Best Tent Materials & Their Uses
When it comes to choosing a tent, you have a lot of options out there. I’m often asked about the differences in materials and which one is the “best”. This is not a one size fits all situation. My short answer would be “it depends”, but I’m going to break it down for you so you can make an educated decision on which tent material is right for you!
Nylon tents are a suitable option for those in search of a more affordable tent. Well suited for beach tents due to its breathability and can be customized for harsh conditions with the addition of a waterproof coating.
Naturally, nylon has a tendency to break down under UV radiation, does not protect well against moisture, and simply does not have the longevity of other materials. That being said, nylon can be coated and uncoated nylon does feature breathability which can help prevent build up of condensation on the inside of your tent and may be more comfortable in hot & dry conditions. Coated nylon improves UV resistance and waterproofing abilities, but be aware that its natural breathability is lost to this process.
To sum up, if you're looking for an affordable alternative comparable to polyester, coated nylon may be the right fit for you. Also, if you're looking for a place to get some shade on the beach or camping in a dry climate, nylon may also be the right material for you.
Polyester offers several features making it a suitable option for outdoor recreation. This material is more resistant than nylon to the outside elements and resists degradation from factors such as rain, wind, UV, and snow.
Fabric thickness comes in a wide range of options giving the user a good balance between weight and durability based on individual needs. In general, higher weight/thickness is going to provide better protection from the elements. Keep in mind though, even the thinner/lighter polyester fabrics can be coated with polyurethane or PVC giving you a waterproof shelter that will not leak and meets ultralight standards.
One downside to polyester is that it does not offer exceptional breathability. This means you’ll want to increase ventilation when camping in a humid environment to prevent excess condensation from forming on the interior of your tent overnight. I recommend using a solar or battery powered fan in addition to choosing a tent with built in ventilation.
For lightweight campers/backpackers and those looking for a tent that will provide years of regular use, Polyester is likely the best option for you.
Canvas tents are by far the most expensive option, but they provide unrivaled durability and resistance to the outside elements. After being exposed to rain, the fibers actually expand creating a waterproof fabric with better ventilation properties than polyester.
The downside is that canvas is a much heavier material than Nylon or Polyester and is not a good option for those hiking long distances to their campsite. The weight and bulkiness of a canvas tent makes it ideal for long term camping and those looking to drive in to their camp site.
Again, the durability and weather resistance makes canvas the best option for long term camping, but if you plan to travel far Polyester is your ticket. One additional feature of canvas tents is that they can be found in very large sizes. So if you need to shelter a large group, canvas is a great option.