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White Mountain Backpacks™
619 Plenty Road, Preston,
Melbourne VIC 3072 Australia
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Backpack Construction

Backpack Material

What is Cotton Canvas?

The earliest examples of backpack fabrics used were cotton canvas waterproofed with a heavy wax coating. While these backpacks displayed excellent weatherproofing characteristics the fabrics were heavy, prone to abrasion and when stored wet would rot. Although there are very few canvas backpacks manufactured today, there are some backpacks made from technologically advanced canvas materials, which promote the combination of synthetic materials to improve the strength and water resistance of the canvas fabric. However, backpacks made from cotton canvas in general are not usually waterproof. Due to a lack of waterproofing and a ready ability to absorb water or moisture, especially in less expensive materials, cotton canvas is not a preferred backpack material. Its main advantage is that it is generally inexpensive and backpacks made of this material are cheaper as a result. This does not suggest there are not better canvas fabrics available, but these technologically advanced fabrics are often combined with synthetic fabrics in production and are generally expensive and inherently heavier.

What is Textured Nylon Material?

Textured Nylon came to replace cotton canvas, as the characteristic of the Cordura and Kodra material is the rough fuzzy texture similar to the feel of canvas material. These materials are some of the most sort after and popular fabrics in use today for high quality backpacks. The main advantages of Cordura or Kodra fabric are its abrasion resistance and the fact it is relatively lightweight when compared to canvas or canvas synthetic blended materials. Both Polyurethane coated Kodra and Cordura are considered waterproof. The Kodra material used in the production of White Mountain™ backpacks was originally sourced from KOLON Industries, Inc. in Korea. However Kodra is now no longer a trademark belonging to KOLON Industries, Inc. and the name Kodra is now used for any textured nylon manufactured by numerous factories in Asia, which means the quality can no longer be easily substantiated. For this reason all new White Mountain™ backpacks will be manufactured with and labeled Invista Cordura material.

What is the Cordura Brand Material?

Cordura is the brand name for a collection of fabrics used in a wide array of products including luggage, backpacks, pants, military wear and performance apparel. Cordura fabrics are known for their durability and resistance to abrasions, tears and scuffs. Originally developed and registered as a trademark by E.I. duPont deNemours and Company (DuPont) in 1929, it is now the property of Invista (a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc.). Cordura fabrics are made using yarns or fibres from Invista, and are made using 100% synthetic fibre or in blends with cotton or other natural fibres. All qualified CORDURA® fabrics have been validated to ensure they meet the durability and quality standards of the CORDURA® brand. INVISTA works closely with its worldwide authorized mills and converters to ensure consistency of fabric quality and fitness for the intended use.

What is Pack Cloth Polyester?

Polyester has a higher resistance to ultra-violet (UV) degradation than Nylon, but overall, Nylon or Rip-Stop Nylon based products are still a stronger material, and although Nylon degrades faster than polyester, it degrades to about the same strength. Polyester pack cloth feels similar to Nylon, however advantage of Polyester over Nylon is that it is cheaper substantially material. This has led to Polyester and textured Polyester materials to dominate the low end of the world market.

What is Pack Cloth Nylon 6, Nylon6-6, and Rip-Stop Nylon?

Both Nylon 6-6 and Nylon 6 have similar elasticity, however, both differ in their melting points. Nylon 6 melts at 216 degrees Celsius and Nylon 6-6 at 263 degrees Celsius, making Nylon 6-6 the preferred Nylon for temperature performance products. Both Nylon 6 and 6-6 allow easy dyeing and washing and are a chemically stable product. Nylon 6-6 is preferred over 6 for making backpacks because of its higher strength and toughness. Nylon 6 is primarily used in the textile industry for making clothing, ropes, threads, nets and garments while Nylon 6-6 is used for backpacks, tire ropes, gear wheels, friction bearings and plug parts.

Rip-Stop Nylon 6-6 has a large market acceptance replacing Nylon 6 and Nylon 6-6, and is easy to distinguish from Nylon by its regular grid pattern of heavy threads sewn in the warp and weft of the fabric at regular close intervals. The heavier threads prevent further ripping if the backpack is punctured or torn. Nylon when torn has a tendency to continue ripping under slight pressure, and if you are deep in the backwoods with no thread, dental floss, or duct tape, a torn pack can present an unwelcome challenge. The Rip-Stop Nylon 6-6 design can provide extra protection to help ensure that your pack will not disintegrate from a small tear. The main advantages of Nylon material is the strength, a ready acceptance of waterproofing, and it’s relatively light weight.

What Stitching is used in backpack manufacturing?

You'll find most backpacks are sewn at 6 to 10 stitches per inch. The general consensus here is that, if the stitching is increased much beyond 10 stitches per inch the strength of the fabric begins to degrade. Anything below 6 stitches per inch begins to become suspect in terms of strength. Be aware that backpacks are made of deniers much higher than you'll find in a tent or sleeping bag, and close stitching can actually damage the threads used in the backpack fabric itself. Another factor is the twin stitching method, where all stitching is doubled stitched for added strength, including the zipper attachment to the backpack. Constant zipper use on less expensive backpacks with single stitching can cause the zippers to be pulled from the backpack, an all too common problem. Note that there is a direct correlation between thread type and size, material type and weight, needle size, and stitch type in determining the stitching method.

What Zippers are used in backpack manufacturing?

The majority of backpack manufacturers and White Mountain™ use plastic "coil" zippers on their backpacks. A coil zipper is basically a continuous piece of plastic that's been formed into a coil shape and sewn onto a piece of fabric webbing. The main advantage of the coil zipper is that if fabric gets caught in the teeth, the fabric can be gently pulled out without tearing. This is certainly a consideration since your pack will sometimes be crammed with clothing, a sleeping bag, or nylon bivvy bags.

Some backpacks may have regular solid tooth zippers, and these are certainly okay as well. These zippers won't let go of fabric that easily, but size for size, they're stronger than coil zippers.

Other really inexpensive backpacks may use metal tooth zippers in either steel or aluminium, which can either rust or corrode badly when exposed to rain, sea air, or worse salt water, and are not recommended.

There is also Water Repellent Zippers for backpacks available, sometimes referred to as waterproof zippers. However choose carefully as these zippers generally have installation restrictions, some are subject to damage from heavy items placed on the zip, require careful use to avoid damage and misalignment of zipper teeth (sharp bending or twisting should be avoided), and some are also prone to damage by heat, humidity, and direct sunlight.

Fully waterproof zippers are available, but not generally used in backpack production as the zipper cost would be greater than the retail price of the backpack.

What Thread is used in backpack construction?

The thread used in the manufacture of backpacks is an important consideration, a factor that is often overlooked and frequently not mentioned. Many less expensive backpacks made from quite acceptable backpack fabrics, but come apart under load simply because an inappropriate thread was incorporated into the finished product.

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