The most popular luggage fabric for softside luggage and bags are ballistic nylon, cordura nylon and polyester. The nylon fabrics (ballistic and cordura) are frequently used in high quality softside luggage bags, while polyester is the most popular fabric for the cheaper ranges luggage.
Ballistic nylon is a thick synthetic nylon fabric. Ballistic nylon is very durable and easy to clean. It's wear & tear resistant, which makes the ballistic nylon popular among the materials for luggage that has to be able to withstand considerable beating.
On the downside, ballistic nylon is hard to dye, so there are less color choices. Ballistic nylon luggage usually comes in black, blue, grey, purple, red coffee or similarly dark colors.
Cordura nylon is another great softside luggage bags fabric. Cordura is best known for its durability and resistance to abrasions, tears and scuffs.
Cordura weighs slightly less than ballistic nylon and takes dye easily, meaning you have much more color choices. Cordura is also more abrasion resistant, but ballistic nylon offers higher tear strength.
Polyester is the cheapest of the soft materials option. Most softside luggage in the lowest price ranges are made with polyester fabric. The quality of polyester softside luggage bags can vary but they can be excellent value for money.
The best indicator of the durability of fabric material is the denier rating as it tells you the fiber thickness of the fabric. The higher the number is, the thicker the fiber. The thicker the fiber is, the heavier (and stronger) the fabric.
For larger and much used luggage, you should look for something in the 500 – 2,000 denier range. Bear in mind that the higher the denier rating, the heavier the material is as well.
Higher denier rating does though not always mean better luggage material. That depends as well on the type of fabric. For example, ballistic nylon and cordura nylon are always superior to polyester in fabric quality.