Nylon or Polyester…which clothing material to choose? Take your time and think through the pros and cons of each fabric before making your choice.

You see, if you are anything like most people, you would have had a hell of a hard time deciding which material to select.

The reason is one: you may not really care enough to know about the fabrics used to make your clothing or your backpack as long as it gets the job of keeping water away, is durable, and doesn’t wear at first use.

Secondly, it could be that you honestly cannot tell the difference between both materials even if you’re staring at them.

It’s OK if it took you a while to decide which fabric to go for; or even if you can’t distinguish between them.

The truth is, I was once in those same shoes before – there was a time I couldn’t tell the difference between them even if my life depended on it. That’s until I figured out a way to tell one from the other.

Also, the fact that both materials have a lot of similarities is not helpful especially to someone unfamiliar with the characteristics of each fabric. This means it would take someone experienced in handling fabrics to identify them at first glance.

OK, so, we have warmed to the primary objective of the article – to help you spot the difference between them easily, so you are armed with adequate information to make the right call when deciding which fabric to go for.


So, before we bite into the meat of the article, I’d want us first to take a detour to explain some of the commonly available fabrics used in the manufacture of gear carry-ons, backpacks, and outdoorsy apparels you may have come in contact with before.



Nylon and Polyester are synthetic fabrics made from petroleum residue. They account for nearly 65 percent of the global fabric production with polyester accounting for 70 percent of the synthetic fabric share.

The implication of this is that 3 out of 4 times, your backpack, hi-tech gear bags, your tents, and backcountry wears are either entirely made from synthetic fabrics or have parts with synthetic materials.

Now, both fabrics are made available in several thicknesses including 300D, 600D, 1680D polyester and 400D, 500D, 1050D, and 1680D nylon.

The ‘D’ behind the numbers is used to denote Denier the unit of measurement for calculating how thick the yarn is and by extension is also used to signify the thickness of the fabrics.

So, the higher the figure in front of the letter D, the thicker a piece of fabric is; on the other hand, the smaller the number, the lighter the fabric.

For this post, the focus will be comparing 1680D polyester and 1680D nylon.

Comparing 1680D Polyester vs. 1680D Nylon

1. The Water Test

Often the question in most people’s mind is: between them which one repels water more effectively? Is polyester or nylon waterproof?

photo of red, yellow, blue and green clothsNow, of course, that’s a valid question. You don’t want to be overly concerned when caught up in a flash storm about getting drenched or having moisture seep in to touch the gadgets you packed in your backpacks.

Now, on first thought, one would say polyester seems to handle wet situations better than nylon. But there’s a difference between waterproof or water resistant.

Well, this position – the idea that polyester repels water better – is as a result of the behavior of a single yarn when exposed to moisture compared to a strand of nylon.

The thing is a single thread repels water better than the same single strand of nylon. The question, however, is whether the same holds when these strands are woven together.

How well does 1680D polyester fabrics compare to 1680D nylon fabrics when exposed to water?

To answer this question, here’s a quick experiment anyone can do:

  • Take fabrics of the same size of each material, weigh, then immerse in a container full of water. Ensure both fabrics are completely submerged in water and allow to sit for an hour.
  • Remove the material and hang in the air for 10 minutes. Then weigh again to obtain the wet weight.
  • Compare the set of two weights.



You’ll notice that the nylon material absorbed over 40 percent of its weight in water.

Compare the result to that of polyester that absorbed about 22 percent of its weight in water.



The 1680D nylon absorbs nearly twice the amount of water of 1680D polyester.


2. Which one is stronger?

The 1680D labeled materials were initially developed to help protect airmen from bullets and other explosive shrapnel. Though it was found ineffective then, it has since found use in the production of a variety of products that include luggage, motorcycle gear, and upholstery.

pink nylon fabricSo, first, they are incredibly stronger than the other fabrics you’d find.

However, between both of them, which one is stronger?

Well, to answer that, I’d like to take you back a bit to compare a strand of each material.

A strand of Nylon is extremely and inherently stronger than a yarn of polyester when compared on a weight-for-weight basis. So this means that a 1680D Nylon is way stronger than 1680D polyester.

In fact, according to a tensile strength experiment published on the orientbag website, it was found that a 1680D Nylon is 1.4 times stronger than polyester of the same denier value.


3. Which one is more durable?

To test the most durable fabrics between them, we’d have to take into consideration several indicators such as:

  • How well the material holds color?
  • Is it UV resistant?
  • Does it resist abrasion?

So, comparing the fabrics against each of the factors will provide us with an excellent basis to determine which of them is more durable.


4. How well does the material hold color?

Nylon as we know already, tend to absorb a bit of water. Due to this water absorption, it does not hold color well.

However, Polyester, on the other hand, does not absorb any water; this ability enables the fabrics to bond tightly with dyes.


5. Is the material UV resistant?

Another fallout of the water absorption ability of nylon is that it fades quite easily when exposed to sunlight; it takes a longer time to dry when wet; and generally doesn’t wash well.

Polyester is known to be an excellent UV resistant material, washes well, and since it has a strong tendency to repel water dries quickly when wet.


6. Does the material resist abrasion?

To determine how well the materials can handle a rugged, harsh environment and handling, we’d have to look at the abrasion test of the materials.

gray satin fabricHowever, it is essential to note at this point that they are both military grade materials; so they are sure going to be a lot more abrasion resistant than the average material on the market.

That said there’s still a marked difference in how well both materials handle rough handling, scratching, and harsh environments.

Part of the MIL-STD-810G test suite, the abrasion test is a type of test conducted to determine the performance of a material in a stress environment.

The environment often mimics the regular, normal, everyday conditions in which the material is used.

Both materials hold well with a negligible difference after a 25,600 test cycle. This implies that you’d expect both materials to last for years when used under fair and everyday condition.

However, since polyester is tougher and more abrasion resistant when compared weight-by-weight with nylon, you’d expect the 1680D polyester to maintain its shape still, long after 1680D nylon may have succumbed to the degrading force of abrasion.

Other factors like ease of cleaning and mold resistance are so close between both materials to make a call. However, polyester is often recommended for making outdoorsy products since it tends to be more durable.


7. Finally which one is more flexible?

Our final count of comparison is to determine which of the two material exhibits a more flexible trait.

Nylon, without a doubt, is the more flexible material, this ability to stretch is as a result of the material to absorb a small amount of water.

Polyester is well known as a rugged, rough material with little to no flexibility.

Wrapping it up

Overall, one can see that 1680D polyester is best suited for the harsh outdoor conditions than 1680D nylon keeping in mind though, that both are heavy-duty, military grade materials.

It’s not surprising then to find that the materials are used in the production of a variety of products ranging from belts, watch straps, camp chairs due to how durable they are, their stability, and because they are high-quality materials.

Nick Davis

Technology blogs contributor, I love everything that's high-tech and super solid. While traveling, hiking and surfing, I make sure to put my gear to the toughest tests. Join me in my quest of discovering gadgets with superpowers!

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