There’s a lot to learn about camping in general, but it may surprise you to learn just how many different materials tents can be made of.
It’s easy to just head to the store, pick out a shiny new tent, and head out for a trip but that’s not always going to work out well.
Different tents materials keep you comfortable in different conditions.
The more you know about what are tents made of , the more comfortable you’ll be deciding on whether to purchase a tent made of polyester, canvas/cotton, nylon, or cuben fiber.
The materials that your tent is made of will determine whether or not they’re a good fit for your camping trip. Learning about the materials tents are made of will help you find the perfect tent for your outdoor adventure every time!
What Material Are Tents Made of?
Tents can be made out of several different materials. There are going to be drawbacks and benefits to each one and it’s helpful to have an idea of what different materials can offer you.
It’ll make preparing for your camping trip that much easier and help you to feel confident in your purchasing choices.
Polyester is by far the most common material that tents are made out of today. That’s because the plastic is easy to manufacture, and at a low cost.
Tents that are made out of polyester are usually rated as all-weather tents, which means you can use them in most temperatures and seasons.
The benefits of using a polyester tent are they’re lightweight, easy to pack, and a low-cost option.
Polyester tents are usually very easy to set up and disassemble. They’re also strong enough to remain secure during brief storms and strong winds.
There are also some drawbacks to using a tent made of this material. Although they’re considered all-weather, they do tend to trap in heat during the summer.
If you plan on using a polyester tent in the summer then you may want to do some research on how to keep your tent cool.
Polyester tents are also more prone to sun damage over time so they won’t last as long as tents made of other materials.
Canvas and cotton are usually grouped together because they’re essentially the same material. The canvas used for tents is mostly made of cotton so it’s going to have all the same pros and cons as a fully cotton tent.
You won’t see many canvas or cotton tents used these days and that’s largely due to how heavy they are.
This type of material is also going to be the most expensive so if you’re looking for an affordable tent or want something you can carry with you while hiking or backpacking, then a canvas or cotton tent won’t be your best option.
However, this material can offer incredibly comfortable camping or ‘glamping’ experience. Cotton and canvas are strong, sturdy materials that can withstand strong winds and storms.
"They’re also amazing insulators and will help to keep you warm in cold weather."
Nylon is another common tent material. It has a lot of the same positives as polyester; including being lightweight, easy to pack, and it’s usually treated to be waterproof.
"Nylon is also more durable than polyester, which makes it worth the extra cost."
The downsides of this material are that it’s a bit more expensive than polyester tents, and it can also be susceptible to damage after prolonged sun exposure.
This is a tent that would be great for a couple of camping trips, but don’t expect a tent made out of this material to last you for too many seasons.
Tents made out of cuben fiber- or DFC as it’s also known- are made to be the strongest tents on the market.
These tents are perfect for backpackers who need a tent that is ultra-lightweight, extremely durable, water-resistant, and able to withstand extreme weather.
Like all materials, cuben fiber does have its drawbacks. Any tent made out of DFC is going to be fairly expensive.
They also don’t offer the same level of flexibility that other materials do and are more susceptible to heat damage.
The sun won’t damage this tent, but the heat from your fire could so you would need to keep your tent well away from your campfire or camping stove.
The material your tent poles are made of is just as important as your tents’ materials.
The poles provide stability and give your tent its structure. Choosing the right tent poles will help your tent stay upright and secure.
Just like tents themselves, the poles that go along with them can be made out of several different materials.
These are some of the most common materials and their benefits and drawbacks.
Fiberglass is incredibly common for tent poles because they’re easy to produce and inexpensive.
They’re also safer to use in areas that are prone to thunderstorms because they don’t conduct electricity.
If you handle these poles properly and don't put too much strain on them, then they can be incredibly long-lasting because they aren’t prone to corrosion.
The downside to fiberglass tent poles is they’re less sturdy than other materials. They’re likely to splinter in extremely cold temperatures and they can’t handle much strain.
"Strong winds or storms can cause fiberglass poles to snap because they don’t have the same flexibility as other materials."
There are a lot of benefits to aluminum tent poles. The material is going to weigh the same as fiberglass poles, but they’re a lot stronger.
Aluminum poles are very flexible and can withstand strong winds and extreme temperatures because they’re able to bend rather than snap.
Aluminum poles are going to cost you more than those made out of fiberglass.
Another downside is that they will corrode over time if they’re exposed to enough moisture and they do conduct electricity so they may not be the safest option in areas where extreme thunderstorms occur.
Carbon fiber tent poles aren’t nearly as common as fiberglass or aluminum. They’re typically only used by experienced hikers and backpackers who plan on camping for an extended period of time.
This material is one of the best because it’s lightweight and stronger than most alternatives.
It takes 2-3 times more pressure to make carbon fiber bend than aluminum, but it will crack and break if it’s exposed to extreme conditions.
Poles made of carbon fiber are going to be significantly more expensive than the alternatives. The material isn’t as easily produced as aluminum or fiberglass which drives its prices up.
Setting up your tent doesn’t end with the poles and the tent itself. You still need to know how to set up your guylines and stake your tent down to keep your tent secure in rough weather.
Making sure your guylines are made out of the right material for your climate is essential to having a secure tent and getting a good night’s sleep.
The most common material guylines are made of is light nylon string. This material is great because it’s strong, resistant to mildew and bacteria, and able to stretch under pressure.
"Guylines made out of nylon won’t snap in rough conditions and are easy to keep clean."
Another good option for guylines is thin spectra strings. They’re lighter than nylon but just as strong. This material is easy to tie and also highly reflective which will make it easier for you to spot in the wilderness.
Some campers have also had success using paracord for their guylines. It’s an inexpensive and strong material that would work best in mild weather.
Paracord can be bulky and also tends to stretch under strain. If it’s windy and rainy then paracord can stretch to the point that your tent is no longer secure, and you and your gear could wind up getting wet.
Also Read: Tent Security: 12 Tips to Stay Safe While Camping
Which tent Materials Are Best?
Deciding on which materials are best largely depends on where and when you’re going camping.
It’s also subjective because different people are going to want a different experience while camping.
Here’s a basic breakdown of which materials will benefit you the most in the summer, winter, and while car-camping.
When you’re camping in the summer you’re going to want a tent that’s made out of breathable materials so the heat and humidity don’t get trapped inside with you. The best option for that is going to be polyester.
A polyester tent will shield you from any summer rainstorms that sneak up on you while providing the breathability you need.
It’s also your most lightweight option so you won’t have to worry about overexerting yourself in the heat while carrying it to your campsite.
You’ll want to look for a tent that is mostly made out of one of these materials and has some mesh windows for extra airflow.
If the weather is going to be mild during your summer camping trip then aluminum poles will probably serve you the best.
Winter camping can be challenging. Your tent is your only shelter from the elements so it’s extremely important to pick a tent made from materials that can keep you warm and insulated.
Canvas tents are great for winter camping because the heavy material is well insulated and strong enough to withstand rough weather.
However, it isn’t a material that you should expect to be able to carry far, so if you plan on hiking for a while to get to your campsite then you should go with a lighter material like nylon.
It will still keep you warm and shelter you from the elements, although you may want to wear extra layers to stay warm.
The best material for poles while camping in the winter is aluminum. They’re strong and flexible enough to withstand most weather conditions and won’t break as easily as fiberglass poles.
Car-camping has become increasingly popular in recent years and there’s certainly a lot of benefits to it.
You can travel to many different camping sites in a short span of time and you don’t have to worry about getting lost out on the trail.
There are tents made specifically for car camping, and most of them are going to be made out of polyester.
This is because polyester is a tough material that can hold up to a variety of weather conditions. It’s also a good choice for car camping because it won’t weigh down your vehicle as much as other materials.
Most tents made for car camping are going to come with aluminum poles. They’re strong and flexible enough to handle different climates while still providing the protection you need.
Tents can be big, bulky, and hard to carry out to your campsite if you’re out of shape or camping in very warm weather
It can be tempting to leave the tent behind and if you do so, you’re going to need an alternative.
A classic alternative to bringing a tent along is to use a tarp. What makes tarps such a good alternative to a tent?
They’re both made out of the same materials! There are cloth canvas tarps as well as plastic polyester tarps that you can use.
They’ll offer you the same benefits and drawbacks, but you really can’t go wrong with a traditional plastic tarp.
The best way to use this in place of a tent is to find a natural structure you can use as part of your shelter inside your campsite.
Also Read: Does The Color Of A Tent Matter?
You can use a few strong, sturdy branches to form a triangle shape to make the outside structure of your shelter. Even two trees spaced close enough together would work wonderfully.
You can throw your tarp up over the branches, roll out your sleeping bag underneath it, and call it a day.
Obviously, this method won’t provide you with the best protection from the elements, but it can be a great alternative during a warm, clear summer’s night.
The tarp will still prevent light rainfall from making you and your gear wet, and it’ll provide you with a slight windbreak.
If you’re passionate about building up your survival skills or simply want to try your hand at making a shelter with what nature gives you, then your best option is going to be a brush shelter.
Part of camping and hiking is about connecting with nature and there’s no better way to do that than spending a night in a brush shelter.
For this shelter, you’ll need to gather up as many branches, leaves, and shrubbery as you can.
Then you pile them up until it takes on the appearance of a small dome. You’ll need to leave a small opening for you to crawl in and out of.
It takes practice, but this type of shelter has been used by indigenous people all around the world for centuries. It will keep you well insulated and dry all night long.
Spending a night or two in a brush shelter will give you a better appreciation of what nature’s capable of, and the comfort that manufactured tents offer these days.
Tents can be made out of several different materials, but the most common are polyester, nylon, canvas, and cuben fiber.
Each material has its pros and cons but polyester is generally going to be your best option. It’s strong, inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to assemble and disassemble.
The materials that your tent is made out of making a difference. Canvas is great for the winter, but not if you need to hike with it.
Knowing the qualities of your tent materials will help you make the best decision about which tent is right for you during different camping trips.
Getting the most out of your camping trip can be easy when you have the proper knowledge.
Being aware of your tent materials and what conditions they perform best in will bring you one step closer to being an expert camper!
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About the Author
Hussain is a passionate hiker and traveler that love the outdoor and enjoys what nature has to give, whenever he can he love to write and give tips & honest reviews to help others get out there and just seek more unforgettable experiences.