tent fabrics

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    G Maheswaran, Asst.Prof, Dept. of Fashion Technology, Bannari Amman Institute of

    Technology, Sathyamangalam.


    A tent is a shelter consisting of sheets offabric or other material draped

    over or attached to a frame of poles or attached to a supporting rope.

    There are various types of tent structures used according to the usage. And

    also a variety of tent fabric were recommended according to the

    environment it is used. A range of tent fabrics with varying quality

    parameters were used to facilitate its performance. The selection of tent

    fabrics plays a major role in users comfort. The various physical and

    performance tests were to be conducted in selection of a tent fabric. The

    tests are like flame-ability, air-permeability, water repellency etc... Now

    days the new developed high performance tent fabrics were produced for

    the enhancement of comfort usages.

    Key words: Tents, Tent Fabrics, Properties, Selection, Tests, Next

    generation tent fabrics


    Tents may be free-standing or attached to the ground, large tents are

    usually anchored using guy ropes tied to stakes or tent pegs. Tents are

    used by recreational campers, and disaster victims. Tents are typically used

    as overhead shelter for festivals, weddings, backyard parties, and major

    corporate events. They are also used for excavation (construction) covers,

    industrial shelters. Armies, all over the world, have long used tents as a

    part of their working life. Tents are preferred by the military for their,

    relatively, quick setup and take down times, compared to more traditional

    shelters. The most common tent uses for the military are temporary

    barracks (sleeping quarters), DFAC buildings (dining facilities), Forward

    Operating Bases (FOBs), After Action Review (AAR), Tactical Operations

    Center (TOC), Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facilities, and

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    security checkpoints1. Tents are often used in humanitarian emergencies,

    such as war, earthquakes and fire. The primary choices of tents in

    humanitarian emergencies are canvas tents, because a cotton canvas tent

    allows functional breathability while serving the purpose of temporary

    shelter. At times, however, these temporary shelters become a permanent

    or semi-permanent home, especially for displaced people living in refugee

    camps or shanty towns who can't return to their former home and for

    whom no replacement homes are made available. Most global NGO's

    maintain an emergency stockpile of tents strategically placed all over the

    world to service their requirements. Due to its wide functional requirements

    the properties of tent fabrics vary according to the environment and

    purpose of usage. The general feature of a tent is shown in Fig.1.

    Figure 1. General features of a tent

    Tent Structures

    In general, tents consist of poles which form a skeleton and over this

    skeleton; theTent Fabric or skin is laid out to create an inner pocket. These

    are the basic Tent Structures:

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    Table.1. Different types of tent structures 9

    Avian Tents

    One or two straight poles with the Tent cover spread

    out create a covered ground area. They are mostly

    used for quick shelter and generally light weather


    Pyramid Tents

    One central pole and the Tent cover pulled tight and

    spread out around the center pole form a pyramid

    shaped pocket. Pyramid Tents are rare in Hiking as

    the center pole effectively divides the Tent in multiple

    smaller compartments.Traditional A-Frame Tents

    Two-legged frames at the outer ends of the Tent with

    the Tent cover form a triangular pocket. Old

    backpacking tents were often A-frame Tents. The

    increased roominess of hoop tents and domes has

    replaced most A-frame tents.

    Modified A-Frame Tents

    Add a ridgepole and a center hoop to the traditionalA-Frame to create a larger volume version of the

    traditional A-frame pocket. Modified A-Frame tents are

    also becoming rare in Hiking.

    Hoop Tents

    Use one to three hoops with the Tent cover to form a

    tubular pocket. The curved walls give a bigger volume

    with the same ground surface. Hoop Tents are

    surprisingly strong as they divide pressure over the

    full length of the hoops.

    Wedge Tents

    Two intersecting hoops with the Tent cover form a

    square to round pocket. These tents are very popular

    in Hiking as they combine great strength in

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    combination with the least use of material and weight.

    Dome Tents

    Three or more intersecting hoops with the Tent cover

    form a multi-faceted ground floor with a dome. The

    added hoops give this tent increased strength incomparison to Wedge Tents. However, they are

    mostly pretty difficult to erect. Most 4-Season tents

    are domes with four intersecting hoops.

    Tent fabrics

    Tent fabrics may be made of many materials including cotton (canvas),

    nylon, felt and polyester. Cotton absorbs water, so it can become very

    heavy when wet, however the associated swelling tends to block any

    minute holes so that wet cotton is more waterproof than dry cotton. Cotton

    tents were often treated with paraffin to enhance water resistance. Nylon

    and polyester are much lighter than cotton and do not absorb much water;

    with suitable coatings they can be very waterproof, but they tend to

    deteriorate over time due to a slow chemical breakdown caused by

    ultraviolet light. The most common treatments to make fabric waterproof

    are silicone impregnation or polyurethane coating. Since stitching makes

    tiny holes in a fabric seams are often sealed or taped to block these holes

    and maintain waterproofness, though in practice a carefully sewn seam can

    be waterproof. Rain resistance is measured as a hydrostatic head in

    millimeters (mm). This indicates the pressure of water needed to penetrate

    a fabric. Heavy or wind-driven rain has a higher pressure than light rain.

    Standing on a groundsheet increases the pressure on any waterunderneath. Fabric with a hydrostatic head rating of 1000 mm or less is

    best regarded as shower resistant, with 1500 mm being usually suitable for

    summer camping. Tents for year-round use generally have at least

    2000 mm; expedition tents intended for extreme conditions are often rated

    at 3000 mm. Where quoted, groundsheets may be rated for 5000 mm or

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    The difference between rip stone nylon and regular nylon is the fact that

    about every twelve or so stitches there is a heavier fabric that is woven in.

    The purpose of this stitching is to prevent the spread of a tear. So if you are

    one that likes to set up camp out in the middle of the woods instead of an

    open clearing, you might want to consider rip stone nylon over regular



    A material that is almost identical to nylon is polyester. The main difference

    between polyester and nylon is that it resists UV damage better. Ultraviolet

    damage weakens the strength of the material your tent is made of, this

    happens to all materials. Hence it is often recommend that construct the

    tents in shaded area instead of in an area of direct sunlight. This is a type

    of modified polyester fabric has the strongest UV light inhibitor, which

    means it has the greatest resistance to UV degeneration. UV-Tex 5 also has

    a higher standard of resistance then other polyester fabrics but it is

    identical in all other aspects to polyester.

    Cotton Canvas

    Before nylon was invented, cotton canvas was the material of choice by

    many tent makers. Cotton canvas is an all weather material that is very

    durable. Originally these tents were coated with an oily or waxing coating

    to prevent water absorption. This coating still allowed the tent to breathe.

    They rely on the rains surface tension between the fabric fibers to prevent



    Though an entire tent is rarely made out of polyethylene you want to make

    sure the floor of your tent is. Polyethylene is waterproof; water will not pass

    through this material unless there is a hole. It is durable but it is also bulky

    and rather heavy. It is also problematic to get this material back into its

    original form once it has been open6.

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    Types of fabric used in tents (4-Season only)

    Table.2. Types of fabrics used in tents9

    Manufacturer Inner wall Fly Floor



    70D Nylon

    Taffeta 1500mm

    PU / SIL

    70D Nylon

    Taffeta 3000mm


    The North Face40D, 240 Nylon


    75D, 185T

    Polyester Ripstop

    coated with

    1500mm PU

    70D, 210T Nylon

    taffeta coated

    with 5000mm PU


    70D Nylon



    75D Stromshield




    70D Nylon

    taffeta, 3000mm

    Seirra Design NA

    70D coated

    Nylon taffeta

    70D coated

    Nylon taffeta

    Black Diamond ToddTex single-wall fabric70 D Nylon


    Marmot40d 100% Nylon

    Ripstop, F / R

    40D 100% Nylon

    Ripstop Silicone /

    PU 1800mm

    W/R, F/R

    70D 100% Nylon

    5000mm W/R,


    MSR NA

    40D X 238 T

    Ripstop Nylon 6


    Polyurethane &

    Silicone coated

    70 X 190T

    Taffeta Nylon 6

    10000mm PU


    Hilleberg Breathable Kerlon 1800Treated with


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    ToddTex: A waterproof, breathable three-layer PTFE (Teflon)

    laminate. Totally waterproof, windproof, and extremely breathable.

    Kerlon: Waterproof and UV resistant fabric is similar in appearance tomost other silicon-treated, ripstop nylon fabrics. Siliconelastomere

    coating on both sides of the fabric. Elastomere is rubber and Silicone

    rubber as Siliconelastomere.

    Ripstop: When you buy a fabric, the salesman makes one cut and

    tears the piece with his bare hands but in Ripstop fabric its not

    possible. Classic example is muslin from Dhaka. Ripstop fabric is a

    woven, lightweight, nylon-threaded material that resists tearing and

    ripping. Ripstop fabric is made by weaving nylon threads throughout

    a base material in interlocking patterns. Many fabrics can be used to

    make ripstop fabric, including cotton, silk, polyester, or

    polypropylene, with nylon content limited to the crosshatched

    threads that make the material tear-resistant. Nylon material itself is

    not ripstop fabric unless it is reinforced with crosshatched threading.

    Taffeta: Taffeta is a fabric weaving technique for e.g. Chiffon sarees.

    Historically made from silk, but today can be made from many

    different fibers, including artificial fibers like nylon. The term taffeta

    comes from the Persian words for twisted and woven.

    T: T stands for Thread Count specifically the number of warp

    and weft threads in a square inch. The lower numbers represent a

    loosely woven fabric and the higher number a tightly woven fabric.

    These two numbers together help indicate the strength and feel of a

    piece of fabric. Higher the number smaller is the gaps between the


    Selection of Tent Fabrics

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    The actual Tent cloth or canvas has to protect the people from the wind

    and the rain while remaining breathable. Selections of the tents are based

    on (1) Type of protection needed (2) Performance features.

    Single Wall Constructions: only have single layer of Tent cover. Thissingle cover has to take care of all the needed functionalities: water

    and wind resistance, durability, breathability, etc. Tents are

    manufactured in fabrics that deal adequately with water vapour.

    Modern single skin tents are much more breathable than the older

    generation. The modern construction allows moisture to escape, but

    no moisture comes in. They are especially popular when it is

    important to cut down on weight (e.g. when hiking) as it is much

    lighter to carry only one layer of fabric. Single skin tents really come

    into their own in high altitude mountaineering situations where a

    simple design has massive advantages.

    Double Wall Constructions: have an outer fly sheet and an inner Tent.

    The fly sheet is waterproof and the inner Tent is breathable and

    transports moisture to the outer fly sheet.It comprises the inner tent

    the portion you live in plus the fly sheet, which creates a barrier

    against the weather. This is a traditional method of manufacturing

    tents: the outer prevents moisture from entering, while the inner

    provides a breathable space for condensation to travel through it and

    run off on the inside of the outer without coming in contact with the

    occupants. This still offers an excellent combination of breathability,

    compactness and affordability for most end users

    Tent Fabrics can have the following characteristics:

    Denier (d): It measures the weight of fabric in grams per 1000-meter

    length. So for instance, 60d signifies a weight of 60 grams per 1000

    meter of the thread used in the fabric. Lightweight fabrics would be

    about 50d.

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    Water resistance (psi): It measures the weight of water that can exert

    pressure on a square inch of the fabric without leaking. It is

    measured in pounds per square inch (psi). A good fly sheet would be


    Color: The fabric color will determine what light conditions are inside

    the Tent and how well your Tent stands out against the surroundings.

    Some common Features of tent covers:

    Polyurethane Coating: This is coating applied on the tent fabric to

    make it more durable and waterproof. Multiple number of coatings or

    'passes' determine the added protection but at the cost of extra


    Waterproof/breathable laminates: Tent cover uses a layering system

    of different materials to form a strong and waterproof but breathable

    fabric. Common laminates are GoreTex, ToddText, Klimate, and


    Ripstop: This is a polyester taffeta with thicker threads weaved into

    the material at regular intervals. Thicker threads will prevent small

    rips in the Tent to get worse. Clear Film: This is a see through material often used for windows and


    Single-needle Stitching Seams: These are seams with a single line of


    Double-needle Stitching Seams: These are seams with a double line

    of stitches, stronger than single stitching.

    Shed Seam: This forms a gully capable of transporting Tent down the


    Tests for Tent cloths

    Various tests should be carried out for the tent cloths according to their

    specifications. Normally the fabric strength (tearing strength and tensile

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    strength), Fabric weight with and without coatings or finishes, breathability,

    water repellency and flame proof tests were carried out to assess its

    performance. For example the 3916 tent fabric made by Seaman

    Corporation is shown below.

    Table.3. Tests for tent fabric8



    Finished coated Weight ASTM D751

    Grab Tensile ASTM D751

    Strip Tensile

    ASTM D751

    Procedure B

    Tongue Tear ASTM D751

    Trapezoid Tear ASTM D4533

    AdhesionASTM D751

    Dielectric Weld

    Low Temperature ASTM D2136

    Flame ResistanceNEPA 701(small)

    CPAI 84

    Hydrostatic ResistanceASTM D751

    Procedure A

    Dead Load




    Technical Data Tencate Cotton

    The TenCate Cotton line of tent fabrics offers tent manufacturers a choice

    of high-grade materials for every application. With in the Cotton range, the

    KD-22 is specifically suited for walling applications, the KD-24 and the KD-

    48 for walling and roofing applications.

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    Table.4.Technical Data of cotton tent fabrics9

    Reference Test


    KD-22 KD-38 KD-48 KD-24

    Material - 100%cotton










    Water- and










    ntWidth ISO 22198 175cm 160am/205


    160cm 160cm

    Weight (+/-


    ISO 3801 210g/m2 280g/m2 310g/m2 340g/m2



    ISO 13934-

    1- - - -



    60 daN 70 daN 130 daN 80 daN

    Weft (5cm) - 60 daN 80 daN 130 daN 80 daNTearing


    ISO 13937-

    1- - - -


    - 1,2 daN 1,5daN 3,0 daN 2,0 daN

    Weft (5cm) - 1,0 daN 1,5daN 2,5 daN 1,5 daNWater column ISO 811 25cm 30cm 40cm 40cmColour-



    ISO 105


    4 4 4 4

    Please note that if you combine materials, such as ground sheet, mud skirts, windows, zips, etc., then

    you run the risk that these products may have an adverse effect on each other. This is your own

    responsibility and we therefore advise you to carry out extensive tests before hand, if possible.

    Next Generation Tents

    New functionalities for tent cloth that are expected in the near feature

    include the following value addition for enhancing the comfort levels and

    performances of tents9.


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    High visibility

    Glow in the dark

    Table. 5. Next Generation Tent Fabrics9

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    By applying the special, self-cleaning finish the tent cloth will

    remain as good as new. Dirt will not stick to the coated

    fabric, and any dirt particles will be washed off the cloth

    during a local shower.Insulating

    3D-woven types of cloth will create an insulating layer of air

    between the fabric on the inside and the outside of the tent.

    As a result, it will stay refreshingly cool in summer and

    pleasantly warm in spring and autumn.Anti-mosquito

    A special finish that to people smells of lemon will keep

    mosquitoes away from the tent cloth. This anti-mosquuito

    finish is harmless to humans. Tents with this quality will be

    extremely functional, particularly in the tropics and in humid

    regions or war zones.High visibility

    This quality, which makes the tent easily detectable, will

    provide tent-users with high visibility in any circumstances,

    especially in dangerous situations. The tent will be highly

    visible both during the day and with directed lighting at

    night. The retro-reflection will depend on the visibility value

    of the fabrics finish.Glow in the dark

    This special glow-in-the-dark finish will provide visibility at

    night thanks to the sunlight it has absorbed during the day.

    This visibility will depend on the glow value of the fabric.

    Tents with this quality will be highly visible to the emergency

    services (Red Cross, First Aiders) or army at any time of the

    day or night. Childrens tents can be fitted with this

    functionality on the inside, which at night will work like a


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    Conclusion:The future of the camping world will be determined by new design and

    innovative functionalities. As far as the design is concerned, the producers

    of tents and tent extensions will be making increasing use of young

    designers. Through constant innovation the camping industry will time and

    again come up with new products and solutions.


    1. About the US Army Soldier Systems Center

    2. "SSC Developing Multiple Uses for Air Beam Shelter". Defense

    Industry Daily.

    2005-05-10. Retrieved 2007-12-25.3. "Shelter from the CB storm". Military Medical Technology.

    2004-04-08. Archived

    from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-12-25.

    4. "Air Support: Inflatable Structures Pump Up the Military".

    Military.com. 2005-01-01.

    Retrieved 2007-12-25.

    5. http://www.intentproductions.com

    6. http://www.campersinfosource.com

    7. Sports Trader Product Knowledge 2010 October/November

    8. Tent Fabric Specifications Seamans Corporation, October,


    9. http://www.tencate.com

    10. http://www.kumaontreks.com/tent-fabrics

    11. http://www.abc-of-hiking.com/hiking-tents/tent-


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