600D Polyester: How Strong and Water Resistant Is It? (Explained!)

600D polyester is a fabric that is often used in the manufacture of outdoor gear such as backpacks, camping chairs, heavy-duty tents and functional apparel.

It is known for its durability and with a tear strength of 127 Newtons, it is a great choice for outdoor items or in high-demand everyday use. 600D polyester is water resistant to around 2000mm hydrostatic head in its untreated form and can be treated with silicon, PU, PVC, or DWR to become completely waterproof.

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that was first introduced in the early 1950s. It is made from polyethylene terephthalate, which is a type of plastic. It is known for its water resistance and wrinkle-free properties.

Fabrics woven from thin polyester yarns are often used in sportswear and outerwear because it does not absorb moisture and dries quickly. Polyester fabrics are also used for tents and can be treated with chemicals to increase their water resistance even further.

For example, 600D fabric is used extensively in backpacks and is the main fabric used in for example the well-known JanSport backpack series or Eastpak backpacks.

When we talk about 100D, 200D, 500D, or 600D polyester, the “D” designation denotes the thickness of the thread used to construct the fabric. A 600D thread corresponds to the thread weighing 600 grams (1.32 lbs) per 9000 meters (5.6 miles) of the pure thread.

How much the fabric woven from 600D nylon weighs and how tough and water resistant it is, depends on the weaving method used to make the fabric. However, the average 600D fabric will weigh somewhere between 100-250 grams per square meter or 0.3 to 0.81 oz per square foot.

Is 600D Polyester Waterproof?

I certainly can be with the right surface treatment. 600D polyester is a plastic and is, therefore, by definition, waterproof.

So, does that mean 600D polyester fabric is always waterproof? The answer is no, as it depends on how it is treated and how tightly the fabric is woven. That is, how many threads per inch – the threat count, sometimes designated “T” in the fabric designation but should not be confused with the thread thickness unit “Tex”.

600D polyester waterproof
With the right surface treatment, 600D polyester can be made waterproof.

The fabric made from 600D polyester can be more or less water resistant depending on a few factors I will get into below.

As a rule of thumb, untreated 600D polyester (ordinary or oxford fabric) can withstand a water column pressure of 1000mm to 2000mm, whereas PVC, PU, or silicon coated (silnylon) textiles can hold back a water column pressure of more than 10000mm.

The waterproofness of 600D polyester can also be affected by abrasion. The more the fabric is used, the more likely it is that the water repellent treatments will become worn away and need to be reapplied.

Like other materials such as nylon or polyester used for raingear or the nylon used for backpacks, the type of surface coating is essential for water resistance!

Whereas untreated 600D polyester is water resistant if the fabric is tightly woven, it is often treated with silicon, PVC, or other water repellant chemicals to seal the small holes in between the threads where water might enter if the water column pressure is high enough.

Polyurethane coating is another widely used synthetic polymer that is applied to fabrics in order to make them waterproof. This type of coating is often used on outdoor gear, such as jackets, backpacks and tents.

How Strong Is 600D polyester?

600D polyester can take a lot of wear and tear and is not easy to rip apart! It has a tear strength of 127 Newtons when treated with ordinary PU coating but gets stronger to the point of breaking at 300 Newtons when treated with a layer of PVC.

When it comes to wear and tear resistance, the abrasion test performed according to the Martindale method, as shown in the video below, reveals that 600D polyester fabric can tolerate around 25.000 rounds of rubbing against another plastic material.

The Martindale method was used to test the abrasion durability of fabrics.

The Martindale method is a test that is used to determine the abrasion resistance of fabric. The test is performed by measuring the amount of wear and tear on a fabric sample that has been subjected to a set amount of rubbing.

The results of the test are then used to compare the abrasion resistance of different fabrics. In this test, the 600D nylon fabrics were slightly more abrasion resistant under these conditions.

My personal experience with Fjällräven backpacks made from thick polyester (they call it Vinylon F) are very water resistant and entirely waterproof if treated with wax.

How does 600D polyester compare to 600D nylon?

Like nylon, polyester is a synthetic fabric but it is cheaper to produce than nylon. Nylon is more durable and has a higher heat resistance than polyester.

They are both synthetic fibers, but nylon is stronger and more durable than polyester. Polyester is less expensive and wrinkles less than nylon and is generally more resistant to chemicals, sunlight, and the weather (rain!).

Another difference between the two is that 600D polyester is generally cheaper than 600D nylon as the nylon is stronger (at least when dry!).

The main difference between 600D nylon and 600D polyester is the relative strength, durability, water resistance, and price.

nylon and polyester difference
The main differences between nylon and polyester is the price and strength/weight ratio but there are many other important aspects to consider!

600D nylon will have higher tensile strength compared to polyester and it takes approximately 220 Newtons to rip 600D nylon apart whereas 600D polyester breaks already at 127 Newtons of force.

If you want to know more about the strength of nylon fabrics check out my post on strong nylon alternatives to 600D polyester.

However, when wet, nylon becomes much weaker and tears more easily than wet polyester, which means that it effectively loses its advantage over polyester.

Although 600D nylon and 600D polyester per definition weigh the same, 600D nylon is stronger than 600D polyester, and 600D polyester is generally more waterproof than 600D nylon, but it really depends on the tightness of the fabric weave and the surface waterproofing treatment used.

Because polyester does not absorb liquids as well as nylon does, it is not as easily stained by chemicals and it does not expand in the rain – both are advantageous attributes, but the lower absorption also makes it much harder to paint or dye if you would wish to do so.

What are the advantages of nylon over polyester?

If you are considering buying a nylon backpack, tent, clothing etc. instead of a similar item made from polyester, there are a few reasons to do so, but polyester definitely has its perks.

Here is a pros and cons list of buying polyester instead of nylon, summarizing the sections above:

Advantages of Polyester over Nylon:

  • Cheaper than nylon
  • Fast drying, low moisture absorbency
  • No sagging when wet
  • No loss of strength when wet
  • Resists chemicals and dyes
  • Resistant to UV light
  • More resistant to heat
  • Easier to reuse
  • Less static and pilling
  • Less prone to shrinkage and wrinkles

Disadvantages of Polyester over Nylon:

  • Polyester is heavier than nylon for the same strength
  • The tensile strength of polyester is approximately half that of nylon
  • Polyester is harder to wash
  • Lower abrasion resistance (depends on weave!)
  • Harder to color and dye
  • Catches fire rather than melting

On the other hand, if we view things from the perspective of nylon, there are a few things to consider.

The most appealing one is the weight and feel of the nylon fabric. Nylon is generally softer and more silk-like than polyester, which can seem a bit rougher in its texture.

The photo below shows my nylon and polyester rain jackets next to each other.

Showing a nylon and a polyester jacket side by side.
Nylon on the left, polyester on the right. Nylon wrinkles more easily.

These jackets, as well as most tents, are made from thinner nylon versions such as 20D up to around 210D nylon or polyester.

However, for the thicker version such as 600D nylon and polyester, this quality is not as pronounced as they are quite hard and sturdy and are also applied as such (and not for the soft feel…).

Advantages of Nylon over Polyester:

  • Nylon is almost twice as strong as polyester (when dry!)
  • Nylon is easier to wash (but gets dirty more easily!)
  • More compact and easier to pack down
  • Can be more abrasion resistant
  • Softer feel
  • More breathable
  • Can be dyed in a wide range of colors

Disadvantages of Nylon over Polyester:

  • Nylon is more lightweight than polyester for the same strength
  • More expensive than polyester
  • More static and pilling
  • Melts more easily
  • More prone to shrinkage and wrinkles
  • Poor resistance to sunlight
  • Low absorbency
  • Harder to reuse
  • Picks up oils and dyes when washed (only good if you want to dye it!)
  • More heat sensitive

As you may have noticed, the list of disadvantages of nylon is actually quite long, but the advantages of nylon are quite unique. For example, if you need a light and compact fabric, nylon is the only way to go.

Although you can also consider the more technical Dyneema fabric that adds a new dimension to water resistance and strength of fabrics!

In light of these advantages and disadvantages of the different types of synthetic fabrics, polyester is an obvious choice for most people seeking to buy a new backpack or other hiking gear.

However, there are indeed many types of polyester fabrics, and these all influence the functionality and price of the product.

Therefore, I will go through some of the different polyester fabrics below.

Do you know the difference between nylon and polyester and that polyester is widely used for rain gear, sleeping bags, tents, and sleeping pads? And do you know how it impacts the functionality? I wrote an article about the fabric type and its impact on rain gear and a post on sleeping pads here.

Take a look at my favorite lightweight backpacks or check out my post on how to choose an inflatable sleeping pad that is not noisy to sleep on.

Other materials like thin 7D to 40D nylons and the extremely durable and waterproof Dyneema material are also used more and more in outdoor gear.

What about 600D oxford fabric?

600D Polyester oxford fabric is a type of polyester fabric that is characterized by its Oxford weave.

This weave is created by interlacing the yarns in a way that creates a textured, basket-like appearance.

The fabric was originally created in the United Kingdom (in Oxford!) and has since become popular for a variety of uses.

It is often used for making outdoor clothing and gear, as well as for upholstery and other heavy-duty applications such as grill and motorbike covers. Polyester oxford fabric differs from ordinary polyester fabric in that it is usually much more durable and weather resistant.

The Oxford weave gives the fabric a more textured appearance and makes it more resistant to tearing and wrinkling and gives apparel a look that resembles that of most natural fibers such as cotton or linen.

600D polyester vs 900D (Oxford) fabrics

600D polyester is made from a fabric thread that is two-thirds the thickness compared to the fabric made from 900D polyester.

These differences are the same no matter if we talk about normal weave or oxford weaved fabrics. However, most people are interested in the use of 600D and 900D polyester for backpacks where the oxford fabric is often used.

Below are two examples of backpacks made with either 900D or 600D polyester. The 900D version is heavier but also much more wear and tear resistant.

A 900D backpack

A 600D backpack

Both 600D and 900D polyester are strong and waterproof, but 900D is going to be stronger and more waterproof because it is thicker.

These materials are often used in outdoor gear and applications where durability is important, such as backpacks, luggage, and covers.

900D polyester is 60% thicker than 600D polyester and will therefore be stronger and more waterproof, but also heavier!

Whereas the thread used to make 600D polyester weighs 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km), the yarn used to make 900D polyester fabric is almost twice as thick at 900 grams (31.8 oz) per 9000 meters (or 100 grams per km).

600D vs 800D polyester?

600D polyester is made from a fabric thread that is slightly thinner than the fabric made from 800D polyester.

800D polyester is a middle-weight fabric that is thicker than 600D polyester, but thinner when compared to 1000D and 1200D polyester.

As cordura fabric they may both be used in clothing such as motorcycling pants and as oxford fabric, they can be used for furniture, canopies, and caravan tents.

These two polyester types are both strong and waterproof, but 600D will be less durable than 800D and more susceptible to tearing. However, 600D is also lighter in weight, making it a good choice for applications where weight is a factor.

The yarn used to make 600D polyester fabric weighs 600 grams (21 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66 grams per km), while the yarn used to make 800D polyester fabric weighs 800 grams (28 oz) per 9000 meters.

The exact weight and water repellent properties of the fabric will depend on the application as some materials of this thickness are treated and others are not.

For backpacks, large popup tents, and canopies, a thin layer of silicon is often applied to make the polyester fabric more waterproof.

However, when we are at these thicknesses of thread, the fabrics will have a good intrinsic waterproofness on their own and will not necessarily need extra waterproofing for everyday use.

Difference between 420D and 600D polyester?

420D polyester is made from a fabric thread that is approximately two-thirds the thickness compared to the fabric made from 600D polyester.

Difference between 420D and 600D polyester
There is not a huge difference in the appearance of fabric made with 420D and 600D

Both 420D and 600D polyester are strong and waterproof, but 600D is going to be stronger and more waterproof because it is thicker. These materials are often used in outdoor gear and applications where durability is important, such as backpacks, luggage, and covers.

600D polyester is almost 60% thicker than 420D polyester and will therefore be stronger and more waterproof, but also heavier!

Whereas the thread used to make 420D polyester weighs 420 grams (14.8 oz) per 9000 meters (or 46.6 grams per km), the yarn used to make 600D polyester fabric is almost twice as thick at 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km).

600D vs 750D polyester

600D polyester is made from a fabric thread that is approximately three-fourths (80% more precisely!) the thickness compared to the fabric made from 750D polyester.

Whereas the thread used to make 600D polyester weighs 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km), the yarn used to make 750D polyester fabric is 20% thicker at 750 grams (26.5 oz) per 9000 meters (or 83.3 grams per km).

600D vs. 750D polyester comparison
Both materials are thick, durable and waterproof with the PU treatment.

Both 600D and 750D polyester are strong and waterproof, but 750D is going to be stronger and more waterproof because it is thicker. These materials are often used in outdoor gear and applications where durability is important, such as backpacks, luggage, and covers.

As cordura fabric they may both be used in clothing such as motorcycling pants and as oxford fabric they can be used for furniture, canopies and caravan tents.

750D polyester fabrics are around 20% thicker than 600D polyester fabrics and will therefore be stronger and more waterproof, but also heavier!

Which is stronger 500D or 600D?

500D polyester is made with a thread that is slightly thinner than the one used to make 600D polyester, but 600D will be significantly stronger.

Because the strength of the fabric increases exponentially with thickness, the 600D fabric (at 127 Newton tensile strength) will be almost 50% stronger than that of a 500D thread.

The 500D thread weighs 500 grams (17.6 oz) per 9000 meters (or 55.5 grams per km), while the 600D thread used for 600D polyester fabric weighs 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km).

This means that, although both fabrics are strong and waterproof, 600D polyester will be slightly stronger and more waterproof because it is thicker. These materials are often used in outdoor gear and applications where durability is important, such as backpacks, luggage, and covers.

As cordura fabric they may both be used in clothing such as motorcycling pants and as oxford fabric they can be used for furniture, canopies and caravan tents.

600D polyester is almost 20% thicker than 500D polyester and will therefore be stronger and more waterproof! However, it will also be slightly heavier.

Which is stronger 300D or 600D polyester?

300D polyester is made from a fabric thread that is half the thickness of 600D polyester.

Both 300D and 600D polyester are strong and waterproof, but 600D is going to be stronger and more waterproof because it is thicker.

However, 600D is not twice as strong (127 N tensile strength) but 4 times as strong as 300D polyester as the relationship between thickness and strength is not linear but exponential. This means that if the thickness of the thread is doubled, the strength is quadrupled!

Whereas the thread used to make 300D polyester weighs 300 grams (10.6 oz) per 9000 meters (or 33.3 grams per km), the yarn used to make 600D polyester fabric is almost twice as thick at 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km).

Read my post on150D vs. 300D polyester if you are more interested in theese thinner polyester fabrics!

As cordura fabric they may both be used in clothing such as motorcycling pants and as oxford fabric they can be used for furniture, canopies and caravan tents. These materials are often used in outdoor apparel and gear applications where durability is important, such as backpacks, luggage, and covers.

600D polyester is almost twice as thick as 300D polyester and will therefore be stronger and more waterproof, but also heavier!

These differences are the same no matter if we talk normal weave or oxford weaved fabrics. However, most people are interested in the use of 600D and 900D polyester for bacpacks and clothing where the oxford fabric is often used.

210D nylon vs 600D polyester 

210D nylon is thinner than 600D polyester. Nylon is a stronger material than polyester, so 210D nylon will be stronger than 600D polyester. However, 600D polyester is more waterproof than 210D nylon.

Both materials are often used in outdoor gear, but nylon is more common in hiking gear because it is lighter and stronger. Polyester is more common in camping gear because it is more waterproof.

Whereas the thread used to make 210D nylon weighs 210 grams (7.4 oz) per 9000 meters (or 23.3 grams per km), the yarn used to make 600D polyester fabric is almost three times as thick at 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km).

Both 210D nylon and 600D polyester are strong and waterproof, but 600D is going to be stronger and more waterproof because it is thicker. These materials are often used in outdoor gear and applications where durability is important, such as backpacks, luggage, and covers.

However, 210D nylon is thin enough for use in tents, but are most often used as the floor or parts that need to withstand strong tensile force.

600D polyester vs 1680D polyester

600D polyester is made from a fabric thread that is approximately on third the thickness compared to the fabric made from 1680D polyester.

Whereas the thread used to make 600D polyester only weighs 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km), the yarn used to make 1680D polyester fabric is almost fourteen times as thick at 16800 grams (594 oz) per 9000 meters (933 grams per km).

1680D polyester is much thicker than 600D polyester and will therefore be stronger and more waterproof, but also much heavier! This material is often used in applications where durability is important, such as luggage and backpacks rather than tents.

1680D flak jacket nylon
1680D is only used for very demanding applications such as flak jackets or really rough backpacks.

1680D is perhaps the thickest synthetic thread material used for fabrics, and the nylon version was used for flak jackets during WW2 due to its ability to absorb the impact of explosions.

This backpack is made with 1000D nylon, which is approximately the same strength as 1680D polyester!

Today it is mostly used in extremely heavy-duty backpacks, such as those used by the military, where rough handling is required.

600D vs 549D polyester

Both 600D and 549D is used for military gear, backpacks, tents and other outdoor applications where durability is important.

600D polyester is almost 10% thicker than 549D polyester and will therefore be stronger , but also heavier!

549D is a somewhat odd thickness but is often used in the automotive industry for seat covers, car covers and other applications where a slightly lighter fabric is desired and it is especially widely used in Mexico.

Whereas the thread used to make 600D polyester weighs 600 grams (21.2 oz) per 9000 meters (or 66.6 grams per km), the yarn used to make 549D polyester fabric is only 549 grams (19.4 oz) per 9000 meters (or 61.0 grams per km).

Both 600D and 549D polyester are strong and waterproof, but 600D is going to be stronger because it is thicker. These materials are often used in outdoor gear and applications where durability is important, such as backpacks, luggage, and covers.

600D polyester vs canvas

Canvas is a natural cotton-based fabric that is strong and abrration resistant but it is also heavier than polyester.

Canvas is a stronger and more durable fabric than polyester but this is only because it is often made with much thicker yarn.

Polyester is much more water resistant and lightweigt compared to canvas.

Good thick canvas is less likely to tear and burn, making it the better choice for outdoor use if weight is not an issue. However, polyester is cheaper, lighter, and easier to care for than canvas, but it doesn’t hold up as well under heavy use.

Polyester has many other benefits over canvas. It is more breathable, dries faster, and repels water much better. Polyester also does not shrink or wrinkle as easily when washed.

Cotton is more absorbent than polyester, and this is why cotton is used for things like towels and bedding as well material for paintings.

Conclusion

600D polyester is one of the strongest fabrics which can hold heavy loads and stand a ton of wear and tear before it breaks. The durability, strength, and thickness make it a great choice when making backpacks and luggage among other things.

While the 600D nylon is stronger, it is more expensive and isn’t the best option for outdoor products due to its heavy weight and less wear resistance.

At a fraction of the price, manufacturers prefer to use the 600D polyester as it saves them money and is much better suited for backpacks where weight is not the critical selling point.

600D Polyester oxford fabric differs from ordinary polyester fabric because its weave gives it higher durability and density.

If you are interested in those types of nylon and polyester used for more lightweight camping gear, you need to take a look at those ranging between 7D and 60D in thickness that I have written more about here on the site.