High Quality Camping Tents – Material Codes Explained

When buying high quality camping tents people usually focus on the size, price and features.What is all to often neglected is the type of material the tent is made from.

Tents of all makes and prices vary in materials, of which are suited for various weather and climate conditions. This is where many new camping enthusiasts seems to sell themselves short.

Imagine having bought a high quality camping tent only to have your adventures and your tent destroyed. Choosing the wrong tent material can easily lead to this disaster.

Whether it is from tears, lack of waterproofing or poor insulating properties, not buying the correct tent based on the climate of your chosen adventure grounds; will almost always end in more stress than leisure.

One of the reasons tent materials is often overlooked is simply the way the information is presented to customers. It isn’t simply a matter of what material the tent is made of, but also the quality, thread count and its waterproofing abilities etc. The information isn’t always presented clearly and can often lead to confusion.

Material Code Confusion?

Like most beginners of new hobbies, I too made some very easy mistakes. It is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement and just buy a good-looking tent on impulse.

Myself, like many others bought a tent for my adventures based on looks and how the container was presented. I noticed some strange numbers and symbols but never really payed it much attention.

I assumed that because the price was mid range, I was buying a mid range tent that would suit all of my weekend camping needs. I was lucky for a few weekends, but after repeated use and a random storm, I was cold and slightly wet from poor insulted materials and tear holes that had previously gone unnoticed in the finer weather.

Frustrated at how quickly my tent had deteriorated after only a few weekends of use, I began to do some research.

To be honest I am a little embarrassed to admit my faults here, but by offering my experiences and what I have learned, I hope to guide you all towards wiser purchases. The mid range tent I had bought was of a cheap material with low thread count and very little water resistance.

Embarrassingly enough, and to be fair to the company who I had purchased it from, the information was right in font of me on the packaging. The information wasn’t obvious or in my face like the well presented pictures and text but was written as tiny specifications.

To give you an example of what these specifications often look like I have provided an example with it’s deciphered meaning below.
150D x 190T Nylon mesh terylene PU2000 polyurethane & Silicone

(Denier) x (Thread Count) (water proofing) (water repellent)

As I mentioned before, it was my own ignorance and impulsive excitement which led me to purchasing a poor quality tent.

Below I have provided a brief explanation to each of the specifications to assist you with making a knowledgeable purchase.

Denier – Size Does Matter!

Denier (20D, 30D, 150D etc) is often used as a measurement to describe the thickness of your tent’s material.

Think of it as a unit of density which describes the thickness and length of a single fiber or yarn (depending on which material is used). To put it simply, the higher the denier number the thicker the diameter of the thread.

However, the higher denier numbers don’t always mean a strong thread. The type of material which is being used also plays a crucial role. See Tent Material Explained

As a general rule, look for a higher denier count when buying a high quality tent.

Thread Count – Every Square Inch Counts

When I think of thread count, I really didn’t consider it to be a measurement of quality for my tent. I usually associate it with bedding purchases etc.

Thread count often displayed as 100T, for example, refers to the total number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch of material.

Does a higher thread count always mean a stronger material? Not always! This is where things can be a little tricky. Often thread count and denier levels are exchanged with each other.

Some high quality tents may use a lower denier level but a higher thread count to achieve a different result of strength for different areas of the tent, eg. the floor or roof. If this is the case, it will be displayed separately on your tent’s packaging.

A good rule to follow will be to look for either a high thread count or denier level. If both the denier level and thread count are low, then you know you are buying a tent made of poor material strength.

If the tent has a high denier and thread count, it is going to be very strong buy also very heavy.

It is best to consider where you are camping, how the tent will be transported and what weather you will be expecting the tent to go up against.

Water Proofing – Repellent Coating

If you plan on camping there is always one variable that can’t be predicted 100%.

That variable is the weather. If you plan to camp where it often rains or you just want to be smart and prepare yourself for the unexpected, then waterproofing and water repellent coating is a must for a high quality tent.

Water proofing is often displayed as 800mm, 1000mm etc. which is then followed by a brand name of durable water repellent (DWR) such as polyurethane or silicone.

The first part of the equation (800mm) refers to the level of water which the coated material can sustain on top of it before water begins to leak through.

The second part describes the water resistant coating used upon the material. High quality tents often use different levels of water proofing on different areas of the tent.

Often the interior of the tent has lower levels to prevent leaks and maintain the materials tare resistance. The exterior and floor of the tent will have higher levels of water resistant coating to allow any fluid that falls upon the material to bead up and roll off your tent.

Some coatings even act as a UV protection to protect your tent’s materials from the sun and lessen the harsh kiss of the sun for those inside. Often the UV protection is a well displayed feature on the tent’s packaging.

Whatever The Weather

Now that the equation of your tent’s specifications have been deciphered, you should feel confident in making the right purchase for your tent.

If you’re a bit of an impulsive person like myself, you may want to go for a high quality tent that is an all rounder.

Keep in mind that the lower the tread count and denier the lighter but less resistant the tents material will be; the higher the heaver your tent. You don’t want to be dragging around a heavy tent bag, but on the other side of things you want to be safe and protected on your journey.

With the strength and weight of your tent sorted, always remember to buy a tent with higher levels of water resistance preferably higher level on the exterior and just enough to waterproof your interior. Lastly, you can’t go wrong with some bonus UV Protection.

Camp safely and go make some memories.

6 thoughts on “High Quality Camping Tents – Material Codes Explained

  1. I always found the denier codes very confusing, thank you for this guide that made it so easy to understand. This will make finding a new tent much easier!

  2. I’m a big outdoors man and love my tents. My favorite tent for me and my partner is the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent. They are high quality and live up to the hype without fail. And thanks for pointing out what the heck the materials are all about, I always wondered but could never find a straight answer on the internet. Thanks a lot.

  3. I agree with you perfectly for ignoring quality and moving after what is pleasing to the eyes. I have been a victim many times. Thanks for the insights

    1. So easy to happen. As a purchaser you are already feeling excited and happy and its all to easy to me a little mindless with a purchase.I hope i have helped =)

  4. This article really clears things up for us newbies out there, i didnt even know that tents had such differnces in their makings. Always thought that price was everything.
    Thanks for the great write up.

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