What Are Tents Made Of? Well, Let’s Find Out!
Have you ever asked what materials are used to build tents? When you think about it, it’s incredible how a tent can make us feel safe even though we’re sleeping in the middle of a scary forest. Add to that the possibility of attracting wild animals to your campfire.
However, just as in the movies, staying in a tent is a foolproof way to stay safe when out in the desert and in risky circumstances.
As a result, we can’t help but wonder how tents are made of such durable materials. They can survive the harsh conditions of the wild, after all.
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How Do Tents Get Made?
Knowing what kind of fabric a tent is made of will tell you how long it will last, whether it is waterproof and windproof, and whether it has any special features.
Similarly, knowing what the poles are made of is critical so you can determine whether they can withstand the conditions you want to subject them to.
How about the Poles?
You may be wondering why we’re discussing poles because the bulk of the tent is made up of the covering material. The fact is that the poles play a significant role as well. They are, in truth, the ones who keep the fabric together.
Tent poles are unusual in the way that they must be both rigid and flexible to accommodate the form of the tent. In general, there are two forms of poles. Aluminum is the most common material, while fiberglass is used in the others.
Aluminum tent poles are extremely sturdy considering their lightweight, making them an excellent choice for a variety of camping gear. They are, however, very costly and prone to corrosion.
Fiberglass tent poles, on the other hand, are less expensive and not only corrosion-resistant but also rust-proof. The disadvantage of using this type of tent pole is that it is not as sturdy or as durable as aluminum tent poles.
The Various Fabrics
The fabric that serves as the tent’s covering is another important aspect. This is the only thing that separates you from the wilderness. As a result, it’s important to understand what it’s made of, as well as the functionality and functions it provides.
Nylon, cotton, polyester, and polycotton are the four most popular fabric types used in tents.
Nylon is typically the fabric of choice among tent fabric types because of its durability and lightweight. Many nylon tents, on the other hand, aren’t waterproof out of the box, so you’ll need to add a sealant to keep the rain out.
Untreated nylon fabric is water-resistant by nature, but not waterproof. If you want a waterproof tent, you’ll need to use polyurethane on the nylon fabric.
Nylon cloth camping tents are typically used for small or large tents, although they are seldom used on medium-sized tents. They’re the perfect tent fabric for campers who don’t want to spend too much time maintaining their tent.
Ripstop nylon, a more durable form of nylon fabric, is often used on tents. This design incorporates additional fiber that is woven into the existing fibers. As a result, your tent will be more stable and heavier.
The disadvantage is that it is thicker than standard nylon fabric.
In terms of waterproofing, this is possibly the weakest fabric on the list. A cotton tent, on the other hand, is your best friend if you’re going camping in hot and humid weather.
But on cold days, it will keep you wet.
On rainy days, however, it is not recommended. The alternative is to weatherproof it, but this does not guarantee that no leaks will occur. In comparison to the other fabrics on this list, this fabric category is also the heaviest.
The fact that it is breathable—so much so that ventilation inside the tent will not be an issue—is its main selling point.
Polyester camping tents are the ones that come with several layers of various coatings. The key is to find one with good breathability, which ensures that air can easily move through the tent without trapping moisture inside.
In certain ways, this fabric resembles nylon. Polyester, on the other hand, is more robust. Nonetheless, since it can withstand the sun’s rays, it is the fabric of choice for three-season and four-season camping tents.
Furthermore, when wet, it does not get too baggy. Polyester is the preferred fabric for long-term camping because of these characteristics.
Polycotton is a blend of polyester and cotton, as the name implies. This type of fabric is mostly made of cotton, but it also has polyester woven into it. Now, you may believe that this is always a positive thing, but it isn’t always the case.
The drawbacks of combining the two fabrics are also present. Issues with weight, cleaning, and leakage are among them. The fact that it is more resistant to any form of tearing is the deciding factor.
It’s also resistant to mildew.
All Tent-Related Materials
Other forms of tents exist, but they are typically combinations of the four fabrics described above. Polycotton tents, for instance, are a combination of cotton and polyester.
This mixture results in a lighter fabric that is as strong as a standard cotton tent. It would normally be waterproofed by being sprayed with something.
Canvas tents coated with Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) are another choice. This is essentially a canvas tent with a generous amount of weatherproofing coating (usually on the roof). Because of the coatings, ventilation can be an issue, and condensation may form in this type of tent.
These tents are usually wide and bulky.
Canvas and Cotton Tent Fabrics
Canvas is the most popular tent fabric, and it has a lot of useful properties. Canvas used to be made of hemp, but these days cotton is used to make tent canvases.
As a result, tents labeled as “canvas” or “cotton” are made of the same material.
Why is canvas or cotton the best tent material?
- Cotton insulates exceptionally well when compared to man-made tent materials. On a hot day, you won’t get as hot, and on a cold day, you won’t get as cold.
- Cotton is a breathable and water-absorbent fabric. This means you’re unlikely to have a condensation problem.
- Canvas/cotton tents can be quieter due to their weight and insulation properties and are less noisy when there is a breeze.
- The fabric has a longer lifespan and is more resistant to UV rays.
(In my opinion, a fresh canvas tent smells a lot better than the chemical smell that some man-made tents have.)
Cotton Tent Coatings and Treatments
Cotton tents do not need to be covered with a waterproof membrane when compared to polyester tents since cotton is naturally breathable, and UV and water-resistant.
Some manufacturers, however, have treated the cotton with a mild waterproofing treatment. The cotton maintains its breathability, but the treatment ensures that if there is a light shower or morning dew, water will bead off the tent.
Cotton becomes more practical for family camping as a result of innovations like this, which minimize drying time.
What is the right tent fabric for you?
What is right for you will be determined by your camping requirements. If you’re mostly camping in the summer as a recreational camper, you’ll probably be great with a reasonably priced polyester family-style tent.
The size of your tent will also be determined by the number of people who will be camping with you. If you’re going car camping, get a tent that’s bigger than it’s rated for, so that size and weight aren’t usually a problem.
If you normally camp alone in your tent or with just one other person and want to expand your camping experience to include backpacking or at the very least walk-in campsites, a nylon tent is a good option.
They are lighter and better suited to minimalist camping and camping where less weight is needed, such as backpacking or hiking on campgrounds. Nylon tents are also suitable for daily camping, making them flexible.
Cotton tents are much more difficult to come by these days, so finding one would almost certainly necessitate some special ordering. They aren’t particularly light or compact, but if that isn’t an issue for you, you might consider getting one.
The price tag would almost certainly be much higher than that of polyester or nylon tents. Cotton tents are sometimes referred to as “glamping” tents.
You’re probably better off with a simple basic polyester tent most of the time, particularly if you’re reading this on Small Car Camp. The tent I often use and suggest is made of polyester and is reasonably priced. The material is both solid and light.
Its ability to last longer in the sun is a significant benefit. To extend the life of your tent, you can take it down every day to keep it out of the heat, but let’s be honest. We become complacent and simply keep our tents up the whole time.
This is something I’ve done before, and I’m sure you have as well. 90% of the time, a sturdy lightweight tent made of polyester will suffice for your basic camping needs.
The four most popular fabric styles for camping tents are those listed above. It’s up to you to choose which one is better suited to your specific requirements and preferences.
Keep in mind, however, that the content of the pole is often influenced by the tent’s fabric. This is because the fabric should not be tugging at the pole all the time, causing the latter to lose its form.
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