What Is Cordura® Fabric?
We’re proud to offer true Cordura® fabrics within our impressive lineup of fabrics. Cordura fabrics are built to be rugged — they’re known for their extreme durability and are even used by the U.S. military. Today we’ll be discussing Cordura fabrics as a brand, their long history in the clothing and bag world, and what that means for your next sewing project.
What Is Cordura?
According to their website, “Cordura is a collection of fabric technologies used in a wide array of products including luggage, backpacks, trousers, military wear and performance apparel. Cordura fabrics are durable and resistant to abrasions, tears and scuffs.” But of course, this just scratches the surface of Cordura fabrics and why we’re so proud to offer them here at Sailrite.
The Cordura fabrics that we offer here at Sailrite are made from air-jet textured nylon or polyester INVISTA™ yarns. What’s the significance? INVISTA, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, is an innovative company known for its production of high-quality polymers and chemicals that are the building blocks of fabrics like Cordura. Only true Cordura is made with INVISTA yarns. This is a key component lending to its exceptional durability and rugged capabilities. Cordura offers a variety of materials on its website, ranging from ballistic material to wool, but they’re all designed to cater to those requiring a truly exceptional performance fabric.
Early Days of Cordura
In modern times, Cordura fabrics have become synonymous with durability, ruggedness and all-around toughness. If you look at a backpack, a pair of military boots or even certain pieces of outdoor gear, you might see the Cordura name. Having gotten their start in 1967, Cordura fabrics have celebrated decades of consistent quality and performance. What began as a nylon fiber had new levels of strength added to it through steady advances in technology — this would become the hallmark of the brand for the next five decades.
In the ’70s, Cordura fabrics were often chosen for workwear brands due to their enhanced tear strength and abrasion resistance. At the same time, a few enterprising brands in the adventure and outdoor sector noticed the many advantages of Cordura’s ruggedness. Brands like Jansport® and Eastpak® (among others) decided to use Cordura to make their backpacks which would be taken all over the globe in a variety of environments. It was at this time that Cordura 1000D air-jet nylon yarns became fully dyeable — bolstering the growth of the soft luggage market.
The ’80s & Beyond
It didn’t take long for others to take notice of the impressive qualities of Cordura nylon. These fabrics slowly made their way into everyday clothing items, beginning with high-quality Manhattan Portage® messenger bags. The use of Cordura fabrics as a bag material proved to be so successful that these bags are still created today. At the same time, Cordura also launched Cordura® Plus 1000D and 500D fabric, made with special qualities to ensure they were perfect for light and heavier weight bags, packs, gear and upholstery. While Cordura Plus is not around presently, over time this fabric has undergone changes to make it more lightweight and flexible and eventually transform it into the Cordura 1000D and 500D we know today. Cordura also commissioned the first coupled single-step texturing machine to create their nylon yarns in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the 1980s.
When the ’90s rolled around, Cordura entered a successful partnership with the outdoor clothing brand Carhartt®. This coupling meant that Cordura was added to Carhartt’s CORE outerwear line and launched the Carhartt Extremes line where Cordura’s durability would be put to the test and pass with flying colors! Cordura fabrics would continue to be used in many clothing lines and even in the United States military, where 1000D Cordura fabric was used to make combat boots instead of bulky leather. Things have taken off since then, and innovations have allowed Cordura to expand its offerings and color options. Cordura has been used (with great results) by Nike™, the U.S. Marine Corps and several award-winning backpack brands, just to name a few. And in 2017, Cordura celebrated their 50th anniversary!
Cordura fabrics have been constantly evolving and feature numerous lines, styles and material compositions. To give you an idea, here’s an overview of the areas you might see Cordura fabrics excelling in.
- Outdoor packs and protective outerwear
- U.S. military boots, packs and gear
- Soft-sided luggage
- Horse blankets
- Motorcycle gear
As we’ve explained earlier, Cordura is a high-tenacity woven nylon or polyester bag fabric that’s excellent for a broad range of purposes. Because it’s treated with a polyurethane coating on the back and a durable water-repellent finish on the front, Cordura fabric is often recommended in applications requiring high durability and water repellency. It gives the fabric a fantastic resistance to abrasion, tearing, mold, mildew, rot and moisture. Plus Cordura is quick to dry and easy to clean!
Some of our Cordura fabrics are also Berry Compliant. This means that they’re made in the USA and can be chosen for use by the United States Department of Defense. The exceptional durability and strength we’ve highlighted earlier make Cordura a top choice for the United States military when it comes to their gear, footwear and other outerwear. If you’d like to learn in detail about Berry Compliance, refer to the blog “Berry Compliant Fabrics: What You Need to Know” (300417XHT) for an in-depth explanation.
We should also mention that Cordura fabrics are measured by denier (D). The term denier refers to the fiber thickness of individual threads or filaments used in the creation of textiles and fabrics. The higher the denier, the thicker and sturdier the fabric will be. To put that into context, our Cordura 1000D is a more heavy-duty fabric compared to Cordura 500D, which is softer and more lightweight.
Cordura at Sailrite
Here’s a brief rundown of the Cordura fabrics we offer on our site. This is just a brief summary, and we recommend that you refer to our detailed blog “What Are the Different Cordura Fabrics?” (300421XHT) for even more information on these fabrics. It will also help you make the right decision when you’re trying to choose one for your next DIY.
Cordura Classic 500D and 1000D: The standard bag and backpack fabric, this air-jet textured nylon material is ideal for luggage, military gear, outdoor gear, duffle bags, backpacks, briefcases, elevated pet beds, protective outerwear. We stock two weights of Cordura Classic, 500D and 1000D, so you can select the right fabric weight for your project.
Cordura 1000D and 500D Mil-Spec: Designed to meet all the requirements for military specifications (DTL-32439A), Cordura Mil-Spec is tough nylon perfect for outdoor and military gear, packs, and any rugged bag project. It’s even solution-dyed for greater resiliency when exposed to the elements as it resists fading from UV rays.
Cordura HP: This 915 x 1220 denier fabric is the perfect mix of soft and strong. Made of air-jet textured polyester, HP is an excellent medium for printed backpacks as well as custom luggage, bags, pet products, travel accessories, outdoor gear and more.
We hope by now you’ve gained a greater understanding of what Cordura fabrics are, their unique history, and why they’re perfectly suited to excel in outdoor and rugged environments. Along the way, we've also provided a few helpful blogs to read if you’d like to learn the greater scope of all things Cordura. Outside of Sailrite, you’ll find Cordura products in a number of items from clothing to military gear, and the reason is clear. When you choose Cordura, you’ll be guaranteed toughness for whatever life throws at you!
Footnote: This blog was updated in February 2020 to include mention of Cordura Classic 500D.