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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralMy Fabric Testing ProjectMy Fabric Testing Project
New Post
6/28/2014 2:33 PM

 During my last term in college I took a class called “product quality assurance.” While the class was much less interesting then it sounds the one good thing to come out of it was learning the basics of fabric testing, as it turns out the school has a pretty decent collection of very expensive fabric testing machines that one does not normally come across in day to day life. The three that interested me the most were the tensile strength tester, rip strength tester, and a Taber Abrador (see below)

I checked with the professor and got permission to come in after class one day a week and do some tests of my own so I set about collecting the proper sized samples of various fabrics. I will admit my main priority was to put 500d and 1000d in direct competition and see who came out on top but I knew I should test some other stuff while I had the chance. On my own I was able to get together 500d and 1000d Cordura, Multicam Litelok (one of Duro’s new lightweight pack fabrics) Nylon Supplex (hiking pant material) Multicam NYCO (non-FR ACU material), Silnylon, and Spandura (cordura spandex blend). Wanting to get some X-Pac in on the party I contacted DaveC. I have followed his blog for a while now (Bedrocks and Paradox) and had noted his liberal use of exotic fabrics in his many DIY backpack projects and hoped he had a bountiful scrap bin. As I predicted he did have some spare X-Pac scraps in various weights as well as a few other fabrics he was curious about.

Many thanks to Dave for providing the fabric and being patient with me. Since he was the only one I’d told about the testing he’s been the only one who’s had to wait several weeks longer then reasonable for the results.

He provide me with WK40, VX07 and VX42 X-Pac, a hybrid cuben fabric, diamond ripstop and dyneema grid stop for testing.


The rip and tensile strength testing was pretty disappointing as many of the fabrics were simply too strong and the machines couldn’t test to failure. Also some of the results were odd enough as to leave me suspicious of the results (no one knew the last time any of them had been calibrated) but the abrasion testing (which was what I was really after) was very consistent leaving human error the main deviation. Abrasion testing took several weeks longer then I predicted since the tougher fabrics took a few hours apiece and I only had a few hours a week in which to do the testing.


For my results Rip refers to tearing the fabric perpendicular to the plane of the fabric (like tearing a sheet of paper). The machine makes a small cut and then a weighted pendulum swings down and tears the fabric. Tear refers to a tensile strength test, were the machine clamps on either end of the fabric and does a tug of war contest with itself. Both of these tests include two numbers; ideally it is preformed in the warp and weft direction of the fabric but since I was working with scraps I couldn’t usually identify which was which and just made sure I had swatches that were perpendicular to each other. The abrasion test results refer to number of revolutions on the turntable the fabric makes under the abrader wheels before failing. I deemed a small whole completely through the fabric a minor failure and a large hole (such as what would snag itself and tear open wider) a major failure. Since all fabric wares differently this is open to interpretation so I tried to include pictures to illustrate my conclusions. Results in parentheses after my numbers are other testers data when available. Duro Textiles has some of the most comprehensive fabric testing listed on their site of any fabric supplier I can find. Asterisks denote something hinky happened during testing that could have skewed the numbers, since I was working with fairly small scraps I didn’t have duplicates for most of the testes.

The pictures holding the fabric up to the window exagerates the damage but was done to illustrate the relative thinness of the fabric after testing.


Remember this is an absurdly small sample size and is only useful as a reference point. I tend to be mistrustful of anecdotal information since few people are consistent in recording conditions or context of failures (the classic example being that expensive pants are more durable because you are more careful when you wear them) but pure lab data is nearly as useless when taken at face value.



1000d Cordura

9.8 oz/yd^2

Rip: N/A (55/51lbs)

Tear: N/A (621/580lbs)

Abrasion: 4000 to minor failure, 4500 to major failure. (3240)

100% nylon, PU coating

I knew I was in for a long day when I found out the rip and tear testers couldn’t do anything to the 1000d. I do know the tear tester maxes out at 400lbs, so it has to be stronger then that. Looking at Duro’s tests, my abrasion figure was well within the standard deviation for their numbers.

"minor failure"



"major failure"



500d Cordura

7.1 oz/yd^2

Rip: N/A (14/14lbs)

Tear: 390/340lbs (453/348lbs)

Abrasion: 1800 to minor failure, 3500 to major failure (1955)

100% nylon, PU coating

proof that care must be taken when recording data, I nearly posted this claiming that major failure occured at 1700 cycles (when my notes meant 1700 after minor failure). I should probably make some cool infographic comparing the 1000d/500d test results, but I will save that for later (if ever).

minor failure


major failure



5.4 oz/yd^2

Rip: 9.7/13lbs (5.4/10.7lbs)

Tear: 340lb/290lb (154/199lbs)

Abrasion: 150 to minor failure, 200 to major failure, tested to 500. (1300)

100% nylon, uncoated, reverse ripstop

After what I considered promising results on the tear test I was shocked after the abrasion test. So shocked in fact that this is the only fabric I tested twice. It didn’t wear holes in the fabric so much as just eat all the filler threads leaving a network of tougher threads behind in a laughably thin lattice. Probably the most disappointing fabric of the whole test, I am changing my position from cautiously optimistic to openly disdainful. I’m not sure how Duro’s test resulted in such a high number (more in line with what I was expecting), it’s possible I got bum fabric but I wouldn’t buy any gear on that assumption.

it doesn't look so bad...


...till you get close


after 200


after 500, literally hanging on by a few threads.


Hyrbid Cuden

5.31 oz/yd^2

Rip: 11.9lbs/NA

Tear: 325lbs/310*lbs

Abrasion: 4600 to failure

150d nylon face laminated to an unknown weight of cuben fiber.

One of the most surprising fabrics in the mix. I’ve never played much with cuben fiber before so I was quite surprised during the tear test. Most other fabrics stretch by 30-50%  before failing (or maxing out the machine) and a few were slippery enough that the grippers on the machine would slide off before the fabric could fail. The hybrid cuben did not stretch at all, so when it suddenly failed all at once with no warning I expected to see tissue-paper like tear resistance numbers on the screen but  was greeted by a fairly healthy figure instead. Rip testing was similarly odd since the face fabric separated easily enough but the cuben would stay intact and simply delaminate from the face. This makes real-world results harder to extrapolate from the test, but I do have new respect for the stuff.

Abbrasion testing leads me to believe that the Tabor results are biased towards slippery fabrics, the face fabric was stripped away rather quickly (1000 cycles? I didn't record the exact number) and the cuben itself took a far more cycles to fail then what logic would suggest. Of course during the last few hundred cycles the cuben was thin enough you could have punctured it with a pinky finger, which reinforces why lab data should be taken with a healthy grain of salt.

rip test delamination


probably somewere around the 3000 cycle mark


you can read the note I wrote on the BACK of the sample through the cuben, which is now quite thin and fragile.


Dyneema Gridstop

3.5 oz/yd^2

Rip: 8.8/8lbs

Tear: 140/160lbs

Abrasion: failure occurred between 6 and 700.

140d nylon with a dyneema thread every .25” in a grid. Dyneema is 5% of fabric weight.

I would dub this the second most disappointing fabric in the test; with such an awesome fiber as Dyneema in the recipe I was really expecting more. As the pictures illustrate it seems that the Dyneema threads can’t really impart their impressive strength to the fabric itself, which merely fails around the dyneema. In the abrasion testing the lone dyneema threads were broken fairly quickly and the base fabric preformed like you’d expect a lighter weight pack cloth to. In all fairness its strength-to-weight ratio isn’t out of line of the other fabrics, but the price-to-durability (or hype-to-durability if you prefer) ratio is certainly a disappointment.

Rip and tear tests were the same story, dyneema threads held while the nylon underneath failed



early thread breakage


slightly more then minor failure, I was probably playing cards or browsing eBay when minor failure occured. Sue me.



Diamond Ripstop

4.8 oz/yd^2

Rip: 6.7/5.8lbs*

Tear: 170/300lbs*

Abrasion: failure between 4 and 500

Pretty “Meh” fabric. As you can see the rip test had some shenanigans in which the tear completely ignored the “ripstop” part of the fabric and just did it’s own thing, I expected the diamond pattern to deflect it at least a small bit, but apparently not. It is certainly more affordable then most of the other options, and is one of the softer and more flexible fabrics in the test. Gripper slipped off during the tear test, hence the *.

perhaps slightly more then minor as well, it did like the litelok and got threadbare before a true hole was punched through.



WK40 X-Pac

? oz/yd^2

Rip: 11.8/NA*

Tear: 300/260lbs

Abrasion: 2700 to failure

I couldn’t find the exact data on the WK40 fabric (feel free to chime in Dave) but it lacks the polyester backing of the VX fabrics. This makes for a fabric that is super slick on the inside. My estimate is a 500d face fabric.

since there is no backer once the face was worn away there was only the transparent PET film underneath.


VX07 X-Pac

4.9 oz/yd^2

Rip: 4.2/8.7lbs

Tear: 250/230lbs

Abrasion: 2200 till failure

70d Ripstop Nylon face fabric, Polyester X-Ply, laminated to a 0.25mm PET film, and backed with 50d Polyester Taffeta.

Similar to the hybrid cuben fabric, the slippery layers of the X-pack seems to skew the abrasion results as the Tabor has to systematically burn through each separate layer. All of the X-Pac fabrics were much more rigid then a traditional woven fabric, which I would estimate makes them more vulnerable to punctures then say 500d, which does have some give to it. Still a very cool fabric that I would like to work with, but the cost/benefit ratio is a little lacking when compared to boring old cordura.

The destruction process looked cool enough I'm posting the whole series:

200 cycles. the raised reinforcements caught a lot of stress early on


500 cycles. raised reinforcements worn off


700 cycles, face fabric wearing through


1000 cycles, face fabric trashed


2200 cycles.


VX42 X-Pac

9.3 oz/yd^2

Rip: N/A

Tear: N/A

Abrasion: 3360 till failure

400d Oxford Nylon face fabric, Polyester X-Ply, laminated to a 0.25mm PET film, and backed with 50d Polyester Taffeta.

See above, simply a beefier face fabric. Rip and Tear testers couldn’t get through it.

what a wimpy tear tester.


all three X-Pac farbics together



1.5 oz/yd^2

Rip: N/A

Tear: N/A

Abrasion: 160 till failure

30d nylon ripstop, silicon coating

I brought the last four fabrics on a later date after we had put away the tear and rip testers so I only have abrasion numbers for them. Silnylon was understandably flimsy on the abrader, but very useful as a point of reference.



? oz/yd^2

Rip: N/A

Tear: N/A

Abrasion: 260 till minor failure, tested to 1000

600d Cordura Nylon/Spandex blend (couldn’t find the actual specs but I do remember nylon being over 60% of the content)

It’s much harder to test stretchy fabrics on the abrader, in this case a “bubble” managed to form in the fabric from the stretch, exposing the area to increased stress from the abrasive wheels. This caused a hole to form fairly early but it didn’t seem to expand much and the rest of the fabric seemed to hold up all right. Stretch seems to be a double-edged sword in durability, it can snag on stuff a stiff fabric can slide off of but it can also stretch away from pointy stuff that would puncture a rigid fabric. Also this is perhaps even less representative of real-world conditions then the other fabrics since very rarely is stretchy fabric held completely taught and then subjected to abrasion, in an apparel context it can give and take quite a bit.



3 oz/yd^2

Rip: N/A

Tear: N/A

Abrasion: 245 till failure

100% nylon with a DWR

I’ll admit, I was hoping for a miracle after reading several separated references to the durability of Supplex-style nylon (mostly in reference to Rail Riders pants, but a few about 80’s hiking clothes). What I got instead was a decently performing apparel fabric none-the-less. Many of the cotton twills we testing in class didn’t even make it into the triple digits.




6.4 oz/yd^2

Rip: N/A

Tear: N/A

Abrasion: 600 till minor failure

50% cotton, 50% nylon twill.

While I did not try any 100% cotton fabric during this test we did test a low-quality 9oz cotton duck in class that only made it to 300 cycles on the abrader, so I am inclined to give the nod to NYCO in this case for durability. I’d like to find some NYCO work pants to compare to my Carhartts but it’s a hard fabric to find in solid colors.

still got quite a bit of life in it


I'll save the rest of my conjectures for the discussion, just wanted to get this published since I've been sitting on the results while.


New Post
6/29/2014 7:34 PM

You win the internet award for today.

Superb post.
I learned a lot.

Thank you for quality posts in general on this forum.

New Post
6/30/2014 7:55 PM

Awesome Fowler, thanks for doing this, and good to finally see the results.  ;)  Thanks especially for all the photos, very cool to see how the Dimension-Polyant fabrics destructed.  We do need a graph or table of this stuff.


A few notes on the fabrics I provided:

It's WX40, not WK (my bad handwriting, no doubt).  Basically the same face fabric as VX42 without the inner scrim and a thicker film. 

The 140D dyneema gridstop is the same stuff used by Gossamer Gear, and available from  Not a fan, especially given the expense at retail.

The Diamond Ripstop is from  Not sure if it's the same stuff used in some of the recent HPG stuff, but it sure looks and sounds similar.

The Cuben Hybrid is available retail from Cascade Craftworks (along with some of the heavier D-Poly fabrics).  At 40+ bucks a yard it is expensive stuff for sure.  The more common kind seen in packs from Zpacks and HMG is the lighter 50 denier face fabric variant (though now we have to wonder how important the face fabric is).  I've worn holes through the face fabric of this on a pack I made, but didn't come close to making it through the inner cuben film.


It seems that the scrim layer of VX adds a fair bit of strength (extrapolating off the VX42 v. WX40 results), which is interesting.  Thus far I've preferred the VX stuff because the white inner makes it easier to find things in your pack.

Cordura is great stuff, I just wish someone would come out with a version which was waterproof on the same level of the VX fabrics.  The water absorption/weight gain after cordura gets broken in, and it's ultimate failure to be functional waterproof under nasty conditions (wet snow, sustained rain, splashing by waves) is a deal killer for me at the moment.  If I ever move back to the desert that might not be such a bit deal (said after hiking all frickin day in the rain Saturday).

New Post
7/1/2014 12:46 PM

 Great post. If you do find any NYCO in solid color I'd be interested as I wear through my carhartts too frequently.

New Post
7/1/2014 6:58 PM

Delkancott wrote

 Great post. If you do find any NYCO in solid color I'd be interested as I wear through my carhartts too frequently.

"Earl's Apparel" makes some made-in-USA NYCO trousers I've always thought about buying, but the fit doesn't look the greatest and no word on how heavy the fabric is. Cordura front pants are my new favorite when it's not too hot (cabelas and carhartt both make some).


The MSR dromedary uses 1000d cordura with the heaviest PU coating I've ever seen. probably too heavy and sticky for a good pack fabric but we know it's waterproof. My fabric lady says that differant companies can spec out the coating however they want (which could explain why First Spear's PU coating looks so much better then a lot of cordura out there) so if a company wanted they could order a heavy PU coating or even a silicon coating (what I'm waiting for) and put it to market.

I reached the same conclusion comparing WX and VX, but the scrim backer is pretty weak on its own (tear and puncture wise) I think the slick-fabric problem I mentioned on the cuben is coming into play, but an extra layer is an extra layer, and the 400d faced VX came out the same as the 500d cordura from the rip test so the scrim and PET film at least make up that difference.

Dave- do you have a link to were you bought the WX-40? I can't find it anywhere and I'd like to pull the exact oz/yd figure.

New Post
7/1/2014 7:46 PM

Fowler wrote

Dave- do you have a link to were you bought the WX-40? I can't find it anywhere and I'd like to pull the exact oz/yd figure.

DIY Gear Supply used to carry it, but hasn't for a year or so.

New Post
7/2/2014 6:36 PM

Fantastic! If you don't create a chart, I'll do it when I get a chance. Columns I would add are:

  • cost per yard (all retail would probably be easiest)
  • total weight for a small item (like a Kit Bag)
  • total material cost for a small item
  • total weight for a big item (like the Ute)
  • total material cost for a big item

Whenever I look at a lighter material, the total weight and material cost figures are the final word. Ounces per square yard can be very deceiving. You look at a material and think "that weighs a third as much so it will cut the item weight by two thirds". Usually not the case at all. Small items, switching material represents negligible weight savings. The grid ripstop version of the Runner's KB weighs 1oz less than the 500d version. Bigger items that use more material can give you some weight savings, but the cost of the material becomes a much bigger factor.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
7/3/2014 11:50 AM

  Nicely done. FWIW , when talking to DP, about a hard use fabric they highly recomend VX42 and advice that the tight weave does cause it to test better than Cordura in many cases. Personally, I love the XPAC materials, and really like the Cuben we use as well. The only real downsides I see are cost and that you may have to do provide your own sewing. It should be noted that VX42 is heavier than standard 500D Cordura, so it does not have a weight benefit until wet. | sig added by EH... go check out Kevin's stuff!
New Post
7/4/2014 9:40 PM

Tru Spec does solid colors in a few of their pants  -  the TRU and TRU Extreme pants  -  in NYCO in a few solid colors, including OD, Khaki, Navy, Black.

New Post
7/19/2014 4:51 PM
posted for Evo8Dude:

Tru Spec does solid colors in a few of their pants - the TRU and TRU Extreme pants - in NYCO in a few solid colors, including OD, Khaki, Navy, Black.

TacGear makes NYCO trousers in OD and black too

Sorry for the multiple posts, but Arktis does NYCO pants in coyote and other colors too.....

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
7/20/2014 9:45 AM
posted for steamboatsystema:

The other fabrics I'd be really interested to see tested are 65/36 Poly/Cotton blends in ripstop and twill. The ripstop seems really common in a lot of "tactical" and BDU pant styles. And the twill weave is very common as well. I just keep thinking that I've got several pairs of Dickes brand pants and shorts, some nearly a decade old, and all are in totally useable condition. The only holes I know of in any of them have been from welding sparks and none have grown past the orignal size. Meanwhile in that same time period I've blown out 4-5 pairs of Carhart's. Your results with the NYCO make me think the cotton blends are the way to go for any kind of hard wear clothing.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
7/23/2014 4:49 PM
Evo8dude wrote:

Tru Spec does solid colors in a few of their pants  -  the TRU and TRU Extreme pants  -  in NYCO in a few solid colors, including OD, Khaki, Navy, Black.


Thanks for the tips, I have to say those swedish camo arktis pants are calling my name...The Kitanica backcountry pants are about what I'm looking for, just wish they were a little cheaper (I usually top out at $75 for a good pair of non-technical pants) I might just save up and wait for the next sale to come around. 

New Post
7/23/2014 4:57 PM
Evan: Do you have fixed and variable weights for the Ute and Kit bag? like what all the non-fabric components together weigh and what just the fabric all together weighs? penciling out comparative weights would be very enlightening indeed.
New Post
7/24/2014 7:44 AM
Love the post, gives great insights to the selections of materials chosen for durable gear. Love to see more on this topic and comparison charts. Helpful for us do-it -yourselfers selecting materials- thanks
New Post
10/9/2014 9:23 PM

What school did you go to? There are very few schools that even offer a degree in the textile field.

New Post
10/9/2014 9:24 PM

What school did you go to? There are very few schools that even offer a degree in the textile field.

New Post
10/10/2014 10:27 PM
hkri wrote:

What school did you go to? There are very few schools that even offer a degree in the textile field.


Oregon State University. Happened to be in my home town, didn't realized till later that it wasn't the most common degree. Started wondering when I realized that my professors had written quite a few of the textbooks available. 

New Post
1/18/2015 5:44 AM
This is really neat info...thanks for taking the time to do it and sharing it.

New Post
12/16/2015 6:50 AM

I just found this - it's fantastic, thanks for posting. 

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