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What is Ripstop Fabric?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ripstop fabric, sometimes called a sports fabric, is a woven, lightweight, nylon-threaded material that resists tearing and ripping. It can be water resistant and is commonly used for camping equipment such as tents and the outer shells of sleeping bags. This material is also used to make hang glider and parasail wings, parachutes, hot air balloons, sails, kites, flags, and sports clothes. The tough beating the fabric can take makes it ideal for any application that requires material that won't fail under stress.

While many people assume ripstop fabric is made of nylon, this is only partially true. It's made by weaving nylon threads throughout a base material in interlocking patterns. Many base materials can be used to make it, including cotton, silk, polyester, or polypropylene, with the nylon content limited to the crosshatched threads that make the material tear-resistant. Nylon material itself does not stop rips unless it is reinforced with crosshatched threading.

Ripstop fabric is easy to identify because of the obvious interlocking nylon threaded patterns in the material. For example, a plastic tarp made of this material has a slightly raised box pattern throughout, while others have a diamond pattern. People can look closely at any tent bag, car or motorcycle cover, umbrella, diaper bag or shopping bag, and see the telltale pattern.

The versatility and toughness of the fabric allow it to be used widely outside the private sector as well. Ripstop fabric made from fireproof Nomex® is used for firefighters, while the military uses the fabric for camouflage clothing, packs, gear bags, canvas equipment covers, and much more.

Anyone who has ever tried to tear ripstop fabric knows that it's impossible to get anywhere. The interlocking thread patterns stop any tear from spreading, yet for all of its durability, the material can be thin enough to see through. Breathable versions are ideal for clothing and can be found in running shorts, tank tops, and jerseys. Sports uniforms are also often made of this fabric.

Chances are, most people have several items made of ripstop fabric around the house, garage, or garden. It's also available at fabric stores and sewing shops so that people can use the material for their own barbecue grills covers or slip covers for the garden furniture.

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Discussion Comments
By Luke980916 — On Dec 15, 2019

Is the seat fabric of outdoor furniture Ripstop fabric? For example: sling chair and chaise lounge, etc.? Thanks!

By anon338761 — On Jun 17, 2013

I am also seeking information on suppliers of 100 percent silk ripstop fabric, preferably in the UK, of at least 7 momme (47 square meters weighing 3.2 kilos) and no greater than 10 momme (47 square meters weighing 4.5 kilos).

By anon336677 — On May 30, 2013

Food safety depends on what material the fabric is made from and the final finishing on the fabric. Polyester, cotton and nylon are safe for storing food by themselves, but many manufacturers may give a finish that may make them unsafe, especially those that have chemical treatment for water resistance.

Fabrics like PUL and can be food safe provided they are made with materials included in the FDA GRAS list.

By anon241830 — On Jan 20, 2012

Thanks that was really helpful.

By anon179052 — On May 23, 2011

If anyone could tell me what the most water resistant and wearable - soft, comfortable - ripstop fabric would be, I'd be really appreciative. I need to make a fluid-proof lab coat that doesn't feel (or sound) like I'm wearing a glorified rain coat. Little help?

By anon109618 — On Sep 08, 2010

Does anybody know where I can buy some silk ripstop fabric like Cocoon uses in the mummy liners?

I'd like to have some for projects at home.

By anon104329 — On Aug 16, 2010

As for the food-safe aspect, I got from the article that it would depend on what fabric you chose to have your ripstop made with. If you used a cotton nylon ripstop then it should be food safe, since both nylon and cotton are. Right?

By anon98356 — On Jul 22, 2010

I'd also like to know if ripstop is safe to store food in. Looks like Jeanne didn't get a direct answer. Thanks!

By anon91087 — On Jun 19, 2010

jeanne4675 is asking if it is food safe as in, safe to put food in it. Some people make fabric (reusable) snack or sandwich bags with ripstop fabric as a liner (another popular liner is PUL).

By anon89008 — On Jun 08, 2010

@jeanne4675 what is that supposed to mean? you can't eat it, but it's not toxic. if it's a picnic blanket you're looking for, then ripstop is perfect! I made a delta kite for an air and flight project a few years ago, and it worked perfectly while the others that were made out of cotton and felt failed utterly!

By fabricsnstuf — On May 14, 2010

anon37400 - No

maifoo - Because ripstop is not all the same density, and it has a wide range of uses.

anon16114 - Yes

And to the person who wrote this "If you've ever tried to tear ripstop fabric, you know it's impossible to get anywhere"! One word: Rubbish.

I work with ripstop every day of the week and you can tear it, rip it, and make holes in it. There are many ripstop types, some being very very light up to the heavyweight type that can be used to cover trucks.

By anon50560 — On Oct 29, 2009

Does anyone know where I can get ripstop in bulk and or at wholesale prices?

By jeanne4675 — On Aug 20, 2009

Is ripstop nylon fabric food safe?

By anon37400 — On Jul 19, 2009

when cutting ripstop fabric, does it have a special grain in which you have to cut. I have to make something that is 60" long and has 6 sections. I am trying to save material and want to cut using the width instead of length. Does anybody know if this can be done?

By maifoo — On Apr 13, 2009

Even though the count/construction is the same, why do two qualities have different raised heights of the Ripstop cords?

By anon16114 — On Jul 29, 2008

But can it be cut accidentally?

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