Not all tents are made the same, and that is true for the materials used when manufacturing the tent as well. When looking for the best tent for your specific needs, you should be aware of the different materials used and their pros and cons.
Tents used to be made of cotton canvas, but nowadays most tents are made from polyester, PVC, polycotton, nylon, and more. These materials each have their pros and cons, but are generally more lightweight and weather resistant than the traditional cotton canvas.
When out camping or hiking, no other piece of gear is more crucial than a good quality tent. It protects us from wind, rain, sunlight, and even wild animals. But depending on the material of the tent, the quality and features will differ.
Let’s take a look at the different materials commonly found in tents.
What Tents are MAde Of – Common Materials
Historically, tents were cotton canvas. They were sturdy yet very heavy to carry around on camping or hiking trips. Modern-day tents are often made from polyester, known for their toughness, lightweight, and affordability. However, you can also find tents made from PVC, cuben fiber, polycotton, cotton canvas, nylon, and more.
Materials for making tents are lighter artificial fibers, such as nylon and polyester. These fabrics are often treated to make them waterproof and have an added polyurethane coating or silicone impregnation. While those treatments help make tents waterproof, they do not fully protect them against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Remember that UV rays can cause serious damage to thin fabrics.
Each material has its own advantages and drawbacks. So, getting familiar with them will help you end up with the perfect tent for your needs. So, here are the most common materials used for making tents.
Most small tents are made from nylon because it is extremely lightweight. Since it does not absorb water, it is an ideal material for outdoor use. It is susceptible to sunlight, so users must be extra careful with prolonged exposure.
This fabric is often coated with silicone, polyurethane, or acrylic. A nylon tent with silicone coating offers the best protection.
- Durable and lightweight
- Packs up easily
- Low maintenance
- Tears more easily
- Can be damaged by prolonged sun exposure
Polyester is found in almost all affordable camping and backpacking tents. It is lightweight for easier transport. However, it is noisier and flimsier in windy conditions.
This fabric is generally tougher and a little heavier than nylon, it is also usually coated with a protective layer. It does not shrink or get heavy when wet. It is less affected by the sun’s rays than other artificial fabrics. It is also a durable yet cheaper option.
- Lightweight and easy to pack
- Highly durable
- Can be damaged by the sun over time
- Noisier and flimsier in windy conditions
Cotton canvas tents are known for their durability and resistance to damage. The material also allows air to pass through, preventing moisture and musty smells from disbursing. It is more expensive than nylon and polyester but lasts for years.
This fabric breathes naturally, so it stays warm during cold days and cooler during warm days. Tents made from cotton canvas look more luxurious than other modern camping tents. While the weight and bulkiness make them more difficult to carry around, they are more sturdy in windy conditions.
- Breathable and durable in all weather conditions
- Protection against UV damage
- More sturdy in windy conditions and lasts for years
- High price tag
- Hard to pack and carry
Polycotton is a combination of polyester and cotton. This material balances breathability and durability with ease of use and affordability, taking the best of both worlds. Some tents are made of 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton.
Tents made from these materials are usually excellent for family camping, solo camping, and more. This fabric is more breathable and insulated than regular polyester but bulkier.
- Strong and long lifespan
- Easy to use and carry
- Resistant to mildew
- Breathable fabric
- Bulkier and more expensive
Cuben fiber, also known as DCF, is considered the best tent material by most campers and backpackers. This fabric has special fibers that are stronger than steel while staying water-resistant and extremely light.
This material is dedicated to ultra-light backpacking tents. It is used in different weather conditions. However, it is more susceptible to extreme heat (fire or cooking) and a little inflexible. Plus, interested users must be prepared to pay a high price tag since they will be paying for better quality than standard polyester or nylon tents.
- Water-resistant and extremely light
- Stronger than steel
- Resistant to different weather conditions
- Tough and durable
- Inflexible and most expensive
- Can be damaged from high heat (cooking or fire)
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
This material is commonly used in heavy-duty tarps. PCV tents are an excellent choice if camping for long periods of time or in extreme weather conditions.
PVC is usually combined with cotton and polycotton to ensure an extra layer of protection for users. The material is also bulky and heavy due to its high toughness.
- Excellent protection from extreme weather conditions
- Very durable and high-toughness
- Extra protection for users
- Very heavy and bulky
- Hard to pack and carry
The Best Tent Material for Hot Weather
If you are camping out on hot and sunny days, you find yourself searching for an area to rest after a long hike. Polyester and nylon tents are ideal for summer backpacking, hiking, and camping. These tents are easy to set up, lightweight, and easy to carry, which is beneficial during tiring, hot summer days.
Tents made from polyester provide better breathability than nylon ones. It is recommended to purchase tents with screen mesh to ensure proper ventilation. You can find tents that utilize a particular color to block a high percentage of sunlight, commonly known as darkroom technology. As a result, there is a reduced interior temperature, perfect for summers.
The Best Tent Material for Cold Weather
Choosing a tent made from a particular material significantly impacts the overall user experience. If you are camping in cold and harsh weather, you must search for a tent that has a solid and sturdy construction. That way, you can get maximum protection against strong winds, rain, snow, and cold breezes.
Tents made from cotton canvas are the best choice if camping out of a car or truck. While you will find it challenging to carry the tent, from truck or car, and set it, all your efforts are worth it. That is particularly true if you plan to stay at the campsite for long periods. You will appreciate the coziness and warmth of the cotton canvas.
Meanwhile, if you plan for trekking, hiking, or backpacking activity, you will need a tent that will not weigh you down. You can go for a nylon tent because it offers reliable protection against gusty winds.
The Best Tent Material for Backpacking
Do you enjoy backpacking? If so, your main concern is probably your backpack weight. So, you should go for a tent with a lower packing weight, like nylon tents. Since backpackers go out for adventures during the summer months, nylon tents are the best choice.
Knowing the tent materials is critical when searching for the best tents for your camping, hiking, backpacking, or trekking trips. Each material is suitable for a specific situation while it may be less effective for other circumstances. Whether you want an affordable, water-resistant, or durable material, you will find a tent for your needs.
Hopefully, the ideas above will help you find the best tent based on your preference and other requirements.
Hi I’m Tom! I have been a camper enthusiast ever since I went camping with my family as a kid, love everything that brings me closer to nature. Photographer, RV owner, husband and father, trying to help others interested in camping on this blog.