If you are in the market for a new tent there are a few things that you should consider as you are browsing the different types of camping tents. When you are tent shopping it isn’t enough to just consider the size and style of the tent, you need to think about the fabric your backpacking tent, family tent, and expedition tent or dome tent is made of. There are 6 main types of fabric that many manufacturers use to make their tents. Each material has its own set of characteristics and knowing these characteristics can impact the type of camping experience you have.Nylon is the most popular tent fabric and there is good reason for this. Nylon is strong and durable yet lightweight. Nylon is also easily waterproofed. The breathable fabric allows water vapor to pass through while keeping you dry. Nylon can also be dyed easily and maintains its color longer than other fabrics. There is an extra benefit of Nylon, it doesn’t rot. Meaning a packed wet nylon tent would have material that is functional but mildewed.
It is important to note that mildew can eat away at the waterproof coating which will cause your tent to be useless. An important note here, uncoated nylon does not absorb water; it is water resistant, but that does not mean it is waterproof. To help make the nylon material waterproof it is coated with polyurethane which will lock out most of the water.
The difference between rip stone nylon and regular nylon is the fact that about every 12 or so stitches there is a heavier fabric that is woven in. The purpose of this stitching is to prevent the spread of a tear. So if you are one that likes to set up camp out in the middle of the woods instead of an open clearing, you might want to consider rip stone nylon over regular nylon.
A material that is almost identical to nylon is polyester. The main difference between polyester and nylon is that it resists UV damage better. Ultraviolet damage weakens the strength of the material your tent is made of, this happens to all materials. This is why it is recommend that you set your tent up in a shaded area instead of in an area of direct sunlight.
Before nylon was invented, cotton canvas was the material of choice by many tent makers. Cotton canvas is an all weather material that is very durable. Originally these tents were coated with an oily or waxing coating to prevent water absorption. This coating still allowed the tent to breathe. Cotton canvas tents were not and are not waterproof. They rely on the rain’s surface tension between the fabric fibers to prevent leaks. Though you can still find canvas tents, they aren’t as prevalent as they used to be.
This fabric has the strongest UV light inhibitor, which means it has the greatest resistance to UV degeneration. If you are someone that camps frequently throughout the year, you might want to consider a tent made from this polyester fabric. UV-Tex 5 also has a higher standard of resistance then other polyester fabrics but it is identical in all other aspects to polyester.
Though an entire tent is rarely made out of polyethylene you want to make sure the floor of your tent is. Polyethylene is waterproof; water will not pass through this material unless there is a hole. It is durable but it is also bulky and rather heavy. It is also problematic to get this material back into its original form once it has been open.