Sustainable foam-core

2023 ULTIMATE Guide for Backpack Material



The humble backpack. Also known as a rucksack, knapsack, or bookbag, the backpack is thought to have been a staple in our closets we could walk. 

Two main categories of backpack material

Backpacks are primarily divided into two categories: with a frame and frameless.

Frameless backpacks

Frameless backpacks are the most simple design and are found in a variety of uses, sizes, and materials. They consist of one main pocket, connected to two shoulder straps. Various performance and aesthetic enhancements, such as extra pockets, attachment points, hip and chest straps to offset movement, padding, and ventilation. The openings can be as simple as a pull closure with cordage, magnets, webbing, or as technical as a roll-top for waterproofing uses. These frameless backpacks can be made in a variety of synthetic and natural materials such as nylon, leather, canvas, tarpaulin, and more. You can find frameless backpacks styles in luxury stores, fast fashion retailers, and outdoor stores, because of the versatility. 

Backpacks with a frame

Backpacks with a frame can have external or internal frames. External frame backpacks are traditionally made for holding large loads and offsetting some of the weight with more support and better weight distribution. The first external frame backpacks were constructed out of wood and natural materials, and as lightweight metals began to be more accessible, mountaineering and military backpacks began swapping out wood frames for aluminium or other metal alloy frames in the 20th century. The pack sits in the frame, and can also be removed to carry unconventional items, a feature especially useful for hunters or couriers. The frame also provides a natural area of ventilation between the wearer’s back and the load being carried, allowing for more comfort in high temperature and high humidity environments. 

Internal frames are a newer innovation that was created within the hiking and mountaineering industries. These backpacks consist typically of synthetic material, with an integrated frame made out of metal or plastic. The frame fits closely to the body for a more stable fit, reducing shifting, but internal frame packs often lack the ventilation and load capacity than external frame backpacks have.

Types of Backpack Material

With conventional materials out on the market, designers often have to choose the type of frame or style of backpack based on the material’s performance and ability to be customized, rather than design a backpack and find suitable materials for the use case. 

Common materials in backpacks:

  • Cotton
  • Leather
  • Synthetic leather 
  • Ripstop
  • Ballistic
  • Polyester
  • Neoprene
  • Polypropylene
  • PVC
  • Ariaprene®


Ariaprene® is a backpack material offering that is being used increasingly by brands in a variety of industries. Made up of a closed-cell TPE based foam core, it can be layered for soft touch qualities similar to Neoprene. Generally, it is used between 1–15mm in thickness, and 8-30C hardness, and available in a high stretch series, low heat-shrinkage series, and shock-absorbing series. Tiong Liong Industrial’s patented, water-based lamination process uses less energy during manufacturing and is a material that is environmentally sound, degradable, and fully recyclable, unlike most footwear textiles currently out on the market.

Know more about the advantages why should choose closed cell foam

Monbento Backpack material

When Monbento needed material for their lunch rucksacks, they created an Ariaprene® package that was eco-friendly, durable, and insulating. This custom backpack material was utilized throughout the main body of the sack and finished off with a simple cord closure.

Monbento Backpack material

Mission Workshop Backpack material

Mission Workshop, a company that gained respect for practical and durable cycling backpacks, created their Hauser hydration pack for all-conditions uses. The perforated, hexagonal back panel was constructed out of Ariaprene®, creating a soft exoskeleton that allowed for airflow during endurance activities, while still securely holding up to three liters of water. It was finished off with a nylon mesh laminate for comfort and weatherproofing.

Mission Workshop Backpack material

Tortuga Backpack material

Tortuga created a custom Ariaprene® package for their Outbreaker bag, choosing to incorporate a custom foam core package for the shoulder straps and back panel. They chose to avoid a more conventional “air mesh” material which often creates irritation in high humidity conditions, and instead created a sweat-wicking, closed-cell material for this large load backpack.

Tortuga Backpack material

View more products that were engineered with Ariaprene® in our gallery, and get in touch with us to see how you can future proof your backpack.