A recycled polyester blend from Patagonia

Polyamide and Polyester: What’s the Difference?

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The debate surrounding polyester and polyamide has been around for years. Both materials have their own unique set of benefits and drawbacks, which can make choosing one over the other difficult. We see these terms all the time in researching and writing about products and thought it was important to clarify the differences between polyamide and polyester.

What is Polyamide and Polyester?

Despite polyester and polyamide being made from a similar process, they have very different properties. Polyesters are essentially a petroleum-based plastic textile. These fabrics share many of the sustainability concerns of other plastics because they’re made from a carbon-heavy non-renewable resource. When these fabrics are thrown in the trash or shed, they can create micro plastics in the environment that can last for decades.

Polyamides are also made from a plastic solution. But instead of referring to a single fabric, polyamide refers to a larger fabric group. It’s an umbrella term for many different polyamide fabrics. Nylon is a common example of an outdoor fabric that falls under the polyamide umbrella. Nylon is a type of polyamide, but polyamide does not always mean nylon.

Pro climber Meagan Martin wearing ReZion nylon blend pants from Prana—an example of polyamide. Image courtesy of Prana.

Because both polyester and polyamides last for a very long time in the environment, there has been a push by many outdoor companies to recycle these materials and create a more sustainable footprint. Companies like Prana, Patagonia, and others are producing new garments from these recycled textiles to create more viable solutions for the future. By creating a system to recycle polyester and polyamide, they are removing the excess textiles from becoming harmful plastic waste.

Key Differences Between Polyester and Polyamide

So, what are the differences between these two fabrics? Both have their advantages and disadvantages that are important to understand when deciding which is right for you. Perhaps a blend of multiple fabrics might create the desired outcome you’re looking for.

A person practices yoga while wearing polyester blend pants. Image courtesy of Prana.

Polyester is a popular fabric to wear in the outdoors because it dries quickly and has excellent hydrophobic properties. Polyamide, on the other hand, absorbs more moisture than polyester. Nylon, for example, has a polar structure that attracts moisture. Both fabrics are inexpensive, and they are both quite durable. Polyamide tends to be softer and less stiff than polyester—although some polyester blends can feel soft to the touch.

Polyamides are poor insulators; so if you’re looking for better insulation properties, then best go with polyester. Polyesters are better if you want some breathability because polyamides are not breathable. Polyamides have stretch and flexibility, while their polyester counterparts have little to none—although some recycled polyester blends are both flexible and stretchy.

Recycled polyester from Patagonia. Image courtesy of Patagonia

Benefits of Each

Recreating in Park City, Utah means experiencing variable weather conditions in a wide variety of sports and past times. If you are looking for a non-insulating outer shell, then polyamide is the better choice. Polyamide fabrics tend to be slightly more durable than polyester and better at blocking harmful UV rays, which makes them better for sun shirts. Polyamides are usually softer and more comfortable than polyester garments.

If you’re looking for an insulating base layer, then polyester is the right choice for you. Polyester tends to make better sports shirts and sportswear because of its moisture-wicking properties.

Which is Right for You? 

Take a look at what we discussed in terms of the different properties of both fabrics. You must determine which properties are most important to you and the activity you’re doing. You might find that both fabrics have a place in your life for different activities. Or, maybe one is more useful to you than the other.

With so many options available, make sure you do your research before purchasing a garment made of either fabric. Textiles made for the outdoor industry—especially plastic based ones—can be harmful to the environment. Purchasing something made with recycled or re-purposed fabrics from companies focused on sustainability is the best way to go.

By Calindra Revier, Content Writer & Media

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