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A very common misconception about waterproof and water resistant backpacks is that they are one and the same. The truth is that although they offer a certain degree of protection against water and other external sources of moisture, these are two different classifications.

To make this concept a little clearer for you as a potential owner of a waterproof or water resistant backpack you have to ask the question: What are waterproof bags made of and why is this important to know?

The varying degrees of water resistance is mostly due to what the backpack’s main material is. Here we will discuss the four major backpack fabric types and how much water resistance they offer.

What are waterproof backpacks made of?

Cotton canvas

This type of backpack material has been used for over 100 years and has remained unchanged through the years. Cotton canvas is a heavy, roughly weaved cotton material that has some water repelling ability.

Backpacks that are made using this material are not waterproof but can repel very light amounts of water. Cotton canvas is mostly used by the military due to its durable nature, but if you are considering a backpack made of cotton canvas, make sure to buy a rain cover if you want to keep your things dry.

Pack cloth nylon

Pack cloth nylon used to be the most popular fabric type used for backpacks. This fabric is made from a smooth nylon material that is threaded in an equal diameter in both vertical and horizontal directions to create a water-repelling surface.

The outcome of this technique is a shiny and slick material that does a great job of repelling water; aside from being waterproof a pack cloth nylon backpack is also abrasion resistant, and can even be puncture resistant if made thick enough.

If you are considering purchasing a backpack made of this material, it is good to know that these types of backpacks are heavier and bulkier compared to other nylon-based backpacks.

Ripstop nylon

This type of fabric is quickly gaining popularity in the market. Ripstop nylon is a backpack material that can be identified easily because of its unique grid pattern made by the heavy threads sewn together to fill all directions every quarter of an inch.

The heavy threads allow the backpack to maintain its shape and still hold your belongings, even after it has suffered a tear or a puncture. This is a definite advantage when you’re backpacking in remote areas where a backpack repair isn’t easy to do.

Other advantages include its waterproof readiness and its light weight. Although it won’t disintegrate when punctured, a rip-stop nylon backpack isn’t as puncture proof as the pack cloth nylon backpack.

Condura nylon

Condura nylon was first introduced to the market by DuPont. It is an air-treated fabric made of nylon and can be identified by its rough and fuzzy exterior with its interior also a little rough to the touch. Condura nylon is the most popular type of backpack material used today.

Although backpacks made with this material aren’t considered waterproof, their biggest advantages are abrasion resistance and its lightweight nature. This only refers to the basic Condura nylon backpack, but the coated Condura fabric actually offers good water resistance.

Other parts of a waterproof backpack

The material used for the backpack plays the biggest role in its capability of being waterproof, but this isn’t the only part of the backpack you should look at. Here are three other parts that make a difference in backpacks.

  • Stitching: The more stitches in an inch the less likely they are capable of holding heavy weight. Stick to backpacks with just 8 to 10 stitches to be on the safe side
  • Zippers: You will be zipping and unzipping your backpack often so make sure the zippers are in good condition and do not get stuck often
  • Rain covers: Although not all backpacks come with rain covers it’s a great idea to invest in one. This is especially important for backpacks that are just water resistant, and not waterproof


The materials will differ and they will offer a different degree of water resistance. Think well about your uses for your backpack and where you’ll be using it because this will help determine the best type of backpack material that will suit your needs.

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