Understanding the Fabric Specifications of Rooftop Tents

Understanding the Fabric Specifications of Rooftop Tents

When perusing rooftop tents and awnings for sale, navigating through the specifications and coatings can often feel like deciphering a complex puzzle. Terms like Denier, Thread Count, and Hydrostatic Head may sound intimidating at first, but understanding these tent specifications is crucial for selecting the best tent to suit your needs. Reputable brands and retailers typically provide detailed tent fabric specs, enabling you to assess a tent's performance capabilities and suitability for various conditions. Here's an introduction to the different tent fabric specifications, shedding light on these essential elements of tent construction.

What is Denier?

Denier (D) serves as the unit of measurement for the weight and thickness of individual threads in the fabric. The term is used in most polyester and nylon fabrics.  A higher Denier indicates thicker, stronger, and more durable fabric. For example, 40D Nylon will be sturdier than 15D Nylon, and 150D Polyester will offer greater strength than 75D Polyester. It's essential to note that different fabrics exhibit different strengths. While lower Denier is common in ultralight nylon tents and tarps where minimizing weight is crucial, polyester camping tents typically feature higher Denier fabrics, such as 68D, 75D, or 150D, ideal for handling greater stresses and prolonged exposure to the elements. Most Rooftop Tents use between 400D-600D.

What is Thread Count?

Thread count (T) refers to the number of threads used horizontally and vertically per square inch of fabric. A higher thread count signifies a denser and tighter weave in the fabric, enhancing its durability and strength. Often, lower Denier fabrics with thinner threads boast higher thread counts, reinforcing their structural integrity.

What is Ripstop?

Ripstop tent fabrics undergo special reinforcement to increase their resistance to tearing and ripping. During weaving, stronger threads are strategically interspersed at regular intervals, forming a crosshatching grid pattern visible in the fabric. This technique enhances the fabric's strength and prevents tears or holes from spreading and enlarging.

What is GSM?

GSM (grams per square meter) measures the weight in grams of one square meter of raw woven canvas or poly-cotton canvas. A higher GSM indicates greater fabric weight and thickness. Most tents typically range from around 280gsm to 380gsm, with modern poly-cotton canvas often closer to the lower end of this spectrum.

Fabric Coatings:

Tent fabrics often undergo chemical coatings to enhance their performance, especially in terms of water resistance. These coatings play a crucial role in ensuring the tent's durability and protection against the elements.

  • Silicone Coating (Silnylon): Applied to nylon fabrics, silicone coatings permeate the fabric, creating a reinforced, waterproof surface with improved stretch and tear strength. While silicone repels water and facilitates quick drying, it may lead to greater condensation and requires manual application of seam sealant.

  • Polyurethane (PU) Coating: Typically applied to polyester and nylon fabrics, PU coatings create a waterproof barrier on the fabric's surface. Although more affordable and breathable than silicone, PU coatings do not reinforce the fabric's strength to the same extent and require careful maintenance to prevent deterioration over time.

  • SIL/PU Coating: Some tent fabrics feature a combination of silicone coating on the outer side and PU coating on the inner side, striking a balance between the benefits of both coatings and facilitating seam taping for end-users' convenience.

  • Aluminized Coating: This is critical in warmer climates rooftop tents for the ability to reflect heat with its reflective properties. (James Baroud)

Hydrostatic Head (HH

Hydrostatic Head, also known as water column or waterproof ratings, measures the amount of water a fabric can withstand. Ratings range from 800mm to a maximum of 10,000mm, with ratings of 1500mm and higher generally considered waterproof. Polyester and nylon fabrics rely on silicone or PU coatings to provide waterproof properties, while DCF (Cuben fiber) and canvas offer inherent waterproof performance.

Other Fabric Coatings and Features:

Various other coatings can be applied to tent fabrics to enhance UV resistance, water resistance, resistance to rot and mildew, and even add fire-retardant properties. Additionally, fabrics like Oxford, known for their superior strength and durability, offer enhanced performance for heavier-duty applications.

Canvas Options by Leading Brands:

 Choosing between poly-cotton canvas and polyester for durable camping equipment depends on various factors, including personal preferences, intended usage, and environmental conditions. Both fabrics offer distinct advantages, so let's explore the qualities of each to determine which might be better suited for your needs:

Poly-Cotton Canvas:

  • Durability: Poly-cotton canvas is renowned for its exceptional durability and longevity. The blend of polyester and cotton fibers creates a robust fabric that can withstand repeated use and exposure to the elements, making it an excellent choice for rugged outdoor adventures.

  • Breathability: One of the standout features of poly-cotton canvas is its superior breathability. This allows for air circulation within the tent, reducing condensation and maintaining a comfortable interior climate, particularly in warmer weather.

  • Insulation: Poly-cotton canvas provides excellent insulation properties, keeping the interior of the tent cooler in hot conditions and warmer in cold weather. This makes it well-suited for camping in diverse climates and seasons.

  • Natural Feel: Many outdoor enthusiasts appreciate the natural feel and aesthetic of poly-cotton canvas, which adds to the overall camping experience and connection with nature.


  • Water Resistance: Polyester fabric is inherently water-resistant and often treated with coatings or laminates to enhance its waterproofing capabilities further. This makes polyester tents a reliable choice for camping in rainy or wet conditions, as they provide excellent protection from moisture.

  • Quick Drying: Unlike poly-cotton canvas, polyester dries quickly when wet, making it ideal for environments where frequent rain or humidity is a concern. This feature contributes to easier maintenance and faster turnaround times between camping trips.

  • Lightweight: Polyester is generally lighter in weight compared to poly-cotton canvas, making it a preferred choice for backpackers and those prioritizing portability and ease of transport.

  • Mold and Mildew Resistance: Polyester is inherently resistant to mold and mildew growth, which can be advantageous for camping in humid or damp environments where moisture retention is a concern.

Choosing the Better Fabric:

  • For Longevity and Comfort: If durability and comfort are your top priorities, especially for extended camping trips or in rugged terrain, poly-cotton canvas may be the better option due to its superior durability, breathability, and insulation properties.

  • For Wet Conditions and Portability: If you anticipate camping primarily in wet or rainy conditions or prioritize lightweight and quick-drying equipment for backpacking or travel, polyester may be the better choice due to its water resistance, quick-drying nature, and lighter weight.

Ultimately, the better fabric for durable camping equipment depends on your specific needs, preferences, and the environments in which you'll be camping most frequently. Consider factors such as durability, weather resistance, breathability, insulation, and weight to determine which fabric aligns best with your camping style and requirements.

While exploring tent specifications and fabric types, it's worth noting the canvas options offered by some prominent brands in the industry:

  • Roofnest: Specializes in hard-shell rooftop tents, primarily using durable 320 gsm poly-cotton canvas for their tent material. This fabric is often reinforced with coatings to enhance waterproofing and weather resistance, ensuring reliable performance in various outdoor conditions.

  • James Baroud: Renowned for their innovative design and premium quality, James Baroud rooftop tents commonly feature a blend of polyester and cotton canvas that incorporates an aluminized process that reflects solar rays and heat from the reflective properties, waterproof technology woven directly into the threads and breathable mesh to avoid condensation This combination offers the benefits of both materials, providing durability, breathability, excellent weather resistance, and heat reflectiveness.

  • The Bush Company: The Bush Company offers a range of high-quality rooftop tents and awnings, typically utilizing heavy-duty 310g polyester rip-stop acrylic infused mold and mildew-resistant canvas for their products. This robust fabric blend ensures longevity and reliability, making their tents suitable for rugged adventures in remote wilderness areas.

  • Super Pacific: Super Pacific prioritizes durability and performance in their tents of truck campers opting for durable polyester-cotton canvas with reinforced coatings. This fabric choice delivers excellent weather resistance and longevity, catering to outdoor enthusiasts seeking reliable shelter in diverse environments.

By understanding the canvas options favored by leading brands like Roofnest, James Baroud, The Bush Company, and Super Pacific, consumers can make informed decisions when selecting rooftop tents and awnings that align with their adventure needs and preferences.

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