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Polyester, Poly-Cotton or Cotton ?

Posted in FAQs on 29th December 2012

Author - World of Camping

You will notice, when looking at the specification of tents that as well as being all sorts of different shapes, sizes and designs that they are available in different materials too.As if you didn’t have enough difficult choices to make already eh?!

At World of Camping we sell tents made from various fabrics. So Iet’s just point out a few of the major differences between them.

Cotton Tents

Once upon a time, tents were all made of Canvas (Cotton Fabric). They were bulky and heavy, and this is one of the reasons why on todays market they have largely been replaced by tents made of more modern, lighter fabrics.

However, there are some distinct advantages of cotton tents. The material naturally breathes making them much less prone to condensation than other materials. Cotton is also the best fabric to help keep you cool inside your tent on a hot summers day, and warm on a chilly night. If looked after and cared for a cotton tent will last a very long time.

Very few tents are now made of cotton as they are big and heavy to transport and carry, and because of the comparative high cost of the material. However there are some available to those with a few extra pounds to spend who are not overly concerned about the packed down size and weight.

One important thing to remember is that a cotton tent needs to be weathered before it becomes waterproof. So, if you can, be prepared and get your tent up in the garden before you go away ( always a good idea with any tent in order to get you used to it ). Either then wait for the inevitable British rain to soak your tent, or get the garden hose out.

Once soaked, the tent will leak in some places,especially along seams and joins. This is normal. Upon soaking up the water, the cotton will swell up and bind together any small gaps, basically it waterproofs itself!

Polyester Tents

Most tents these days are made from Polyester. It’s a much more lightweight material and therefore more practical for lugging around to festivals, or packing away in the boot of your car whilst still leaving room for your luggage! And, it’s cheaper.

Polyester tents are not naturally waterproof like cotton tents, and come with a waterproof coating. They are also usually reinforced with a rip-stop pattern added into the weave which will minimise the length of any rips which occur.

Polyester tents are usually graded by a Hydrostatic Head (HH) rating, full details of which can be found here. If a tent doesn’t have an HH rating it usually means it’s a cotton or poly-cotton tent to which the HH does not apply as they are not coated with a waterproof substance.

These waterproof coatings vary from one manufacturer to another. But they are usually breathable to a certain extent, however, not as breathable as a cotton tent, so they are prone to condensation. This can sometimes be mistaken for a tent being leaky. So if you are out in your new polyester tent in the rain and water starts dripping on your head, before you start looking for holes, first of all get some ventilation into the tent and wipe off the excess water. If there are a few of you all breathing hot air whilst the cold rain beats down outside you should expect, and accept a certain amount of condensation.

The Main advantages of the polyester tent are the fact that it’s lightweight, can be packed down to a small size, and also the fact that the fabric doesn’t shrink or go baggy when wet. So if you put it up well in the first place, you should only have to make minimal adjustments ┬áto it during your camping holiday.

Polycotton Tents

As you may surmise, polycotton tents are a mix of both of the above fabrics, and hence meet somewhere in the middle in terms of features and benefits.

The tent will be lighter, and less bulky than a cotton tent, and won’t be such a strain on the wallet! It will also be far more breathable than a polyester tent, and therefore more suitable for extreme conditions, especially if you are going to be camping in a hot country.

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