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Travel Luggage Terms Unzipped Part 1 – Soft Sided and Semi Soft-Sided Luggage Fabric and Patterns

Travel Luggage Terms Unzipped Part 1 – Soft Sided and Semi Soft-Sided Luggage Fabric and Patterns

Are you in the market for some new luggage?  There are so many options around these days and the choices are all a little mind boggling. Here’s a few of them explained:




When shopping for soft or semi-soft shelled luggage sets, the word “denier” frequently appears. Denier is a measurement for the weight of the fiber used in the luggage fabric. A high denier count means a thicker material, and a lower one means a finer and thinner material. Generally, a higher denier means a higher quality and more durable luggage set, so consider looking for a set with a minimum of 600 denier.


Nylon fabric combines high-level durability, strength, and weather-resistance into a material ideal for protecting luggage sets from scuffs, rips, and other abuse. It is sold in a variety of denier, including fabrics with variations in weave, strength, and impact-resistance such as ballistic and ripstop. The synthetic threads weave together to form a strong, yet visually appealing, smooth surface. Nylon offers a higher resistance to abrasion and impact than polyester, but also has more elasticity (which means more of tendency to stretch), and costs more.

Ballistic nylon

Developed with the intention of repelling bullets and protecting soldiers at war, ballistic nylon exists today wherever people need durability – particularly in sporting gear and travel equipment, including luggage sets. Extremely strong and lightweight, ballistic nylon consists of nylon threads in a basket weave pattern, bringing a high level of puncture and tear resistance to your bags. Because the yarn is made of continuous fibers twisted together, ballistic nylon is smooth to the touch for a sophisticated, fashion-forward appearance.
Bags made of ballistic nylon are considered high quality, with the strength to withstand any beatings your luggage set might encounter. One of the strongest soft luggage fabrics on the market, it is more tear-resistant than polyester or even ripstop nylon, but also more expensive. A heavy synthetic fabric, it is difficult to dye, and is usually found in black or other darker colors. This type of material, because of its price and strength, might best suit the constant traveler whose often-used luggage takes a beating, although it appeals to anyone in need of long-lasting quality.

Ripstop Nylon

Ripstop nylon, much as its name suggests, prevents ripping and tearing of your luggage set through its close weave, interspersed with strong nylon yarns placed at intervals through other materials. This box-shaped pattern means even if your bag punctures during travel, the fabric prevents holes from spreading into larger tears. Ripstop nylon is lightweight, weatherproof, and abrasion-resistant, making it an excellent choice for lengthy or frequent travels. It comes in a range of deniers and colors, and tends to run at more expensive prices than most polyester materials. Similar to ballistic nylon, this material is perfect for those seeking durability and long-lasting protection in exchange for a higher investment.


A versatile thermoplastic commonly used in luggage sets, polyester combines lightness and resilience with stain and weather resistance. Frequently used in clothing, sporting materials, and as padding or reinforcement material, the woven threads create an easy-to-clean, smooth texture. Polyester has less elasticity than nylon, quickly springing back into shape if pulled. While this means the material is more likely to hold its shape against stretching, and may last longer than some types of nylon where pulling may be the biggest issue, the material is generally less resilient to tears or abrasions. Polyester luggage carries a reasonable cost, and provides excellent travel pieces without high-end prices. For those looking to save on cost but still in need of a quality material, or for travelers who fly less frequently, a polyester luggage set makes an ideal choice.



Elegant dobby fabric stands out because of its small, intricate geometric pattern, created with a special dobby attachment that attaches to a loom. The patterns can range from simple to complicated, but tend to be cheaper and simpler to make than jacquard.


A jacquard fabric incorporates an intricate pattern into its weave, and frequently finds a place on sophisticated and decorative-looking luggage sets. Jacquard also refers to the specific loom attachment used to create these detailed fabrics.

To follow in coming posts: Hard Sided Luggage, Types of Wheels and Different Luggage Styles

Contact now for any luggage tips for your next holiday: julie@juliewarnertravelplans.com