Appearance of Bike Bag Fabrics

Appearance is our #3 ranked bike bag fabric property in terms of our estimate of its importance to the majority of bikepackers and cycle tourists. Appearance matters, for more reasons than you might first think…

In this guide, we will be examining four dimensions that contribute to a fabric’s appearance, color & design, light reflection, texture and structure. We’ll be looking into methods with which these appearance dimensions are categorized and compared. Overall, we’ll consider the range of fabric choices bag manufacturers can make to fine-tune the appearance of their bag designs.

A bike bag’s appearance is a marriage of two aspects, the one we are discussing in this guide, the fabric’s appearance, betrothed to the bicycle bag’s design. A bag design can be described as the coming together of its curves, lines, shapes, pockets, lids, flaps, hardware and more. Fabric is the substance through which the design finds its form. Together, design and fabric create the bag’s appearance.

Reasons Fabric Appearance Matters


Without a doubt, a set of bikepacking or bicycle touring bags will have a dramatic impact on the look of a bicycle. The aesthetic quality of a bicycle setup for travel is very much a collaboration between the bicycle and the bags. Bikepackers and cycle tourist who prioritize aesthetics, will often put quite a bit of thought into choosing bags that compliment and personalize their bicycle. We get to see some great examples of Campfire customers inspired bike + bag choices through our Make-It-Mine bicycle configurator.

Visibility & Safety

Beyond looking good, a bike bag’s fabric can also increase visibility and safety for cycling around automobiles. Prominently positioned bike bags such as panniers and handlebar bags do the most for dramatically increasing a cyclist’s visibility. That said any type of bike bag can help improve a cyclist’s visibility with the right fabric. In this guide we’ll consider fabrics that improve visibility during daytime, nighttime and both.

Even More Reasons…

Other factors, that cyclist might consider in the appearance aspect of their bike bag’s fabric are heat absorption/reflection and stain concealment. For international travel, certain fabric color might be objectionable in certain areas and subdued, neutral colors are a safer option. For all types of travel, weighing the upsides and downsides of how one presents oneself and one’s gear can be very important. Or put simply, shabby looking bike bag fabric is less likely to lead to a stolen bike, but you might not gain entrance at the gates of the local royals.

The Dimensions of Fabric Appearance

A fabric’s appearance is multi-dimensional. We’re defining and categorizing four primary dimensions, color & design, light reflection, texture and structure. Considering each of these dimension on their own makes them more approachable. For example, we can look at a range of options within a dimension. Consider the range of colors ballistic nylon is available in. It is much more challenging to define and explain the myriad of ways that these dimensions merge together into the appearance of a given fabric.

Color Including Patterns

Color is the most powerful dimension of a fabric’s appearance. Color has a deep hold on us, resonating deep into the subconscious. We describe colors, with words such as vibrant, muted, earthy, pastel and bold. The colors we choose for our bike bag say something about our spirit of adventure.

Now consider words that describe general pattern styles, geometric, floral, abstract, striped, plaid, camouflage and symbolic.

The color and pattern palette available to bag designers has grown substantially in recent years. For some bag designers, color and pattern are so important that it will guide their fabric choice. While other bag designers, guided by prioritizing other fabric properties, may need to work within the constraint of a narrow range of colors, possibly without pattern options.

Dying Processes

Printing Processes

Color Ranges and Print Capabilities of Top Fabrics

Light Reflection

Coatings can impact this.

Color Ranges and Print Capabilities of Top Fabrics

Wet and Dirty

Not a dimension but a condition

  • Color and Design
  • Light Reflection
  • Texture
  • Structure
  • Wet and Dirty

Use Factors Altering a Fabric’s Appearance

  • UV
  • Stains
  • Wear and Tear
  • Care & Cleaning