What Is Ripstop Nylon?


It is almost impossible for an individual not to encounter ripstock nylon. World travelers use ripstock nylon luggage; campers use ripstock nylon backpacks, sleeping bags, tents and outdoor wear; homeowners purchase outdoor hammocks, chairs and chaise lounges covered with ripstock nylon; kites, parachutes, sailboat spinnakers and hot air balloons are made of ripstock nylon. Even the U.S. military has many applications for ripstock nylon, including camouflage uniforms.


  • Ripstock nylon is fabricated with a double thread woven into a crosshatch pattern, a series of parallel lines that cross approximately every quarter inch, so the fabric resists tearing and ripping. In some applications, elastic is added to the double thread to give the ripstock nylon more capability for expansion. A good example of this is the parachutes used when an fighter pilot has to eject from his jet.


  • As shortages mounted during World War II, alternatives were sought to replace natural silk in the manufacturing of parachutes. The result was the development of ripstock nylon, an inexpensive, synthetic substitute with more strength than natural silk.


  • This nylon fabric offers many advantages: It is lightweight, water-resistant, fire-resistant and windproof. With changing applications, modifications have been made to the fabric content. Blends of nylon and cotton ripstock are becoming more common in both military uniforms and outdoor wear.


  • Ripstock fabrics are available in light, medium and heavy weights. The lightweight ripstock is soft and silky to the touch. Medium weights are so crisp that they are almost too noisy to be used in apparel. Heavy weights have the feel of upholstery fabrics.


  • Fabric stores are a good source for ripstock nylon in a wide range of colors. Many crafters use it to create reusable grocery bags, backpacks, book bags, tote bags and makeup bags; others use it to sew projects like rain ponchos and sleeping bag covers.

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  • Photo Credit Ascending Hot Air Balloons image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com
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