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What Are Waterproof Tents Made Of?

Before you purchase a new tent for your next camping trip, it is important to understand the many differences between waterproof and water-resistant tents.

Depending on the climate and geographical region you plan to camp in, you may want to purchase a weatherproof tent versus a water resistant tent.

You definitely don’t want to be sleeping in a leaky tent that soaks you and your gear all night long just because you didn’t understand the differences.

There are a lot of factors that go into the material design of a tent and whether or not it will keep you dry.

Whether you need a tent for light summer rain or strong winds and heavy rain, we break down the difference between these two types of tents and provide valuable information when you go to buy your new tent!

People sitting next to campfire and tent

What is the Difference Between Waterproof and Water Resistant Tents?

Waterproof Tents:

Waterproof tents, sometimes called weatherproof tents, are constructed of nylon and polyester and coated with a finish material that repels moisture. This finish allows water to slide right off without absorbing or seeping inside the tent’s interior.

The coating typically is a silicon-based or polyurethane coating that fills the tent’s pores on nylon and polyester tents. Wax is usually used if it is a canvas or poly-cotton tent.

A weatherproof tent will keep everything underneath it completely dry without the worry of water pooling on top or leaks coming through the outer material.

Water Resistant Tents:

Water resistant tents are treated with a moisture resistant finish that will cause moisture to simply bead up and roll off canopy tents. These types of tents are fine for mists or light showers, but if heavy consistent rain persists, the interior of your tent is eventually going to get wet.

Tents with water resistant finishes and coatings can only hold the water off for so long. During intense rain storms or long, steady showers and snowfall during winter tent camping, the moisture will pool on the tent canopy, ultimately resulting in leaks.

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What Material Types Are Used For Waterproof Tents?

The inner and outer rain cover materials used on a tent may vary across the different brands and manufacturers. However, a tent’s inner and outer layer is often made of the same materials.

Here are the three most common tent fabrics used for waterproof and weatherproof tents. This will help you decide the right tent for you prior to leaving on your next outdoor adventure.


One of the most common man-made tent fabrics worldwide for high-end tents, nylon is a manufactured fabric that is similar to polyester. There is often confusion between these two materials, though.

Nylon is not inherently weatherproof on its own. It only becomes waterproof when a silicone waterproofing agent is applied, making it more durable and stronger over time.

Nylon tents are lighter than those made from polyester and are less prone to ripping and tearing.

Tents made of a waterproof nylon material are more expensive than polyester tents and have the ability to last longer. These are the more rugged option for those who camp several times a year, often in inclement weather.


Many seasonal campers, or campers that only occasionally do tent camping, often chose polyester tents. These type of tents are the most common due to being more affordable than nylon tents.

Similar to nylon tents, the polyester material is not weatherproof on its own. To make polyester tents weatherproof, they must be coated with a polyurethane (PU) coating.

The downside of polyester tents is that over time and continuous exposure to the elements and UV rays from the sun, the waterproof coating will deteriorate. The coating will need to be re-applied to maintain its weatherproof feature.

However, most campers will just choose to upgrade and buy another tent versus waterproofing an existing tent.

Though polyester tents are not as lightweight as those made from nylon, polyester tents are more lightweight than traditional poly-cotton and canvas tents.

However, polyester tents are more prone to tearing and ripping when compared to nylon or even heavy canvas tents.


Coatings applied to fabric can fail or disintegrate over time. If you are a passionate tent camper and want to buy only one tent to last a long time, you may want to consider purchasing a tent made from Dyneema.

Dyneema waterproof tents are some of the newest and most advanced waterproofed tents available. These tents are ultra-lightweight and have an incredibly high tensile strength.

Dyneema tent fabric, unlike nylon and polyester, is inherently waterproof on its own. It does not need an additional polyurethane or other chemical coating to make it waterproof.

Unlike nylon or polyester, Dyneema fabric is a high-performance, composite, non-woven material made from a thin sheet of polyethylene that is laminated between two sheets of polyester.

The fabric design itself is waterproof, which makes tents made from this fabric more expensive than nylon tents.

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Are Waterproof Tent Materials Breathable?

A breathable tent is dependent on its base material. Non-breathable tents are susceptible to condensation building up on the interior, especially in summer months when the humidity is high.

Condensation makes everything inside damp or saturated with moisture, and can also make you feel colder with the damp air.

Tents made from nylon and polyester are not breathable. That is why many tents made from these fabrics have additional air vents with rain covers built into the design of the tent.

Dyneema fabric tents, however, are more breathable, making them a smart choice for year-round campers and hikers.

Campsite On Lake With Tents at Sunrise

How Long Will A Waterproof Tent Last?

The lifespan of how long a waterproof tent lasts depends on the fabric from which it is constructed.

Typically, if properly maintained, a nylon waterproof tent may last up to 10 years if used only a few times a year. Polyester weatherproof tents usually only last for approximately 7 years or less depending on the frequency of use.

Dyneema waterproof tents are one of the most durable tent fabrics and will likely outlast nylon and polyester tents due to the fabric’s waterproofing and UV durability characteristics.

Can You Make Any Tent Waterproof?

It is possible to make any tent waterproof, however the type of material and how long the waterproofing will last is dependent on a few factors.

If you have a used nylon or polyester tent, you can increase its weatherproofing characteristics by reapplying silicone or a polyurethane coating to the tent’s entire exterior surfaces including the main body of the tent, the fabric seems, the rainfly or rain cover, etc.

Waterproofing a traditional poly-cotton or canvas tent is more complicated and involves more time and steps than nylon or polyester tents.

Weatherproofing canvas tent fabric entails several steps and using the correct coating such as a wax based product or by painting on or rolling on a chemical based solvent.

Since we don’t have experience in waterproofing canvas, we are sharing this YouTube tutorial to help you out.