How to Choose The RIGHT Material for Your Backpack

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In the following article, we will be discussing how one should begin their packing their backpack for a trip, the various materials that backpacks are available in, along with helping make one decide the material of backpack they would be needing for their travel.

One can definitely relate to the quote, “Journey is inevitable. Baggage- optional”.

It very much is true that baggage is optional. But, once one does decide to pack some for their journey, a familiar crossroad simply crops up.

It is, a crossroad of indecisiveness, regarding what to pack and the kind of backpack required to do so.

In order to smoothly sail through this situation, the whole process of decision making can be broken down into a few steps and voila, one is all set to pack and start their trip!

The genre of the journey

The kind of travel one has planned, is imperative to decide what kind of luggage must be taken and also the way one’s backpack is expected to turn out. Travels can be broadly classified into the following categories, based on the destination and purpose.

If the journey has a lot of office or corporate related work then there is a “sleek and smart” look that one’s baggage shall boast of.

A casual trip to meet relatives or friends calls for the kind of packing that literally varies from nada to a little too mucho.

An adventure trip calls for a backpack to be able to hold together all types of items, be it sharp knives or cable and trekking equipment or, bottles of water and energy drinks to keep one going and most importantly soft stuff like clothing and bedding.

A suitable backpack for such an activity is one that can accommodate all of the mentioned items without harming the backpacker nor each other.

The final kind of journey is one to an institution or organization that, requires a different packing approach, for a daily usage.

Decide what is necessary and drop what is not

The process of choosing the right backpack begins with choosing what is necessary. The backpack must not be stuffed with anything and everything.

One must consider not taking repetitive items when on a trip. If that is unavoidable, then one must try reducing the frequency of repetition.

Not everything needs to be carried in a backpack. Only necessary items that one might use frequently or reach out to, in an hour of need, qualify as backpack constituents.

Once that is done, the next step is to segregate them into categories that define their characteristics.

For example, a broad categorization can be done on the basis of whether a certain luggage item is breakable or might leak or even be sharp enough to damage the bag holding it.

This is necessary, especially when going on treks or adventure trips, since, one cannot afford to damage the only bag holding together all those items of use, in the middle of nowhere.

Backpack-Material : What Material is Best for You!

Choosing right material for your backpack

Backpacks have been very handy for ages. They have been used by people of every age for various purposes. Hence, also evolving with time, based on the purpose of use.

Over the ages, there has been a significant change in the basic design of the backpack and the materials used to make them.

Backpacks are generally divided into four categories, external frame, internal frame, frameless and body packs. This division is based majorly on the kind of activity such backpacks favor.

Framed Backpacks

Those backpacks that have a frame, be it any sort, tend to provide more support to the back and not load the back much. It helps to evenly distribute the load all over the skeleton, without affecting the posture of the traveller.

Hence, backpacks with frames form a part of those used to carry a load heavier than about 14 kilograms to 15 kilograms.

The cost of such bags is definitely more than the frameless ones and the durability too is longer.
These bags are made of tougher material, to sustain load and abrasion caused during travels.

Frameless Backpacks

Backpacks without a frame are mostly used as day packs and for light travel.

They simply have shoulder straps attached to the bag. Some also have additional enhancements like padded shoulder straps, chest straps, cordage straps and a padded back.

They are not as expensive as those with frames. One can be assured that these daypacks are way lighter than those with frames. These are mostly made of polyester and are brightly coloured.

Today, we find that a single backpack is made of different materials to cater to the wide arcs of traveller demands. The materials being:


Cotton canvas has been used in the initial backpacks, used in the olden days. These were not waterproof and would tear sooner or later due to rough usage and abrasions.

In order to make them last a little bit longer and be made waterproof, cotton bags were coated with molten wax. Military duffel bags during world wars were made using this concept. But, there were many drawbacks even then.

The wax if not dried properly used to end up getting decomposed.

There was a certain level of rigidity, yes, but all of that wore off as soon as there was a slight abrasion on the surface. Even today, cotton canvas is used but not alone, there are many synthetic fabrics used to make these bags better.

The major drawback of not being water resistant, however, is a characteristic of cotton bags.

People who want just a fragile, good looking bag to carry items that are not too high up both, on the weighing scale as well as the volume meter, can take to using cotton canvas bags.

It is good for those who are mostly indoors or at the least, not exposed to harsh weather. Since such an exposure would significantly reduce the lifetime of one’s cotton canvas backpacks.


Leather usage, over the years, has been more of a style statement than for real purpose. Today, it comes as one of the most sought-after materials utilized to depict richness.

Keeping that fact aside, leather does come with a few advantages of its own. It is resistant to wear and tear caused by the weight of articles it holds. It becomes more flexible and accommodating over time due to continuous use.

When it comes to being water resistant, the extent up to which this property exists depends on the type of leather being used because leather, due to its permeable nature, allows water to seep in after a certain threshold.

Two methods, called “conditioning” and “synthetic spraying”, are applied to leather with the intention of increasing its water-resistance. In both these methods, there is another layer of synthetic material sprayed or conditioned into the pores, thereby, decreasing its permeability.

The leather is expensive but it definitely lives up to its quality expectations and is durable. There is a lovely blend of elegance and functionality in leather backpacks manufactured nowadays.

Those that don’t mind going that extra mile to spend on backpacks, to walk around their workplaces with élan definitely should go for these leather ones. They are available in various textures and styles, with well-organized compartments suitable for corporate use.


Polyester is a kind of a synthetic fabric like nylon. It is used generally, in making backpacks for students, both school and college going.

It possesses the ability to recover quickly when put through very dry conditions and when exposed to water.

It is rigid and lightweight. But, this material is way cheaper than its competitor nylon. In other words, polyester is a cheaper replacement of nylon. The reason for the same being that it wears down quickly and doesn’t last as long as nylon.

UV sensitivity is one area where polyester stands out when compared with nylon. Nylon is said to be more sensitive to ultra-violet light than polyester.

Backpacks made with this material do not degrade when exposed to continuous heat or UV.

Hence, the best audience that backpacks made of this material caters to would be those, who stay out in the sun more often and do not require to carry a very heavy load on their back.

Mostly, school and college going kids prefer possessing these bags. These bags are inexpensive and very easily available in many bright colors too.


Nylon is one of the most used synthetic fabrics, specifically in the design of backpacks. It is the next popular material after cotton canvas because it covers up for almost all the drawbacks posed by cotton canvas.

Nylon is resilient equally to wet and dry conditions. It has a long durability factor.

The material itself is expensive because of the manufacturing process itself is so but, it lives up to its worth in numbers due to the various properties it possesses.

It is lightweight, easy to wash, and resistant to wear and tear caused by abrasions. However, nylon does tear when punctured.

In order to overcome this drawback, backpacks use nylon with different sewing and weaving patterns like that present in “rip-stop nylon” and “ballistic nylon”.

In materials like this, there are threads of varying thickness sewn tightly together to avoid a rip or puncture, to spread and cause damage to a greater area. Nylon is used in almost in all backpacks that fall in the middle range of affordability.

The only disadvantage of those nylon backpacks that have a tightly packed structure is that this property makes the fabric less breathable, causing the items inside to remain moist, in case, already wet or soaked.

Cordura and Kodra are names used to indicate that a certain fabric has been made using the highest quality of nylon in it.

These find its utility in backpacks that are required to be durable, strong and well resilient to weather and chemicals. Backpacks made of Cordura nylon or Kodra, lie in the higher price range due to the additional abilities it offers to the backpack.

Cordura is the fabric chosen by the military used for their bags and baggage. Kodra is its counter-part founded in Korea. Due to its production cost, Cordura forms a part of most the high-end nylon backpacks.

Hence, if one is not looking for a big investment into backpacks, Cordura is not a good option. They could go for polypropylene or polyester or PVC fabric. Nylon package cloth is another good option for those going for borderline durability and quality.


Polypropylene is a kind of thermoplastic polymer. It is not as resistant to stretching and shrinking as its counter-part polyester. It is definitely resistant to water and it floats over water.

It has almost the least ultra-violet resistance and hence loses its color and texture when exposed to direct sunlight for a long duration. It dries very quickly hence, finds its use in bags and backpacks taken to areas having water bodies nearby.

It is one of the cheapest fabrics found that offers properties like being water and chemical resistant along with good mechanical properties.

PVC fabric

This fabric is the second most popular after polyester, in the markets. This is also not as costly as its counterparts.

It offers a plethora of additional features to the backpack, like making it tear and flame resistant, adds color, increases the durability and makes it waterproof.

People that want to carry their backpack to work, especially if it includes carrying tools and heavy items that would push the boundaries of an ordinary backpack, can look at buying backpacks made of PVC fabric.

These packs are available in varying colors at a very affordable cost.

They are no competition to the strength and durability offered by nylon alone but can put up a fair fight when compared on grounds of durability against the price paid.

One also needs to pay heed to the kinds of zippers used in backpacks. Metallic zippers do not let go of the fabric, in case it gets caught up between the teeth, thus, tearing the fabric.

The more preferred ones are plastic coil zippers that hold the contents well without tearing and damaging the fabric if, it comes in between.

In the end..

Concluding, we pretty much have strolled past all the possibly popular materials used to manufacture backpacks.

The only next thing left is to buy one based on your need and start packing! Just make sure you consider the pros and cons of every material and relate it to the primary usage of the backpack you have in mind!

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