When choosing a good travel backpack, it’s great if sustainable features are already built in. That’s because you want the world to stay pristine for many generations of travelers to come. But, what’s the best sustainable material for travel backpacks? How can you find a backpack that works well, will stand up to the tests of the road and not unnecessarily harm the planet? The answer isn’t easy to come by. However, with some thought, better solutions are available out there. The initial step is to ask what materials make a good backpack in the first place.

What is the best material for a backpack?

The simple answer to this is, it depends. However you want something won’t tear easily, will hold plenty of weight, will stand up to abrasions and knocks, and isn’t too heavy either.

Three fabrics fit within those specifications very well and make a great material for a backpack –cotton canvas, nylon, and polyester. Geek note: Of particular importance for backpacks is a material’s weight and strength (normally denoted by a label like 600 Denier, or 600D).

Cotton canvas is a more natural product, although does take up a lot of water in its production and can be on the heavier side if you’re wanting something that’s lightanddurable. Nylon and polyester tend to be used more often in backpacks because of their balance of durability, weight, and price, however, both are types of plastic. We all know the issues with plastic going on around in the world right now, but if you don’t watch this for a quick wake up call.

So, what are the best sustainable fabrics for backpacks?

If you’re wanting fabrics that will help reduce the amount of plastic going into the ocean or landfill, as well as use less water and emit less CO2 during production, then recycled polyester and recycled nylon are two great options for backpacks:

Recycled Polyester

There are now great polyesters made from recycled PET bottles which offer good materials for bags. They use plastic that would otherwise end up in the ocean or in landfill and turn into something useful. Depending on the size of the bag you’re getting, anywhere between 10-30 bottles could be taken out of waste and transformed into a companion for world travel. The Metrosafe X bag pictured below is just one option out there of many.


Most recycled nylon is made from post-industrial waste, which is mostly just offcuts from regular production. While this is better than it going to the landfill, at the same time it can encourage the factories to be wasteful and earn money on bad behavior. That’s why focusing on PET can sometimes be a better option, since it’s made from post-consumer plastic that’s getting a second life.

ECONYL, on the other hand, is a rare example of recycled post-consumer nylon (nylon-6) that stands up to a very high quality. Econyl takes nylon waste like discarded fishing nets and turns it into high-grade fiber that can, in turn, be made into high-performance bags. Case in point is the Econyl bag by Pacsafe pictured below.

So, if you’re looking for a travel backpack that performs well and does its part for the planet, do a little research. If you can find an option in recycled polyester or Econyl, then you’ve done your part to take a step in the right direction. Nothing is perfect, but there are definitely better options than others. Like your travel destinations, choose wisely and you (and the planet) will be better for it.

To shop bags made from Econyl, head here. 

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