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Tent Material Guide

How do the pros and cons of a material fit in with our camping style?

All our materials – including groundsheets – will keep out wind and water. But materials do this in different ways and may require a different set of camping skills to ensure they do this efficiently.

Variables like time, money, use, space will also affect choice. 

Let’s consider the three material types we use for our tents. We no longer use pure cotton – a great fabric but highly expensive at the quality we demand. 

Our tents are made from specially created Outtex® polycotton or polyester fabrics and our simple guide will help you understand which one is suitable for your needs.

Cotton

Outwell polyester tents are great for general camping and for short trips. Weight and packed size is generally ideal for those who struggle for space or when ease of pitching is a consideration.

Pros 

Good tensile and tear strength – our fabrics are specially designed to our exacting standards that ensure they perform and stand up to the rigours of outdoor living.
 
Hydrophobic – polyester does not absorb water, so it retains tension when wet, minimising sag and potential damage.
 
Mildew resistant – the hydrophobic nature helps the fabric dry quickly and resist mildew. 
 
User friendly maintenance – easy to clean and dry. While not advisable, polyester can be left packed damp for short periods until it can be dried at home.
 
Weight and pack size – easier to handle, transport and store than polycotton.
 
Cost – synthetic fabrics are generally less expensive than those containing natural fibres.

Cons 

Poor UV and heat resistance compared to our polycotton but better than other synthetics. This leads to a… 
 
Limited lifespan as the fabric deteriorates.
 
Non breathable – a synthetic fabric uses a coating to its inner face to keep out water. This means it is susceptible to condensation even when using the best venting methods. 
 
No protection from temperature variations – synthetic fabrics have little insulation value.
 
Noisy in winds – it can flap!

Polycotton

Outwell polycotton tents are the ultimate luxury camping experience. Perfect for longer camping holidays throughout the year, our polycotton fabric ensures your tent is cool in summer, warm when temperatures fall and condensation-free in bad weather.

Pros 

Breathable and moisture absorbent properties eliminate condensation.
 
Maintains a stable temperature inside – cooler than synthetic in the sun and warmer when outside temperatures fall. 
 
Noise free in windy conditions – the heavy fabric reduces flapping.
 
Great feel and smell – who can forget that warm, comforting smell of childhood holidays in a cotton tent? It’s the stuff of happy memories!
 
UV and heat resistance means…
 
Long lifespan.

Cons 

Initial cost – natural fibres increase cost, but this is balanced with longer life expectancy.
 
Care during use – polycotton keeps out water through the natural fibres swelling when wet. It is a totally different process than a synthetic – hence no hydrostatic head rating. Campers need to understand the process and how to maintain it.
 
Weight and pack size – polycotton fabric is heavier and bulkier than polyester.
 
Preparation, maintenance and storage – these sum up the previous two bullet points. You need time and space to look after and store polycotton.

Weathering a polycotton tent

Should I weather my Outwell polycotton tent? 

Make sure your tent is prepped for the campsite.

Read more