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How to choose the best tent fabric for you

Not all tents were created equal.

If you’re in the market for camping gear or looking to buy a tent as a gift, it pays to remember this point.

In fact, as you’ll soon discover, a tent’s material is a critical factor in the purchasing process.

Read on – this handy guide will make it less intense to find the right tents.

A material world: Let us help you find the right tent. Location: BIG4 Bright Holiday Park, VIC.

Cotton/canvas tents

One of the most common tent materials you may come across is cotton or canvas. When choosing a cotton/canvas tent, you can count on extra temperature regulation: Cotton is great at keeping you cosy but also ventilates well when things get too warm.

Compared to other tent materials, cotton is less prone to condensation.

Don't forget the weathering...

However, prior to using a canvas tent for the first time, it should go through a process called ‘weathering’. Simply put your tent up before your camping trip and wait until it rains. Or make it 'rain' yourself!

This process will make the cotton fibres swell and nestle, ensuring your tent will be waterproof for your camping trip. If you do not execute the weathering process before you go camping, you may get some drops of water coming through the tent.

Canvas tents usually require weathering only once, but some tents need weathering at least three times before they’re fully waterproof. For that reason, you may want to do some waterproof testing before you head out on your camping trip with a new cotton/canvas tent.

Once weathered, your new tent will be among the more durable and waterproof tents available.

If rain hits, you'll want to be prepared when camping.

PVC-coated tents

When buying a large tent made of cotton, you may notice the tent has a polyvinyl chloride coating on the exterior. This polyvinyl chloride coating on your canvas tent makes it waterproof from the start, so there is no need to weather it prior to embarking upon your camping trip.

The only downside to the waterproof layer is that it makes the tent a little more prone to condensation. If you intend to buy a PVC-coated tent, it is essential to choose a coated tent with enough ventilation, so condensation does not become a problem.

Tent materials are many and varied. Location: BIG4 Park Beach Holiday Park, Coffs Harbour, NSW.

Polyester-cotton tents

Here is a combination that delivers both strength and durability.

A polyester-cotton blend does not have to be coated to be waterproof, although you will find that most polycotton tents will have an additional waterproof layer, which acts as a water repellent.

Looking for a tent that is going to last many years? Then the polycotton tent will be one of your better options.

Polyester and cotton are also more affordable compared to some other tent fabrics.

With the right tent, it's a good life. Location: BIG4 Ballina Headlands Holiday Park, NSW.

Polyester tents

Tents made completely from polyester are a popular option. Many manufacturers prefer the durability of this material for new tent releases, as polyester is a little more durable than nylon and is available in a variety of coatings. You will have to do some research before choosing a specific polyester tent, though.

The coating used on a polyester tent may affect the price of the tent. Ideally, you need a polyester tent with a coating that provides enough ventilation yet does not let moisture through.

When comparing the characteristics of a polyester tent with the characteristics of a polycotton tent, you will notice they are very similar. However, a polyester tent does have the added benefit that it won't shrink or get heavier when coming into direct contact with water.

A polyester tent is less affected by sunlight, too, making it ideal for camping in the Australian sun.

Consider the (likely) conditions: it may affect your purchase. Location: BIG4 Renmark Riverfront Holiday Park, SA.

Nylon tents

Campers intending to go hiking may prefer the nylon tent over any other tent. Nylon is a light material, ensuring the carry weight of the tent stays to an absolute minimum. Nylon tents also tend to be among the most affordable tents on the market.

A nylon tent without additional coating is also a possibility, considering that nylon fibres do not absorb water. This also means nylon tents do not become heavier or shrink when encountering rain.

Some manufacturers also add a protective coating to their nylon tents. It is not unusual to find a nylon tent with a silicone, polyurethane, or acrylic coating. Any coating applied should focus on durability, as nylon is water resistant by nature.

A silicone coating on a nylon tent will offer the best overall protection. However, if cost is an issue, an acrylic coating can also be considered.

Many manufacturers will also use a ripstop weave in the fabric of a nylon tent, making it extra strong and durable. Always check the details of each tent before you make a purchase.

Whatever tent material you choose, we wish you the happiest of camping!

Happy camping, reader. Location: BIG4 Paradise Tamworth, NSW.

Isn't it time you had a camping adventure? Book your next BIG4 break now.

This article first appeared at

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