We make most of our bags with something called Cordura. We always have. And until something better comes along, we likely always will.
Cordura is the brand name of a very durable fabric. There are a few different types of Cordura, but in it’s most basic form, it’s a nylon.
Nylon is a synthetic material, meaning it’s not naturally occurring, like wool or cotton, but rather created in a laboratory. It’s also a polymer, which means that it’s made up of a bunch of the exact same molecules (called monomers) linked together again and again in a very long line. Think of a length of chain, a single link is like a single monomer, and when you put a bunch of links together, you get a chain: a polymer.
Cordura is made by weaving together a specific type of nylon: nylon 66, which is made of two monomers, each containing 6 carbon atoms, hexamethylenediamine and adipic acid, hence the “66.”
In this sense, nylon 66 is like a good, heavy chain: it is strong, durable, and made to last a lifetime. It also happens to be very lightweight, making it ideal for us in the carry industry (although it has many other applications, like zip-ties, or the nut in your guitar).
Cordura wasn’t always nylon 66, however. The name was first applied to a type a rayon, a different “semi-synthetic” polymer made out of wood pulp. Like many practical inventions, this rayon Cordura-type got its start in the military. During World War II, it was sewn into jeep tires to increase their puncture resistance. The original Cordura was simply an inexpensive, durable tire cord, thus the name: Cord – Dura.
Meanwhile, in the 1960s, nylon production was being refined and sophisticated, and DuPont, who owned the Cordura name, transferred it from its rayon polymer to this new wonder material, nylon 66.
But it wasn’t until the late 1970s, when scientists discovered an easy way to dye nylon, that its potential for consumer applications was fully realized.
This is when companies like Eastpak and JanSport began manufacturing their colourful Cordura daypacks. And although it seemed groundbreaking at the time, they were able to offer lifetime warranties for these bags, speaking to the durable characteristics of early Cordura.
Interestingly enough, despite their “heritage” brand image, neither JanSport nor Eastpak make bags out of Cordura anymore. When they moved their operations overseas, they chose to use cheaper, much less durable polyester, like the ones used by some of our other competitors. Make of that what you will.
These days, Cordura comes in many forms, but it’s usually designated by its specific “denier” type. Denier (pronounced Den-YAY) is a unit of measurement for the linear density of a fibre when woven together, which is less complicated than it sounds.
Denier is simply the weight of the fabric, that’s it, or more realistically, the thickness. It actually denotes the mass in grams of a 9,000-metre long single strand of fiber. It’s an old French term, and is based on a natural reference: a single strand of silk is approximately one denier, as a 9-kilometre long strand of silk weighs about one gram.
So the smaller the denier number the lighter and thinner the fabric, and in turn, the less durable. For example, 30D (30 denier) or 45D Cordura’s are great for lightweight applications, like jackets or jeans, at a cost of durability. You’ll also find this on inexpensive, off-the-shelf daypacks, those that don’t offer robust abrasion-resistance.
At YNOT, we use 1000D, one of the of strongest Cordura’s you can get.
Sure, there are Cordura types with higher denier measures, all the way up to about 1400D, but the added weight of these heavy fabrics simply don’t make up for the marginal gains in durability.
For us, 1000D Cordura is truly the sweetspot. It’s lightweight, yet durable enough to work for any sort of real life application, so the odds of wearing through one of our 1000D Cordura backpacks are low. Like, really low. You could go at with an industrial belt sander if you were so inclined, and it would still take you the better part of a tallcan to get through it (we would know, we tried it).
We make durable bags for durable people, and that’s why we use 1000D Cordura.
We stand behind the durability of our bags, backpacks and accessories. They’re truly built to last a lifetime, and that’s why we can confidently offer a lifetime warranty.
We just thought you’d like to know that.