Primer: CORDURA Fabric Explained

In tandem with our new contest this month — The CORDURA® brand ‘Search for the Most Durable Person’ — we are getting inquires along the lines of “I have seen the CORDURA name for years. . . but what is it, exactly?” Good question. CORDURA is one of those omnipresent brands in the outdoors space that most people recognize and might associate with items like backpacks or duffel bags. But what it is underlying all that might remain somewhat of a mystery.

cordura closeup.jpg

Close-up look at weave of CORDURA fabric

In short, CORDURA is simply a hybrid fabric. Its tough nylon blend, as seen prominently on backpacks and soft-side luggage, is most known, though CORDURA comes in several iterations, including nylon, poly, and cotton hybrids. CORDURA is used in everything from military uniforms to bike-messenger bags to spelunking suits. A new type, used by Timbuk2 in a bag, mimics the look and feel of denim.

The decades-old brand is owned by INVISTA, which also manufactures Coolmax, Lycra, Thermolite, and other known commodity performance fabrics. As our contest illustrates, CORDURA fabric is known for its toughness and durability. The company cites a “superior strength-to-weight ratio over most fabrics on the market.”

cordura images.jpg

Splay of CORDURA-based products

CORDURA is used to make products by dozens of outdoors gear companies, which employ CORDURA fabric types from Ultra Light Weight Nylon Ripstop to Heavy Weight ballistic nylon.

So there’s your primer! More about the fabric is here in the FAQ section of the company’s website. Be sure to sign up for the CORDURA contest on GearJunkie, our ‘Search for the Most Durable Person,’ which runs through the month of May!

Posted by Jesus Ned - 05/16/2011 10:35 AM

Thanks for the post Gear Junkie. I know that space is limited to describe the fabric in detail, but the article and links left me with more questions regarding cordura (which even their website does not answer). What are the percentages for nylon “blends”? How do you establish denier weight with blended fabrics? How are the strands/fabrics manufactured and where? What are the raw manufacturing materials? Is it recyclable? What are its physical characteristics, i.e. tensile strenght, melting point etc., etc.? What is the max. manufactured width? – just curious

Posted by Keith Goetzman - 05/18/2011 09:16 AM

There are other important questions to ask about Cordura: Like who owns the brand, and where does your money go?

Posted by Dan Cruikshank - 05/18/2011 10:44 AM

The main thing about Cordura Brand nylon that makes it stronger is that they use high-tenacity yarns, which are stretched as they are extruded, making the yarns themselves much stronger than standard nylon. Check out the attached video to see what happens to a Granite Gear pack made with Cordura Brand fabrics vs packs made with standard nylon:

Posted by Editor - 05/19/2011 03:41 PM

Jesus – There’s lots more info on this page — — under the “Fabrics by Market” tab. You can geek out on Cordura’s filaments, “qualifying fibers,” and lots more there.

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