What Is the Best Tent Fabric for Family Camping Tent

May. 17, 2022

For a family camping tent, it must be weather resistant, i.e. waterproof. So regarding this and other criteria, what is the best tent fabric? Here I have provided some basic information on the fabric issue.


Tent fabric comparison

The most important part of the tent is its flaps and floor. These elements should be waterproof, and this also applies to the lower part of the tent walls if the fly is not a full coverage type.

Usually waterproof tent fabrics can be one of the following.

● Polyester.

● Nylon.

● Polyethylene.

● UV-Tex 5.

● Canvas (and poly-canvas).

● Cuben fiber.

● Gore-Tex.

● Vapex.


Only the first five are important for the family camping tent you have on site. The other three are for smaller tents or winter tents designed for professionals. Some synthetic materials are waterproof without a coating.

In general, nylon is stronger and more abrasion resistant than polyester, but it can absorb some water, whereas polyester does not. Nylon tent material is stronger and can be lighter, so you can see this material used for backpacking tents. The usual family camping tent is usually polyester or the less common canvas.

Polyethylene is mainly used for tent floors. That's why you have such a thick floor in some Coleman tents. It's heavy, but durable, so it's best to build the floor with this material because when you put this material on the floor, you basically don't need to take up space. This material itself is waterproof and does not require a coating.

UV-Tex 5 fabric is a polyester and tents with this material are cooler because this material reflects more sunlight. If you camp a lot throughout the year, this is the material to consider.

What Is the Best Tent Fabric for Family Camping Tent

Camping Tents


Synthetic vs. canvas

Synthetic materials

● They are not breathable (except for those that are, like the mentioned Gore-Tex). So you guess, you have to fight condensation.

● Those synthetics are bad insulators. When it's cold outside, it's cold inside, and when it's warm outside, it's the same inside.

● They're thin, but that means they're noisy in the wind. That can be annoying.

● A lot of the time, they don't smell good.

● Oh, yes, some are known to cause cancer.

● But these materials are usually very cheap.

● They are very light.

● They dry quickly.

● They don't require much maintenance.

● They are not supposed to be flammable.



● These materials absorb water.

● They are heavy.

● They require more care and maintenance.

● They are expensive.

● It's hard to imagine a modern backpacker with a canvas tent.

● But the material of these tents is breathable. They are perfect for desert camping.

● There are no condensation problems.

● They are much better insulated.

● It's heavy and they're not noisy.

● They are more resistant to UV rays.


Canvas is waterproof

Canvas absorbs moisture, so it must be treated to keep it breathable. So you have various waterproofing techniques that should more or less waterproof and cause water to bead up. Usually, impregnation is used for cotton thread, which becomes waterproof but still breathable.


Sometimes it is mixed with polyester and this combination is called poly canvas. It should have the best (and worst) of the two materials.

What Is the Best Tent Fabric for Family Camping Tent

Camping Tents


Polyurethane Coating

PU coating is the most common coating used for budget tents, i.e., it is the cheapest method of waterproofing and is used in most of the family camping tents shown on this site. When exposed to visible light, this coating may turn yellow or reddish brown in time, but this still does not affect its waterproofing properties.

However, higher energy UV radiation can cause a chemical reaction in the foam, so over time it may become non-waterproof.


Silicone coating - SilNylon

Silicone applied to nylon is what is usually called the SilNylon. In this technology, a thin woven fabric is impregnated by liquid silicone from both sides. The silicone adds to the strength of the fabric and makes it highly waterproof. Such materials are not breathable of course.

The SilNylon is used in higher quality tents and it is very stable regarding the UV radiation and temperature variations. You will see this in the prices of tents where it is used.

In some cases, you have silicone applied from outside and PU coating from inside. . But such a combination results in a heavier material than when you have silicone on both sides. PU coated material are far easier to tape, and this is done from inside as usual.


All is known about this material which is the only breathable in the synthetic materials mentioned above. This material is used mainly in 4-season tents which are then used by professionals, and you will not see it in family camping tens. As you guess, such tents are very expensive.


Cuben fiber

This is a high-performance non-woven fabric with an excellent resistance to ultraviolet light. It does not stretch and it is translucent. Such materials are very expensive and you will not see them in family camping. Such materials are very expensive and you will not see them in family camping tents.


Seam sealing

Regardless how waterproof the tent fabric is, if the seams are not sealed you do not have a waterproof tent. What you can see in the descriptions of some waterproof items is the following terminology:


Fully taped seams. The meaning should be obvious, all seams are taped. A fully waterproof tent must have this in the specifications.

Welded seams. In this case, the pieces of material are fused together with the help of heat and pressure. This does not apply to all materials, so you can use thermoplastic materials. The material itself is used as a fastener to hold the seams together. This technique is commonly used for tent floors made of polyethylene as described above


Tightly taped seams. In this case, only the exposed seams are sealed. This is typical for waterproof jackets, but not common in tents.


How much waterproofing to expect

Tents shown on site usually have a waterproof rating between 600 - 3000 mm. To better understand the meaning, you should know that an average umbrella is around 400 mm.

Thank you for reading. Any questions, feel free to contact us. Have a great day.

What Is the Best Tent Fabric for Family Camping Tent