Fabrics of Bicycle Bags

The fabrics that are selected to build a bicycle bag, work cooperatively with the bag’s design, construction methods and hardware to create the bag’s structure, feel, look and ability to withstand the rigors of bikepacking and bicycle touring. These days there are a wide and growing array of high performance outdoor fabrics available to bike bag makers.

In this guide we are examining the full range of fabrics that are commonly utilized by bag makers. We go into depth breaking down 9 key properties of fabrics and examining the subsequent advantages and disadvantages of each fabric when utilized on all the different types of bike bags that are out there. If you want to go deep with understanding the world of bicycle bags, learning about their fabrics is a great place to start!

Campfire’s Bicycle Bag Fabric Guides

Bicycle Bag Fabric Comparison Chart

Fabric Properties Relevant to Bike Bags

The plethora of high performance outdoor fabric options leads to a complex decision matrix for bicycle bag makers. Bag makers must determine which are the most important fabric properties for achieving the highest performance for their bag’s design objective and then compare all of the options finding a fabric with the best overall balance of the properties they are looking for. Durability, water resistance, structure and environmental resistance are the baseline properties that any fabric considered must offer. State of the art fabrics, are often chosen for their ability to perform sufficiently above baseline needs while reducing weight while generally coming in at a higher cost. The appearance, hand feel and maintenance characteristic of the fabric can often play a big role in the bag designers choice in fabrics as well.

The following 9 properties of fabrics summarize the key comparison elements that we use to compare how a fabric performs for a bicycle bag’s design. We’ve ordered this list with our estimate of the most important to least important properties to the majority of cyclists with cost as the wildcard in terms of the highest variability in importance. We’ve also left out properties that while relevant to other outdoor applications don’t have much bearing on a bicycle bag’s performance. Properties like wind resistance, down-proofness and flame resistance have little bearing on a bike bag’s typical uses.

  1. Durability: The overall ability for a fabric to maintain its integrity when exposed to a variety of physically imposed destructive forces can be summed up as its durability. The everyday use of bike bags imposes stress and abuse on their fabrics from a variety of angles. Bicycle touring and especially bikepacking can really crank up the intensity.
  2. Water Resistance: A fabric’s ability to resist water penetration or absorption defines its water resistance. Bike bags are exposed to water through rain, tire spray and even submersion during river and creek crossings. How a fabric repels and absorbs water as well as breathes can be measured through a variety of tests that are helpful for categorizing and ranking a fabrics overall water resistance.
  3. Appearance: the look of the fabric contributes substantially to the bag’s design aesthetics. Stand out elements of fabric appearance are its color, how it holds light, the look of its texture and how its appearance changes when wet or dirty, is it easy to wash and how does the fabrics look change with long-term UV exposure and use?
  4. Weight: Bike bags with lighter weight fabrics are important in ultralight setups where every gram matters in a cyclist’s effort to achieve the most minimalist setup possible. However, for the majority of cyclists, the relative weight savings gained from seeking out bike bags with premium lightweight fabrics is not that substantial considering their premium cost.
  5. Hand Feel: the resistance of the fabric and its texture combine to define its hand feel.
    • Resistance has to do with the weight, stretch and flexibility of the fabric as you push your hand against it while you carry it, mount it to your bike, stuff gear inside it and handle roll-top closures, zippers and compression straps.
    • The texture is simply how the fabric feels when rubbing your hand over it. To what degree is it rough, soft, slick, wrinkly, etc.?
  6. Environmental Resistance: Resistance to environmental factors like UV, dust, chemicals, mold and mildew is a key property in the performance of outdoor fabrics.
  7. Structure: The spatial aspects of the fabric’s functionality. It involves how the fabric maintains shape, flexibility, and stretch, impacting loading, organizing, closing, opening, and handling the bag both on and off the bike. This includes considerations of fabric form, additional support materials, bag position, and the mounting system, collectively contributing to the bag’s usability, appearance, and durability.
  8. Maintenance: The ability to easily clean and maintain the fabric is important for long-term use and hygiene, especially for use in rugged outdoor adventuring.
  9. Cost: Various performance factors among fabrics, most notable extra lightweight materials have significant costs that come with them, adding to the overall cost of the bag.

Fabric Terminology

  • Coatings
    • DWR
    • FCF Flourarbon Free Coating
  • Laminates
    • PET Film
    • PE Film
  • Thread
    • Thread Count
    • Denier
    • Weight
  • Water Resistance
    • Wet Out
  • Weaving
    • Basket
    • Ripstop
  • Other
    • Calendaring