A backpack might seem pretty simple. It’s just some fabric, a couple straps, and a few zippers, right? Well, get ready to have your mind blown! There’s actually more that goes into making one than you may think.

Your backpack is strong enough to hold everything you need thanks in large part to how it’s all put together. Here’s what you need to know!

What Are Backpacks Made Of?

Backpacks are typically made from canvas, cotton, or nylon. These materials are the most durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear over time.

The full list of materials used to make backpacks includes:

  • Cotton
  • Canvas
  • Nylon
  • Rip-Stop Nylon
  • Ballistic Nylon
  • Kodra Nylon
  • Leather
  • Denim
  • PVC
  • Polyester
  • Polypropylene
  • Cordura

Cotton Canvas

Strengths: Sturdy, fashionable, retains its look and feel over time

Weaknesses: More expensive, less breathable than other materials, typically only available in neutral colors

Nylon

Strengths: Waterproof, lightweight, resistant to tears

Weaknesses: May be more pricey, less fashionable, stains easily

Leather

Strengths: Professional look, strong, lasts for years

Weaknesses: More cumbersome to carry, requires special care and cleaning, real leather is made from animals

Source: amazon.com

Denim

Strengths: Stylish, usually machine washable, affordable

Weaknesses: Can’t hold as much weight, not waterproof, dye may bleed over time

PVC

Strengths: Cost-effective, waterproof, more color options

Weaknesses: Gets dirty easily, less of a high-end look, not as durable as other materials

Polyester

Strengths: Affordable, flexible, dries quickly

Weaknesses: Sensitive to temperature, dye may bleed over time, not as lightweight

Polypropylene

Strengths: Easy to clean, lightweight, long-lasting

Weaknesses: May withstand sun damage, flammable, easily discolored over time

Source: helikon-tex.com

Cordura

Strengths: Almost indestructible, rugged look, waterproof

Weaknesses: Heavy to hold, higher cost, not as easy to find

Are Cotton Backpacks Good?

Cotton is typically mixed with canvas to make backpacks. This blend is a lot stronger than cotton on its own. Plus, it tends to look good and last longer than other materials.

So all in all, yes cotton backpacks are a good investment. Despite being more expensive than other materials, they’re stylish and durable enough to last for years and years.

What is the Most Durable Backpack?

Nylon is typically considered the most durable backpack material. It’s waterproof and able to withstand rugged terrains without getting damaged. For this reason, nylon is a wonderful material for outdoor use, especially when it comes to camping and hiking.

That isn’t to say other materials can’t be just as good. It really depends on why you need a backpack! For instance, leather and denim bags are better for everyday wear as they’re more fashionable and lightweight.

Overall, a well-made backpack is a good investment, regardless of the material. You would even do well to have a ton of different backpacks hanging in your closet at home!

How a Backpack is Made

Think of a backpack as one giant fabric puzzle. Each piece is made separately and then sewn together at the end. It’s an interesting process that requires expert hands!

Here is how a backpack is made step by step:

  • Step One: Paper templates are cut and used as a guide during sewing.
  • Step Two: Rolls of fabric called bolts are laid out on a cutting table.
  • Step Three: The fabric is molded and pressed to fit onto the paper templates.
  • Step Four: Each individual part of the backpack is stitched together using a sewing machine.
  • Step Five: Extra features such as buckles and zippers are added to the backpack.
  • Step Six: The individual pieces are brought together into the final backpack design.
  • Step Seven: Any loose threads or tears are fixed. The backpacks are also cleaned during this stage.
  • Step Eight: The backpacks are packaged and shipped to retail stores where they can be purchased by consumers.
  1. Step 1

    Cut Paper Templates

    The first step is to cut paper templates of each backpack part. These are essentially the blueprints or the frame for the manufacturer to use as they’re sewing the backpacks together later.

  2. Step 2

    Cut the Fabric

    Giant rolls of fabric (also known as bolts) are rolled out onto a table. This fabric can be cotton, canvas, leather, or some other material in a variety of colors and patterns.

  3. Step 3

    Press & Mold the Fabric

    Once the fabric is laid out, it’s cut to fit onto the paper templates from Step One. This is done using premade molds and a stamping press.

  4. Step 4

    Sewing the Fabric

    Each piece of the backpack is stitched together separately. This includes the front pocket, straps, zippers, and grab handle that’s at the top of some backpacks.

  5. Step 5

    Add the Buckles

    At this point, the manufacturer will add any extra details to the fabric, such as the adjustable buckles on the straps. Additionally, the custom design is printed, whether it’s a brand name, like JanSport, or a cute cartoon character.

  6. Step 6

    Bring the Pieces Together

    Once all of the individual pieces are sewn separately, they’re brought together with the same sewing machine. All that fabric now looks like a backpack!

  7. Step 7

    Detailing

    Tweezers are used to pull out any loose threads in the fabric. The backpack is also cleaned and prepped for packaging.

  8. Step 8

    Packaging

    The backpacks are now ready to go! They’re placed in cellophane wrap and shipped in giant boxes to retail stores like Target or Walmart. You will then see them on shelves or hanging on racks, especially around back-to-school season!

Do you want to see the entire process in action? Check out this video!

How Much Weight Can a Backpack Hold?

Backpacks made from a durable material like cotton canvas or nylon can hold about 30 to 40 pounds before they’re at risk of tearing. However, you should always carry less weight in your bag. A heavy backpack could hurt your back, neck, and shoulders, especially after prolonged use.

How Heavy is Too Heavy for a Backpack?

You should carry only 10% of your body weight inside of a backpack. So if you weigh 100 pounds, aim to carry about 10 pounds. Someone who weighs 300 pounds, on the other hand, can safely carry 30 pounds on their back.

This chart helps break it all down!

The more you weigh, the more you can carry in your backpack. Still, that isn’t to say you should overfill your bag. Try to carry only what you need to get through the day!

What Should I Look for When Buying a Backpack?

You should do your homework before buying a backpack. There are a ton of options out there, and it’s important to find one that will last you for a long time.

Pay attention to:

Appearance

Backpacks are often another part of your outfit. With that in mind, you should choose one that looks good and works with your personal style.

Weight tolerance

Your backpack should hold at least 10 pounds comfortably. It’s important that you find one that’s made from a durable material like cotton canvas, leather, or cordura.

Comfort

Make sure the backpack you choose is lightweight and easy to carry. Ultimately, the straps shouldn’t feel tight on your shoulders, and your back shouldn’t hurt after carrying the bag around all day.

Size

Look for a backpack that’s not so big that it hits your butt, but isn’t so small that you can only fit a pen and notebook inside. It should be just the right size for everything you need.

Number of pockets

A good backpack will have convenient zippered pockets. This makes it easier for you to find what you need without having to dig around at the bottom of the bag.

Protection

Who wants to worry about their backpack getting damaged? The best bags are waterproof and won’t be discolored by the sun.

Price

It’s important that the backpack works within your budget. If it comes down to a few extra dollars for a higher quality, don’t be shy about spending. After all, you’re going to use your backpack all the time!

The Bottom Line

Whether it’s made from waterproof nylon, stylish leather, or classic canvas, a backpack is an awesome bag to have in your wardrobe. You’ll use it for school, work, the gym, and epic hiking adventures. Take some time to look for one that’s right for you!

References

Lowenthal, R. How Are Backpacks Made? Retrieved from,
https://thegorgeousmom.com/how-are-backpacks-made

Rose, L. What Are Backpacks Made Of: An Informative Guide. Retrieved from,
https://bagcottage.com/what-are-backpacks-made-of/

Sewing is Cool. What Fabric Are Backpacks Made Of? 9 Backpack Fabric Options. Retrieved from,
https://sewingiscool.com/what-fabric-are-backpacks-made-of/

Cult of Carry. (2019, January 16). 9 Types of Materials That Bags Are Made Of. Retrieved from,
https://cultofcarry.org/types-of-materials-that-bags-are-made-of/

Mahil Leather. Leather VS Nylon Backpacks. Retrieved from,
https://mahileather.com/blogs/news/leather-vs-nylon-backpacks

Pins, T. Wellman, K. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. (July 2020). Is Your Backpack Too Heavy? Retrieved from,
https://uihc.org/health-topics/your-backpack-too-heavy

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.