you can choose a backpack made from canvas or leather, and those can be very stylish.

But, if you want to use the backpack for hiking or camping, you will want one made from one of the following materials.


One of the most popular materials for backpacks is nylon, made from various plastics or polyamides. These plastics can be melted down and made into woven fibers to create nylon fabric.

So, why is this material so popular for backpacks? There are actually three reasons:

  • Strength
  • Durability
  • Abrasion resistance

One of the great things about nylon is that it is resistant to most insects and mold. The only real downside to nylon is that it doesn’t offer much UV protection.

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Polyester is a fabric many wish would go away forever, at least when it comes to clothing. But, for backpacks, polyester is one of the most popular fabrics. This is because it is highly durable, wear-resistant, and doesn’t react to many chemicals. It also dries pretty quickly.

Another advantage to having a polyester backpack is not only is it durable, but it is also very lightweight.

In addition, it doesn’t wrinkle, so when not in use, you can fold up your backpack and know that it will look great the next time you use it. For these reasons, polyester is one of the most popular materials used to make backpacks.


While polypropylene isn’t a common backpack material, it is still one that deserves mention. It is a suitable plastic that can be melted down and remolded, even though it does have a high melting point. In addition, this material is water resistant and resistant to many chemicals. It is also pretty difficult to tear this fabric, and it doesn’t wear out quickly.

Even though all of these features sound great, polypropylene is mostly only used for specific applications. In some cases though, it is a complete material of some of the less expensive backpacks today.


We mentioned earlier that canvas is often used in school bags, but it is popular for hikers who will not be hiking on challenging terrain. It is also considered more fashionable than other materials and used by high-end brands such as Fjallraven and Hershel.

Most hikers and campers tend to not use canvas backpacks because they are too lightweight. At one time, the canvas was very heavy and an ideal material for hikers. Today, it is made from lightweight fibers. However, the material is still durable, and a bag made from canvas is perfect for school, work, and everyday use.

Understanding Branded Materials

Shopping for a good backpack can be confusing when you see all the different material names used to make them.

Keep in mind that most of these newer names are just brand names, and they are basically the same materials we have already spoken about in this article. So let’s eliminate some of the confusion as to what these materials actually are.

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Ripstop sounds like a pretty amazing material, giving one the idea that it is impossible to rip. However, when you come right down to it, the word “Ripstop” simply means that the fibers are interwoven with the regular weave to create a thicker and stronger fiber. This fabric isn’t used for the entire backpack but is placed in certain areas to make the material more durable.

Spending much money on a backpack made with Ripstop isn’t necessary. But one thing to remember is that bags made with this material are more wear-resistant and won’t tear as easily as bags made from other materials.


Cordura is a brand all on its own, and there are Cordura materials used for a wide variety of applications, including backpacks. This fabric began with one 1000D nylon thread created with an air-jet process.

This process created a durable nylon thread used in Jansport backpacks in the 1970s. If you plan on investing in a high-quality backpack, look for the name Cordura in the material listing.

Seeing how it is trusted by the military worldwide, you can be sure it will be ideal for your hiking and camping needs!

Kodra Nylon

When Cordura came around, other companies needed to get on board with their own durable materials, which led to the development of Kodra. This material dates back to the 1950s, coming from Kolon International, a manufacturer based in Korea.

Today, you will find that many Asian manufacturers use this material, unlike Cordura, which is only licensed to a few manufacturers. Kodra is considered pretty much as tough and durable as Cordura and is just as abrasion-resistant.

Ballistic Nylon

Here is a nylon from DuPont that was created during World War II. Ballistic nylon was initially designed to protect soldiers from bullets, but it wasn’t nearly as bulletproof as expected. Eventually, it was replaced by Kevlar and other bulletproof materials.

But ballistic nylon became known as a durable material. It is a nylon fabric that is a very intricate weave that allows it to be firmer and wear-resistant, much more than traditional nylon.

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The weave is 2X2, with two threads woven in each direction instead of a single thread. There are also many other variations. A backpack made from this material will last a very long time.

What are Backpacks Made Of

Waterproofing Materials for Backpacks

Creating a completely waterproof backpack is almost impossible because of stitching, zippers, openings, etc., But there are ways to keep backpacks dry with special layers and/or coatings. Let’s look at some of the most popular waterproofing materials for backpacks.

Durable Water Repellent (DWR)

DWR is a coating that manufacturers put on the outside of fabrics to help make them more waterproof. There is one problem with DWR—it will slowly deteriorate over time. This deterioration is caused by dirt, sun, abrasion, etc. You can add an additional coat of DWR, and another option is to keep it clean and free of salt and store it in an area that is cool and free of moisture.

PU Coating

Polyurethane or PU coating will help waterproof backpack material. Often, you will see PU in the manufacturer’s specs, following the name of the material itself.

Laminate or PVC Coating

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is often used to waterproof backpacks. You may recognize this term as it is often used with home drainpipes! In smaller amounts, it can be used for waterproofing various materials.

TPU-Film Laminate

One of the most common interiors of waterproof backpacks is made from TPU or Thermoplastic Polyurethane Film. It can be very waterproof depending on how it is used and the quality of this layer. It is even more waterproof when DWR is added to the outside.

Waterproofing – Wrap Up

If you are looking for a waterproof backpack, make sure it is made with one of the materials mentioned above.

Look at all of the zippers and openings, find out what they are made from, and if waterproof materials have been used to help keep your personal items from getting wet while you hike.

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