Nylon is a tried and true outdoor industry standard fabric that bicycle bag makers rely on for many applications throughout their bags. Nylon fabrics have undoubtedly been one of the most commonly used fabrics by bike bag makers over the years due to their very reasonable combination of performance and cost attributes. Nylon comes in a variety of forms from ripstop to Cordura to ballistic each offering a form factor and durability that is well suited to a variety of application in bicycle touring and bikepacking bags. While ultralight fabrics like X-Pac, EcoPak and Dynema have recently taken center stage amongst many of the bike bags we carry here at Campfire, nylon fabrics are still utilized as a workhorse fabric for sections of bike bags where rugged durability and cost factors are important considerations.

A Brief History of Nylon Fabrics in Bike Bags

The first fully synthetic fiber, nylon was developed in the 1930s by Wallace Carothers and his team at DuPont. Originally introduced to the market in 1938, nylon revolutionized the textile industry, first gaining fame as the material for women’s stockings. During World War II, its production pivoted to military applications, including parachutes and tire cords, showcasing its strength and versatility. After the war, nylon’s popularity surged in various consumer products, expanding its presence across multiple industries.

Nylon fabrics have been at the forefront of outdoor sports gear, throughout the evolution of the industry. Nylon has been widely adopted for use in classic bicycle bag designs following this same time frame. In the early days of bikepacking bags, nylon was the primary fabric used. As ultralight fabrics really came to the forefront of the outdoor industry, nylon continued to be deployed in bike bags where rugged durability and cost factors are important considerations.

  • 1970s: With the growth of recreational cycling and the development of bike touring as a popular activity, manufacturers began exploring more durable materials for bike bags. Nylon, known for its strength and lightweight properties, became a favorable choice.
  • 1980s: The bike boom led to increased demand for bike accessories. Manufacturers like Ortlieb started using nylon extensively in the construction of bike panniers and handlebar bags, often coated with waterproof materials to enhance functionality.
  • 1990s: Advances in textile technology introduced ripstop nylon and ballistic nylon into the cycling world. These materials offered enhanced tear resistance and durability, ideal for rugged biking adventures.
  • Early 2000s: The rise of bikepacking and adventure cycling created a need for even more specialized bags. Brands like Revelate Designs began using TPU-laminated nylon to offer superior water resistance and abrasion protection.
  • 2010s: The focus shifted towards sustainability and performance. Companies started employing recycled nylons and continuing to innovate with TPU coatings to meet the demands of environmentally conscious consumers and extreme adventurers alike.
  • 2020s: The trend continues with further enhancements in nylon fabrics, including lighter, more durable, and more eco-friendly versions to serve a growing market of cyclists who demand high performance along with environmental responsibility.

Bike Bag Friendly Properties of Nylon Fabrics

Known for its strength, durability, elasticity, and lightweight nature, nylon fabric excels in outdoor applications due to its quick-drying, mildew-resistant, and thermal-resistant properties, which can be enhanced for UV resistance and water repellency. Its robustness and adaptability, make it a popular choice for bike bags, capable of withstanding harsh conditions while securely transporting your stuff all while looking good and lasting for the long haul.

  1. Durability: Nylon fabric is renowned for its exceptional durability, characterized by high tensile strength and resistance to wear and tear. This robustness makes it ideal for products subjected to frequent use and harsh conditions, as it maintains its integrity and does not easily rip or degrade.
  2. Structure: Nylon fabric offers a blend of flexibility and strength, allowing it to stretch and adapt to various forms without losing its integrity. The texture of nylon, typically smooth and resilient, contributes to its ability to drape fluidly. Its form fitting nature and the resulting aesthetics are very notable in many bikepacking bags.
  3. Water Resistance: Nylon fabric possesses a natural degree of water resistance, enabling it to repel moisture to some extent, which is beneficial in damp conditions. However, it is not inherently waterproof and may absorb some water, although it dries relatively quickly compared to other fabrics. Often, nylon is treated with coatings or laminates to enhance its water resistance, making it a more suitable choice for outdoor gear like rainwear and bike bags where full waterproofing is desired.
  4. Environmental Resistance: Nylon fabric inherently resists damage from exposure to various environmental factors such as mildew, mold, chemicals and oils, maintaining its integrity over time. Additionally, nylon’s ability to withstand UV radiation and extreme temperatures further enhances its durability.
  5. Maintenance: Nylon fabric is valued for its ease of maintenance and cleaning, as it is generally resistant to dirt and stains, allowing for straightforward and hassle-free upkeep. It can be efficiently cleaned with simple washing techniques, and its quick-drying attribute ensures that it’s ready for use again in a short amount of time.
  6. Weight: Nylon fabric is notably lightweight, making it an ideal choice for bicycle bags. This lightness, coupled with its robust strength, offers an excellent strength-to-weight ratio.
  7. Cost: Nylon fabric presents an economically advantageous option, balancing cost-effectiveness with high-performance qualities. Its affordability, combined with durability and versatility, makes it a preferred material for producing a wide range of bike bags, catering to both budget-conscious consumers and those seeking quality gear without exorbitant costs.

Nylon Fabric Sub-Types & Their Usage in Bicycle Bags

Ripstop Nylon

Ripstop nylon is known for its distinctive crosshatch pattern designed to prevent tears and rips from spreading. The ripstop pattern incorporates thicker threads interwoven at regular intervals in a crosshatch design. Lighter yet durable, ripstop nylon balances strength and minimal weight and is ideal for weight-sensitive applications. While ripstop excels in tear resistance, it is less abrasion-resistant than Cordura. For added durability and water resistance, ripstop nylon is often coated with silicone, polyurethane (PU), or DWR.

Examples of Bike Bags at Campfire Utilizing Ripstop Nylon

Ripstop nylon is very commonly deployed in bicycle bags. It is often utilized as the primary fabric for the main body of the bag. It is also frequently used for various sections of the bag including…..

Cordura Nylon

Cordura, a brand name for a collection of durable fabrics, is renowned for its exceptional durability, resistance to abrasions, tears, and scuffs, making it highly suitable for high-wear areas like bike bags. Thicker and heavier than ripstop nylon, Cordura fabric balances weight with its superior strength and abrasion resistance. Its texture varies across different types, and to enhance its robustness and weather resistance, Cordura is often treated with coatings such as silicone, PU, or DWR, or laminated for additional toughness.

1050 Denier Cordura INVISTA Coated Ballistic Nylon - Black
Examples of Bike Bags at Campfire Utilizing Cordura Nylon
Ballistic Nylon

Ballistic nylon is a robust, dense fabric originally developed for military body armor and now utilized extensively in luggage, backpacks, and other gear that demands high durability. Thicker and more resilient than many other nylons, ballistic nylon is crafted using a specific weaving technique known as a basket weave that enhances its resistance to tears and abrasions. While inherently tough, ballistic nylon is often further treated with coatings such as polyurethane to improve its water resistance and durability, ensuring it remains a popular choice for heavy-duty applications.

Examples of Bike Bags at Campfire Utilizing Ballistic Nylon
  • Oveja Negra: Gearjammer (attachment points)
  • Revelate Designs: Hopper (bottom and back)
TPU Laminated Nylon

TPU laminated nylon is a high-performance material that combines the durability and flexibility of nylon with the waterproof and protective properties of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This lamination process enhances the fabric’s resistance to water, abrasion, and UV damage, making it ideal for outdoor and adventure gear such as bike bags, tents, and protective clothing. The result is a versatile, robust material that provides superior performance in diverse environmental conditions, meeting the needs of outdoor enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Examples of Bike Bags at Campfire Utilizing TPU Laminated Nylon
Further References