What Are Backpacks Made Of? (Material Types Compared)

No matter who you are or what you need, there is sure to be a backpack for you. Backpacks are handy bags that come in a variety of sizes and designs to help carry your things around. What are backpacks made of?  

We break down some of the most common materials and the brands that use them down below.  

1. Nylon 

Nylon is a polymer material that is formed into fibers by a heating process. This lightweight material is durable and more waterproof than cotton. However, nylon does tend to tear if punctured, depending on the weave. Nylon, when compared with certain others on this list, is pricier and stains easier than other backpack materials. 

2. Polyester 

When wondering about what fabric are backpacks made of, polyester is another material that will come up often. Polyester is highly UV resistant, affordable, flexible, and common in backpacks. This is mostly ideal for travel backpack because it can dry faster than other materials.

It is also a highly flexible material that can keep up with your daily routine. However, polyester is highly sensitive to temperatures, can bleed the dye, and is not as breathable as other backpack materials. 

3. Polypropylene 

Created in 1951, polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer that is commonly used in carpets and ropes as well as bags. Polypropylene is a hydrophobic material that dries quickly and is resistant to chemicals and tears. Most drawstring backpacks use this material due to the reasons stated above.

While this lightweight material is easy to clean and strong, it is also flammable and susceptible to UV discoloration. You will often find lower-end backpacks are made of polypropylene.  

4. Canvas 

Canvas is a durable and heavyweight material that is commonly used in sails, shoes, and other items that deal with harsh environments or regular use. Backpacks made of canvas are to die for most women as the color and the feel of the material is attractive to them. This material is sturdy, waterproof, and windproof, but is more expensive than other materials and not as breathable. Often cotton or linen are weaved in with the canvas to help bring costs down and add breathability.  

Check out our review of the best canvas backpacks here.

5. Cotton 

Cotton is an incredibly common and fashionable material in bag-making. However, it is prone to damage and is not able to withstand harsh environments. Cotton is as breathable as other materials on this list and is often used on tote bags and other neutral-toned bags that are only used in mild conditions. 

6. Rip-Stop Nylon

Often seen in camping and hiking backpacks, rip-stop nylon is a material that is sewn in a grid pattern to prevent tears from growing once they form. While rip-stop nylon is durable and long-lasting, it more prone to wear than Cordura. Rip-stop nylon is a popular choice among backpack brands.  

7. PVC Fabric 

PVC, also known as polyvinyl chloride fabric, is a cost-effective and waterproof material that comes in a wide range of colors. It can come in a range of styles that incorporate flame-retardant, blackout, fluorescent, and lightweight properties into their backpack designs. 

8. Cordura 

Most often seen in everyday backpacks, Cordura is a durable and strong backpack material that is abrasion- and water-resistant. This practically indestructible material provides a more rugged look to higher-end, heavy-duty backpacksUnfortunately, Cordura can be harder to find for some suppliers and customers. 

9. Leather 

Leather offers a professional and stylish look to any backpack or design. Often used in more business or high-end bag designs, leather is a flexible and durable material that needs special care and cleaning to remain in top condition. The color range for leather backpacks is not as wide as others on this list, but it is getting bigger. Leather is not the most waterproof or breathable material, which can be a deal-breaker for some.  

Check out our review of the best leather backpacks here. 

10. Denim 

A classic backpack material, denim is a popular choice among DIY fans and vintage fashion enthusiasts. Denim is stylish, machine-washable, and affordable; it is easy to find denim backpacks in charity shops or repurpose an old jean jacket. Some drawbacks to denim backpacks are their inability to carry much weight, they are not waterproof, and they can dye bleed when wet. 

herschel backpack next to a pineapple

Backpack Brands & The Materials They Use 

JanSport Backpacks 

What are JanSport backpacks made of? JanSport typically uses polyester but has been known to incorporate nylon, Cordura, and suede leather into their backpack designs. How these materials are used depends on the JanSport backpack range of design, but these are the most common. The use of polyester and nylon ensures that JanSport’s backpacks are durable, waterproof, and flexible.  

Fjällräven Backpacks 

What are Fjällräven backpacks made of? Fjällräven is a popular fashion brand that makes a conscious effort to use natural or nature-inspired materials where possible. The core materials that Fjällräven use are eco-shell, G-1000, wool, and down. Some other materials that Fjällräven use less often include hydratic, hemp, and corylon.  

Herschel Backpacks 

What are Herschel backpacks made of? They are typically made of rip-stop nylon for maximum durability and utility. While Herschel backpacks are often able to handle what life throws at you, they can often wear time more than backpacks by other brands. Thanks to their utility, Herschel backpacks remain a popular choice for everyday or outdoor backpacks. 

MCM Backpacks  

What are MCM backpacks made of? MCM is a high-end fashion brand that mainly uses leather for the bulk of the bags and cotton twill or visetos for the lining. Visetos is a coated canvas that increases durability and water resistance. MCM is a popular choice for those who want to make a statement with their backpacks. 

North Face Backpacks

What are North Face backpacks made of? North Face is famous for its outdoorsy products, and North Face puts durability, utility, and water resistance at the top of their priority list.

Materials like nylon, recycled polyester, and GORE-TEX help keep their backpacks on top of the marketIt is possible to find rugged school bags and camping backpacks in North Face’s range. 

north face backpack on train

How To Choose The Right Backpack Materials? 

  • Denier 
    Denier refers to the thickness or density of the material. It sometimes refers to the weight of the fabric itself. As a rule, the higher the denier, the stronger the backpack; however, the best denier level for each fabric is different. For example, 450 denier nylon is stronger than 600 denier polyester.  
  • Tenacity 
    The tenacity of a fabric refers to how well the fabric resists further tearing after a tear has occurred. Tenacity is typically measured in grams per denier. Certain weaves, such as rip-stop, can help improve a material’s tenacity level. 
  • Stitching 
    Stitching is measured per square inch and adds to a backpack’s strength. When looking for a backpack, we recommend looking for 6-10 inches per stitch ones; anything less than six, and the backpack will lack reliable strength for your everyday needs. 
  • Thread Count 
    A backpack’s thread count refers to the number of warp and fill in one square inch of fabric. The threads are interlaced in woven materials – more threads means that the fabric is more waterproof. A high thread count can also be another indicator of a backpack’s strength. 
seniors with backpacks walking

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What material are backpack straps made of? 

That depends on the brand and type of backpack. Typically, backpack straps will be made of leather, nylon, polyester, or a blend of the materials above. Read the product description carefully to know exactly what a backpack’s straps are made of. 

Which material is best for laptop bags? 

Laptop bags need to be protective enough to keep your laptop in good condition on the move. Most laptop bags are made of nylon, Cordura, and neoprene or a blend of some of the materials we dug into above. 

What material are military bags made of? 

Military bags need to be able to put up with a lot of wear and tear, harsh conditions, and rough handling. Most military bags are made of Cordura or ballistic nylon, depending on the brand and model. If you need a military style backpack, we recommend trying a 500-1200 denier Cordura one. 

How much material do I need to make a backpack? 

That depends on the type of backpack, the size you want, and what added detailing you want to include. Most instructions will include how much fabric is needed, but 0.5-2 yards of fabric is often used. 

Check out our guide on how to make a backpack here.


Conclusion

Knowing what material backpacks are made of can go a long way to helping you make the right decision for you. Consider your needs, what you use your backpacks for, and what your budget is to find the perfect one in the best material for your lifestyle. 

  • Updated November 6, 2021