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What Are Tents Made Of?

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who likes to know every detail about his/her gear or if you’re a fellow who likes to know everything before making a purchase (such as me) then keep reading. In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about tent fabrics.

What are the Main Parts of Tents?

Tents have 3 main parts which contain fabric;

  • Canopy
  • Rainfly
  • Tent Floor

What are the Canopy, Rainfly, and Tent Floor made of?

All three parts are generally made of either Nylon or Polyester. Both Nylon and Polyester are lightweight and durable synthetic polymer-based materials.

But for tents, Nylon is the better option, it’s lighter and yet more durable than polyester. And nylon stretches more than polyester, therefore, packs down smaller.

But as you might have guessed Nylon tents are more expensive compared to Polyester tents.

What are the specs of fabrics the tents are made of?

Just looking at the fabric type wouldn’t say much about fabric, there are other things to consider when it comes to identifying a fabric’s quality.

Generally, brands provide the specifications of fabrics like this:

68D 330T Ripstop Nylon 3000mm polyurethane & silicone

All those numbers and texts represent a feature of the fabric, therefore I’ve explained each by color-coding them.

  1. How dense is the fabric?
  2. What is the thread count of the fabric?
  3. If it is Ripstop or not?
  4. How waterproof is the fabric?

Let’s take a look at each one.

What is the fabric density?

It’s a unit of density based on the length and weight of a yarn or fiber. Even though there are other factors that affect the durability of a tent’s fabric such as nylon type, usually, the more the denier the more the durability. But also it gets heavier as the denier of the fabric increases.

Generally, ultralight backpacking tents are made of 10 to 30 denier fabric and it goes up to 300D for bigger car camping tents.

And in general fabric floors of tents’ are made of more denier fabric to prevent rips and other damages.

What is the thread count?

It is a measure of how many threads are woven into one square inch of fabric. Although there are several other factors that affect the durability, a higher thread count represents tighter weave in the fabric, and usually, the larger the thread count the more the durability.

What is Ripstop?

Ripstop fabrics are the reinforced fabrics that are more resistant to tearing and ripping. To make ripstop nylon, the reinforcing yarns are interwoven in a crosshatch pattern at frequent intervals during weaving.

How waterproof is the fabric?

tent made of waterproof fabric

Woven fabrics such as Nylon and polyester fabrics are not waterproof, so they get coated with PU or silicone coating to make them waterproof.

If you want to learn the difference between PU and Silicone coating I would recommend reading this article.

In general waterproofness of a tent is measured via a process called hydrostatic head (HH) testing.

Waterproofness rating (Hydrostatic Head testing results) for tents are measured in millimeters and it varies between 1.000mm to 10.000mm. Although there are some other factors that affect the waterproofness of a tent, usually, the higher the rating the more waterproof the tent fabric.

Generally, backpacking tents’ fabric ratings vary from 1000mm to 3000mm. And 3000mm is considered good for a backpacking tent, for instance, Nemo Hornet’s Rainfly fabric is rated 1200mm, MSR Hubba Hubba Nx’s Rainfly is rated 3000mm.


In the last decades, tents are made of Nylon and Polyester fabrics, Nylon is better but also the more expensive option since it offers more durability with less weight.

But there are other things to consider to understand a tent’s fabric quality. You need to look at the specs of the fabric as well, in general, fabric specifications are shown like this:

68D 330T Ripstop Nylon 3000mm polyurethane & silicone

And each specification respectively represents the density, thread count, whether the fabric is ripstop or not, and how waterproof is the fabric.

To sum it up:

  • The greater the density and thread count the more the durability
  • Ripstop nylons are reinforced nylons with different techniques to prevent tearing, If you want a more robust tent then go for a tent that features a ripstop nylon fabric
  • The higher the waterproof metric the more the water resistance

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