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Ballistic Fabric - What and Why

During the development of our soon-to-be-released ballistic* TravTac tactical bag we have spent a lot of time evaluating and selecting the fabrics and materials before settling on the 1050d fabric to be used in its construction. During our research we found that there can be confusion about how fabrics are described and classified. I thought it would be helpful to share a few facts with our followers.

To begin, manufacturers of tactical and outdoor gear use a wide variety of quality and strength fabrics in the construction of their products. When they use generalized wording and trade names in their descriptions it can be difficult for shoppers to determine and compare quality, strength and durability. Since the cost of fabrics and materials vary widely, this is an area where gear manufacturers may make concessions to save money at the expense of strength and durability.

The most common reference to fabrics used in tactical gear is the d rating. The d stands for denier and is a unit measure defining the weight of the threads used in the woven fabric. It does not directly correlate to thread count or weight (as in how much the fabric weighs). So comparatively 900d fabric is stronger than 600d, which is stronger than 400d, etc.

The original specification for ballistic nylon material was created during WWII and calls for “18 ounce nylon fabric made from 1050d high tenacity nylon in a 2 x 2 basket weave” (source: Today the term ‘ballistic fabric’ is used loosely by manufacturers to describe a general type of fabric construction spanning a range of d ratings. Not all fabrics described as ballistic fabrics are the same. In general 1050d denier fabric is considered to be the strongest and most durable fabric for its denier weight.

In addition to the denier rating fabrics can vary by the type of backing and lining. Often a waterproof lining or backing will be added to the fabric. Remember that waterproof materials can make a product water resistant but still not guarantee it is waterproof unless special waterproof seams, zippers, and closures are also part of the design and construction. Water resistant products can do a good job of protecting contents by repelling splashed water, rain, and mud, but do not offer total protection from complete immersion or soaking.  

To be sure, not all applications require the superior strength, durability, and increased cost of 1050d ballistic fabric. For example, 900d fabric is used in the shell of our very popular TravTac small tactical sling bags. Still, I’m not aware that anyone ever complained about the fabric shell of tactical gear being too strong. Not only is the existence of 1050d ballistic materials a good assurance of overall strength and durability, it can be an indicator that the manufacture chose not to cut corners in other aspects of the construction too.

To be notified of the release of our new 1050d ballistic bag and receive a special introductory offer along with other notices and specials be sure to join our TravTac club.

*IMPORTANT: The term ballistic should never be interpreted to indicate or imply that a product is bullet resistant or bullet proof.