Skip to Content

What Are Waterproof Tents Made Of?

What Are Waterproof Tents Made Of?

Before you purchase a new tent for your next camping trip, it is important to understand the difference 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 rather than a water resistant tent. The last thing you don’t want to be concerned with on your outdoor adventure is being exposed to inclement weather, and having a leaky tent that soaks your gear.

There are a lot of factors that go into the material design of a tent and if your tent 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, causing it to slide right off without major absorption or seepage inside the tent’s interior.

The coating typically is a silicon-based or polyurethane coating that fills the tent’s pores for nylon and polyester tents or wax 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 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 events or even long, steady showers and snowfall, the moisture will pool on the tent canopy, ultimately resulting in leaks.

What Material Types Are Used For The Outer And Inner Of A Waterproof Tent?

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 general tent fabrics most commonly used for waterproof and weatherproof tents. This will help you decide the right tent for you prior to leaving on your next outdoor adventure!

Nylon

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

Inherently, nylon is not 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 and are more rugged for those who camp several times a year.

Polyester

Many seasonal campers, or campers that only occasionally set out on hiking adventures, often chose polyester tents. These type of tents are the most common due to being more affordable than nylon tents.

Similar to their counterpart nylon tents, the polyester material is not weatherproof. To make tents constructed of polyester they must be coated with a polyurethane (PU) coating.

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

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, it should be noted polyester tents are more prone to tearing and ripping when compared to nylon or even heavy canvas tents.

Dyneema

If you’re interested in purchasing a tent made from a fabric that does not require an additional, applied waterproofing solvent, then 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, without the need for an additional polyurethane or other chemical coating.

Dissimilar to nylon or polyester, the 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. Though natively waterproof, tents made from this fabric will be more expensive than nylon tents.

✳️ Check out our camping gift guide!

Are Waterproof Tents Materials Breathable?

A breathable tent is dependent on its base material. Non-breathable tents are susceptible to condensate building up on the interior increasing the humidity in the summer months and making everything inside damp or saturated with moisture.

Tents made from nylon and polyester are not breathable. Thus, 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 solid choice for year-round campers and hikers.

Campsite On Lake With Tents at Sunrise

How Long Will A Waterproof Tent Last?

The lifespan of 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.

It is a widely held belief Dyneema waterproof tents are one of the most durable tent fabrics – often outlasting 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 more 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.