Tent Nylon Ratings: What Do They Mean?

by Eddie Barker
(Hampton, VA)

What do the tent nylon ratings mean? 30D PU nylon? What does that mean?

Is a high or low 'D' number better? What about ripstop ratings?

I don't get it. This is all too confusing.

Thanks for your help!


Hi Eddie,

Thank you for asking these great questions! A lot of times, we as camping enthusiasts only look at certain specifications with our tents and ignore the others. Sometimes we don't even know what they all mean!

In order to find the perfect tent for you and your needs, you need to have at least a basic understanding of all the ins and outs of a structure's design and makeup.

That's why I'm glad you asked about nylon ratings: because no one else has yet!

Tent Nylon Ratings: What Does it All Mean

I want to talk to you about which ratings work best with which parts of the tent--floor, canopy, rainfly--but before we do that, we should take a gander at your main question concerning the meaning of the rating system.

So here's a look at what the abbreviations stand for:
  • D = Denier

  • Pu = Polyurethane Coating

  • Sil = Silicone Coating
Great, you say, but what the heck does all of THAT mean?

Denier is a measure of fineness. If you think about your bed sheets, you'll remember that a higher thread count is the sign of a higher quality product, right? Well, this is a similar rating. The higher the denier number, the more durable and rugged the construction. So, using your example above, a tent with 30D nylon, is actually not that great.

Unless you're looking for a good budget tent, you should consider 40D to be your minimum, and look for models with an even higher denier. After all, if you're going to spend good money on a tent, it might as well be on one that's going to last.

The difference between Pu and Sil is really not too terribly important. The main thing to remember is that they require different seam sealants to make sure your tents are fully waterproof.

If you are taking your tent into a professional to have it sealed, then make sure he/she knows whether your tent's nylon has polyurethane or silicone coating.

Ripstop nylon is a fantastic material for waterproofing the floor of your tent. The word ripstop refers to the way in which the nylon is threaded together: in a kind of criss-crossing weave pattern. There is no rating system in place for riptstop products, just simple sizing charts.

Best Nylon Rating for Canopies, Flies, and Floors

So, what are the best materials for your tent's canopies, rainflies, and floor covers?

Ripstop nylon--as opposed to taffeta nylon--is great for your tent's floor because it's fully waterproof and built in a way that helps prevent tears from occurring.

For the canopy itself, a good nylon material with durable water repellant (DWR) treatment is probably the best way to go.

For the rainfly, you'll want to avoid nylon. This may seem strange after I just told how great nylon is for tents, but nylon has a tendency to stretch when it gets wet.

This means that a nylon rainfly may sag and touch the canopy of your tent, which will cause increased condensation. Instead of nylon, try a good polyester fly.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

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