Polyester vs Polycotton tents

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There are two main types of fabrics used to manufacture a tent or awning, one being polyester, which is the more popular style of tent, and the other being the polycotton fabric - which is a hybrid of cotton and polyester. Many customers get confused about which option suits them best, and whether to buy a Polyester or a Polycotton tent? 

This article aims to give you the pro’s and con’s of each tent type, so you can decide which works best for you!

Types of Polyester Tents and Awnings

Polyester has many different thicknesses of fabric - which is identified by Denier or Thread Count. The higher the denier or thread count, the better quality, the more durable a tent will be. Family tents tend to be made from 70 Denier or 150 Denier, as this fabric is lightweight, yet still robust enough to deal with most weather encountered in the British camping season. The higher thickness fabrics tend to be used on Elite Family tents, caravan awnings and motorhome awnings, as these products are used longer in to the camping season, meaning they need to be more robust.

70 Denier - an entry level fabric perfect for Summer time camping.

150 Denier - a mid level fabric perfect for camping a little later in the season.

420 Denier - found in awnings and Elite tents - heavy, durable fabric

Double Ripstop - a heavy and durable fabric.

Polyester Advantages

  • Highly waterproof - treated to be waterproof, meaning it is highly effective against the wet British weather.
  • Lightweight - the fabric is much lighter in weight - so an adventure or lightweight tent will always be made from polyester or nylon, as they are more weight effective.
  • Different Thicknesses for different purposes - ideal for starter campers, or vehicle awnings needing a stronger fabric.
  • Affordability - polyester is far more cost effective than polycotton - and offers greater value for money. Ideal for the starter camper, or those who do not camp as regularly.
  • Quick to Dry out - polyester tends to dry out very quickly, which is a huge advantage when trying to get away from the campsite, as a cotton tent can take longer to dry out. Packing the tent away dry is essential to ensure the tent is stored properly, to avoid mould and bad smells.

Polyester Disadvantages

  • Condensation - polyester does not breathe once its waterproof treated - therefore you will get a larger build up of condensation, especially at certain times in the year, when there is more moisture in the air. Also, polyester tents are so heavily waterproofed, that it is very difficult for the moisture to leave the tent. Air tents seem certainly to get more condensation, as the internal Airbeams attract them.
  • Breathability - As mentioned before, polyester tents do not breathe well, especially if they have a sewn-in groundsheet, which most family tents do - so you will get them being extremely warm in hot weather conditions, as they soak up the sun, and do not let the hot air out. Also, in colder conditions, polyester does not retain heat, making polyester less ideal for earlier season camping.
  • Durability - 70 denier tents do not have the durability of polycotton, so if lifetime is something you are really keen on - you need to purchase a heavier weight of polyester, atleast 150 denier, or move into polycotton. 70 Denier tents will fade quicker than better fabrics, and will ultimately degrade quicker.

Polyester - Perfect for:

  • Ideal for the multi-stop camper.
  • Ideal for first time campers.
  • Ideal for single parents as it is lighter in weight.
  • Works well in British weather conditions.
  • Ideal for the semi-regular camper who goes a couple of times a year, and uses the tent no more than three - four weeks a year.

Polycotton Advantages:

  • Adaptability - Polycotton's main advantage is its ability to adapt to different climates. Cotton works well in colder weather as it retains heat, and also worked well in warm conditions, as the fabric breathes and will remain cooler than polyester.
  • Durability - Ideal for longer camping trips, or for extended camping trips - as the fabric will not degrade as quickly as polyester fabric.
  • UV Degradation - Ideal for foreign trips where the sun is stronger. UV degradation is the number one killer of a tent - fading and perishing the fabric - polycotton can last longer than polyester in these climates.
  • Structural - as a structure, polycotton is much stronger than polyester, and will be able to handle higher levels of wind speed, when compared with polyester.
  • Quieter in the Wind -  polycotton's great strength is also the ability to remain quieter in windy conditions - the fabric does not make the same high rustling sound that polyester makes in the wind.

Polycotton Disadvantages

  • Heavier - the fabric is far heavier than polyester - and harder to transport. Ideally heavier family tents, will need two people to lift them in and out of the car.
  • Larger Pack Size - the pack size is larger on polycotton tents, when compared with polyester, meaning they take up more space in the car.
  • Needs weathering - any polycotton tent will need weathering. To do this - the fabric needs to be treated with water, and then allow to dry. The best exercise is to pitch in the garden, and use a hosepipe, and then allow to dry. This is because the fabric will swell when wet, and then tighten together stronger once it has dried out properly. 
  • Dries out slower

Polycotton - Perfect for:

  • Those camping in warmer conditions on the continent.
  • Those out camping a lot over the season.
  • Those who are camping for extended periods of time.
  • Those who are early or late season campers.
  • Which is best for you?

Some Questions to Ask Yourself?

  • What climate will you be using the tent in?
  • How long do you expect the tent to last?
  • Are you multi-stop camping?
  • Can you manage the weight of a polycotton tent?
  • What budget do you have?
Categories: Tent Information