Last Updated: June 19, 2020

Denier Fabric Rating – Everything You Need To Know

You might have heard the word denier thrown around in the outdoor clothing or gear world, and wondered what it means. In this post, I will explain exactly what denier is, how it’s measured, and what it means for you when buying clothing or gear.

Deiner Fabric Definition

Denier is a measure used in fabrics to define the liner density of a particular fabric. This is done by measuring exactly how heavy a particular material is (in grams) for a length of 9000 meters (5.59 miles). 

That may seem a little odd, but it helps to have large length of a particular material to get a reliable measurement. Especially when many nylons or polyesters are so fine.

How Is Denier Used To Rate Fabrics?

denier materials rating - variety

Variety of Denier ratings and applications

Now that we have the definition out of the way, how does this help you?

When you are buying a backpack, sleeping bag or outdoor clothing, you will see things such as 20D, 250D Nylon or 500D Polyester.

This number is essentially a measure or rating of the thickness of a fiber. The thicker a fiber is, the stronger and more durable the material will be that is made from it.

  • For clothing the denier will often be well below 100, as the material on the outside of a down jacket needs to be more supple and offer less protection from rubbing. It will also be lighter to wear, to carry, and be more comfortable.
  • A rain jacket might be slightly higher, say a 40-70D Nylon, with the more durable materials used in the higher wearing areas.
  • Sleeping bags are also lightweight and not exposed to rugged conditions like backpacks, so will have low denier rating materials.
  • A backpacking tent will also have quite lightweight Nylon, often in the low range 10-40D Nylon. 
  • A backpack will have a variety of strength materials in the hundreds of denier (150D, 350D etc). This is because a backpack will rub on harder surfaces like rocks, trees or even the ground. So, the stronger and more durable the materials are that wear the most (like the bottom of the backpack), the longer it will last.

Naming Different Types Of Fabric

ballistic nylon in black

Ballistic Nylon in black

Don’t be confused by all the fabric names that are used by companies with their outdoor gear and clothing. It is almost impossible to keep up with it all.

You will see a variety of names tacked on to the end of the material depending on the specific weave or proprietary coatings they may use. 

Here are a few examples from various outdoor companies such as Osprey, North Face, Patagonia and the like:

  • Oxford – likely stemming from the original shirt pattern in the UK, Oxford is a particular brand of weave, usually made of Nylon.
  • Nylon Dobby – is again a specific weave of Nylon
  • Ballistic Nylon – developed by Dupont in WWII, this is a very strong weave of Nylon

I have gone over a lot of this before in relation to backpacks in this backpack materials post.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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