Backpackers often wonder which backpack material is best – whether to go with nylon or polyester. In short, the nylon vs. polyester backpack discussion is moot: either backpack would suit your needs, no matter what you choose to carry inside or the kind of environment you want to use it in.
While nylon is a much stronger fabric than polyester, polyester is more stain-resistant and easy to clean. Additionally, polyester is more water-resistant and dries faster than nylon after washing.
When comparing these materials, some of the attributes you need to look at include durability, ease-of-care, shrink-resistance, flexibility, and resistance to wrinkling. Below are some of the properties of nylon vs. polyester that you should consider before choosing your travel backpack.
Nylon vs. Polyester Backpacks – Why choose Nylon?
First things first, what’s nylon?
Nylon is an artificial polymer, also known as thermoplastic, and typically comes from petroleum. Travelers commonly use nylon as a fabric due to its smoothness, minimal weight, and very durable nature.
Moreover, being a flexible fiber, it can be modified into any shape or design by merely adding a delustering agent to it during the molten stage of manufacturing.
Nylon as a backpack material is an excellent choice for several reasons but is not without its faults.
Nylon is very stretchable compared to other materials, meaning it can comfortably accommodate large amounts of luggage without breaking apart. Additionally, due to its excellent flexibility, the material can comfortably return to its original form after being stretched without any wrinkles or creases. Generally, when this material is stretched out, the fibers become thin and soft but still retain their strength.
Low absorbency rate
Nylon is impermeable by nature, so if water or any other liquid falls onto it, you can expect it to quickly roll off the surface and for the nylon to dry promptly. This property makes nylon backpacks the ideal choice if you’re traveling to a tropical area, where other bags made from absorbent materials may easily get soaked and destroy the goods you’ve stored inside.
Easy to clean and wash
In comparing nylon vs. polyester backpacks, one of the areas where this material particularly stands out is in its ease of cleaning and washability. Dirt doesn’t cling onto the fabric’s smooth surface, so it can quickly be washed away with some clean water or wiped down with a damp cloth. Similarly, nylon can retain its original shape and appearance after washing – though hot water should be avoided during the cleaning process, as it can cause wrinkling on the fabric.
Unlike other materials that may start to grow mildew when exposed to humid conditions and sunlight, nylon is 100% resistant to mold, mildew, and fungi, no matter where you’re using it. Likewise, it’s also resistant to insects, such as moths, as well as alkali in the environment.
Strength and resilience
Nylon is a sturdy material that doesn’t lose its durability with age; it’s one of the lightest textiles available while also being one of the strongest. This fabric also has a high strength-to-weight capacity and excellent abrasion resistance. It can retain its smooth appearance for long, and any wrinkles on the surface from daily activities can be removed effortlessly.
Nylon fabrics have excellent draping properties, though they may still vary from one material to another depending on the yarn size used. For instance, lightweight sheer fabrics of nylon usually have higher draping qualities (making polyester perfect for hiking), compared to medium-weight fabrics of the same material which may not be as effective but still drape quite nicely.
Most nylon fabrics contain “closed construction filaments,” which prevent heat and moisture from dispersing into the environment. While such fabrics may be ideal for winter conditions, they are not suitable for summer settings where heat can become too overbearing outside. If you store certain items in your nylon backpack during hot seasons, such as small electronics or perishable food, they can easily get damaged from the excess heat.
Easily destroyed by bleach
Nylon can melt when exposed to bleach, thus ruining the material. Nylon is also less resilient to the reaction of acids, which can destroy the delicate fibers. Therefore, you should avoid washing your nylon backpack with any bleaching agent as it can quickly damage the fabric; even bleaches that are “organic,” such as oxygen bleach, aren’t safe to use.
High affinity to dyes
When mixed with other fabrics during washing, nylon can pick up other colors or even develop some graying in the process. Moreover, the fabric usually retains dye stains permanently, which means they can’t be easily washed away with regular soap and water. White nylon materials are commonly known as color scavengers’ due to their high propensity for graying; they should, therefore, be washed separately from other fabrics. They also quickly pick up color and dirt from water being used for washing, which may be very difficult to remove later on.
The Osprey Packs Porter 46 or Osprey Packs Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack (they come in a variety of sizes, tailored for both men and women) are both top-notch choices for long-term or adventurous backpacking.
Nylon vs. Polyester Backpacks – Why choose Polyester?
Again, let’s cover the basics first: what’s polyester?
Polyester is a type of synthetic compound scientifically known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Nowadays, it’s commonly used to create textiles for backpacks due to its robust and rugged nature.
In regards to making a nylon-vs-polyester-backpack decision, one of this material’s greatest attributes is its ability to be molded into different designs using long, thin, and steady fibers. There are plenty of pros on polyester’s side, but a few cons as well:
Polyester is thermoplastic
Polyester is heat-sensitive by nature; this means that decorative shapes, patterns, and pleats can be laser-cut into the material permanently for aesthetic purposes. Furthermore, it’s an innately bright and attractive fiber that is easily modifiable for different backpack uses.
With proper care and maintenance, polyester can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years without wearing away. Moreover, once matted down, it won’t spring back and cause inconvenience like other materials often do. Apart from being long-lasting, polyester is also recyclable and thus safe for the environment. And even after use, it can still be broken down into a fabric and applied to create new material for another backpack, instead of being thrown atop a landfill.
Water and stain-resistant
In places that experience high humidity levels and frequent rain, polyester is an ideal material to use for a travel backpack since it offers a much faster drying time. You don’t have to wait long hours for your bag to dry to continue with your journey. It is also resistant to mildew that often grows in other materials when they are kept in one place for an extended period. Additionally, unlike other fabrics such as nylon, polyester is highly resistant to stains and is therefore safe to use in any environment – even those that typically experience a lot of wind and dust. Washing is also very easy, and you only need to dry clean the surface with a piece of cloth to have the material looking fresh again.
Soft on the hands
Polyester is also very smooth and comfortable to the touch: it has a natural, velvety feel that will make your backpack appear luxurious wherever you are using it. Plus, compared to nylon, it’s less prone to generating uncomfortable static electricity in arid environments.
Retains original shape even after machine washing
Since polyester doesn’t mix with dye from other fabrics, you can safely put it in a washing machine with other clothes. However, the best part is that unlike other fibers, it has excellent memory qualities and can retain its original shape after a thorough machine wash. It also doesn’t fade easily or lose its color even after long periods of use.
The production process is energy-extensive
Compared to nylon, creating polyester requires a lot of energy and the production process usually results in the emission of harmful greenhouse gases and chemicals into the atmosphere. Similarly, manufacturing this material requires vast amounts of water for the cooling process, as well as lubricants that can contaminate nearby water sources.
One of the main problems of synthetic fabrics like polyester is that they are non-porous, which means that in hot and humid conditions your polyester backpack may feel clammy and uncomfortable, due to temperature and moisture buildup inside.
Polyester should never be used next to any source of fire because it can quickly catch on fire, even with the slightest exposure. You should take proper care when wearing a polyester travel backpack in fire-prone areas, such as arid environments where bushfires are common.
Susceptible to oil stains
Even though polyester is resistant to all other types of stains, oil-based stains such as grease, petrol, and cooking oil are very difficult to remove from the fabric; in fact, they may require professional cleaning to remove.
The Hynes Eagle 38L Weekender makes for an awesome weekender or getaway bag: it’s flight-approved as a carry-on, has deceptively roomy interiors, and multiple ways to carry comfortably. (And… if you don’t know what a weekend bag is – hop on over to our weekender bag article!)
Final Verdict on Nylon vs. Polyester Backpacks
When comparing nylon vs. polyester backpack fabrics, it’s important to remember that each of these materials has its own unique properties that make them ideal travel backpacks for certain individuals.
For instance, nylon is naturally stronger than polyester when measured on a weight-for-weight scale. However, since polyester is a finer thread of fabric, it can easily be stitched at a higher thread count to achieve an equal level of strength.
Additionally, nylon is much more flexible than polyester because it absorbs a minimal amount of water during use, while polyester doesn’t absorb any liquids at all.
Nevertheless, this slight water-absorption means that nylon doesn’t retain its color well, so it can fade if one exposes it to the sunlight too often. On the other hand, polyester has stronger dye bonds that don’t get easily affected by UV radiation from the sun.