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When choosing a bag for outdoor activities, it is essential to note what waterproof backpacks are made of in order for you to determine which material will suit you best, depending on what activity you are currently in to.

Each material has its own characteristics that may be beneficial for some activities, but detrimental to others. Below are a few popular examples of what waterproof backpacks are usually made of.

Urethane coated cotton canvas

Cotton canvas has been around for so many decades when it comes to materials being used for backpacks. You can see packs of the past made with the nostalgic material that is cotton.

However, we all know that cotton is not really a waterproof material as it soaks up whatever moisture it comes in contact with, such as when you place it on a wet ground, or if you are out in the rain, thus getting your things wet, and possibly damaging your electronics. That is most probably why cotton canvas backpacks are no longer very popular.

However, it is still in existence, especially among hunters because the ultra-soft material of the canvas makes it barely audible in the bushes.

To address the problem with the moisture and the absorbency, manufacturers these days line the inside of cotton canvas bags with urethane, thus making them resistant, although not fully, to water so that it can withstand the rain or moist grounds of the forest.

Urethane pack cloth nylon

Pack cloth nylon is characterized smooth, shiny, almost slick texture. Because of this, it can truly resist water and many other elements that you may come across when doing outdoor activities like hiking. Above its waterproof quality, urethane coated pack cloth nylon is also resistant to abrasion and even punctures.

Overall, it is a strong material that can withstand the wear and tear of heavy-duty use. The downside with this material is that with its great strength also comes great weight.

This is not a good thing if you intend to carry a lot of things for a long period of time such as when climbing, although material durability may come in handy in such rough circumstances.

Cordura and Oxford weave nylon

If your pack has a rough fuzzy texture on the outside, chances are it is made of this type of nylon. Many backpacks today are made of Cordura nylon because like pack cloth nylon, it can resist abrasion, but unlike pack cloth nylon, it is much lighter in weight.

The Oxford weave is the more puncture-proof variety that will give you what you need in case you need a heavy-duty pack that is waterproof and lightweight.

Ripstop nylon

More manufacturers these days are using this type of nylon when making backpacks for outdoor use. What is special and favorable about this type of material is that unlike many nylon materials, such as those mentioned above, it does not have the tendency to rip when punctured, thus the name.

Nylon tends to unravel when it encounters a tear, and so it tends to rip apart, causing further damage and rendering your bag pretty much useless.

Ripstop nylon does not have these issues because it is woven in such a way that any breakage point will remain as is without spreading any further, allowing you to patch any punctures if ever needed.


Lately, some waterproof backpack manufacturers have started experimenting with other materials such as polyester. The upside with polyester is that it is more resistant to degradation caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet.

With waterproof backpacks made of this material, you can expect the color and appearance to last much longer, and your packs will remain brighter and appear newer for longer. However, between nylon and polyester, nylon still wins when it comes to heavy-duty use.


Although not necessarily the main material of what waterproof backpacks are made of, Kevlar has been incorporated into some of the other newer experimental models that are made to resist tears.

Kevlar is a known material used in tactical gear, such as helmets and bulletproof vests, so you can expect backpacks that have incorporated Kevlar to be very durable and very tear proof.

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