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Backpacking tents are often made from (ripstop) polyester or (ripstop) nylon. Ripstop nylon is generally stronger and is much more durable than Polyester. Both materials need a coating to become waterproof. The wear resistance of the materials also depends on the type of thread thickness used. In general, thicker thread, higher wear resistance. But also, heavier fabric. The above is indicated by the denier of the material. The higher the denier, the higher the tear strength, but also heavier fabric. For example, a 10D flysheet can be very light (also depends on the choosen fabric) and therefor very attractive for the superlight hiker. But this has a direct impact on the durability of the fabric. Our tents has a ripstop nylon flysheet with 30D as we think this is a very good balance between wear and tear.
As mentioned above, the quality of the fabric also depends on the coating the fabric is covered with. The typical tent fabric on cheap tents is often polyester covered with a layer of Polyurethane. This is the cheapest way to achieve a waterproof flysheet. Unfortunately, a flysheet coated with PU is often prone to chemical degradation so that the PU coating simply dissolves over time and the tent becomes anything but waterproof.
Silicone-coated flysheets are something completely different. This is also used for most quality tents. Silicon coating, however, is more expensive than PU. We at Nortent are looking for both durability, safety, low weight and quality. Our choice of material is therefore ripstop nylon coated with Silicon, on both sides. Nylon fabric coated with silicon are also called silnylon. Silnylon is highly water reppelent, elastic and chemically stable over time. This means that the waterproof coating is not negligible over time. If you have invested in an tent made of silnylon, this is probably waterproof throughout the life of the tent. At the same time, silnylon is also significantly stronger, lighter and more durable than fabric coated with PU. Silnylon is also a lot more slippery than fabric coated with PU. And this is not a bad thing. The obvious benefit in this matter is that snow slides very easy off the tent. This is important since snow on the flysheet exposes the tent fabric and poles to unnecessary stress.
The disadvantage of silicone coated fabrics is that they are much more expensive than PU-coated fabric. It is also not possible to attach anything to silicon-coated fabrics. If the Silnylon fabric gets a rift, it is not possible to repair this with, for example, tape. This must be sewn together. As it is not possible to glue anything to silnylon, you can not paste the seams on these tents from the factory. Because nothing is sticking. The only way to make the seams waterproof is to lubricate them by hand with custom silicone that can be bought from us or third party. However, some manufacturers solve this by having only Silicon on the outside of the flysheet while the inside is PU coated. Inside, you can paste /tape the seams so that the seams become waterproof.
On the other hand, we have chosen silicon coating on both sides of the flysheet because this makes the fabric lighter, stronger and more durable, than a PU/silicon combination. Despite that this is a more expensive solution, we believe the quality of the product is beneficial to you, where you have a tent that is both light and durable. Even though a Silnylon tent is sewn in a special way to achieve the most waterproofness in the seam, you must additionally lubricate the stitches by hand with a special silicone solution for 100% waterproof seams. The end result is that you get seams that are very durable to a much greater extent than one by a typical PU-coated / PU-silicon coated tent with taped seams.
Worth mentioning is also that silnylon is somewhat elastic. This means you are able to stretch the tent a few procent . This is a good thing because you “stretch” the tent into place when the substrate is uneven and where you often gets uneven sides. Silnylon also stretches a little bit when it gets wet. This means that the flysheet often gets a little slack when it gets wet, where you have to adjust the tent pegs to get the smooth /straight flysheet back. All our tents therefore have the ability to easily tighten the flysheet without having to adjust the actual tent pegs.
There is also a material that we choose not pay particular attention to here. And that’s Cuben fiber. That is an exceptionally durable material. But the cost here is up to 4 times more expensive one such as a silnylon flysheet. In addition, it comes with its disadvantage where this fabric is not worth it. This material is also found relatively rarely on tents.