How does polyester and silnylon compare head-to-head in terms of stretch/sag, water absorption, abrasion resistance, UV resistance, etc.?


This is a big topic, so hard to sum up in one post, but I'll quickly try too explain why poly is much better: Strength: Both are similar here. Nylon is about 15-20% stronger but loses 10% strength when wet plus it rapidly degrades under UV exposure, while poly is effectively immune to UV degradation. After a few weeks of use, both material would be similar and after a few years of use, the poly tent would be much stronger as the nylon weakens dramatically due to UV. Nylon's vulnerability to UV commonly limits the lifespan of those tents, which is why Poly tents have a longer lifespan. Abrasion: Very similar. Poly might have a slight edge here but it's close and debatable. Sag: Nylon absorbs water and expands by 2-4%, which is a big deal because that can be 3-6" of slack fabric over the arch of a tent, which weakens the structure and can result in the fly sticking to the inner. Poly has virtually no expansion, so it's dramatically better. For this reason, poly is way better suited to a trekking pole tent. Stretch: In addition to nylon expanding/sagging in wet conditions, it also has a fair bit of stretch in the fiber. Poly has less stretch in the fiber, but you still get medium stretch overall due to stretch in the weave. Which is better is highly debateable. Some argue more stretch is better as you can pull it drum tight, while others argue less stretch is better so the tent doesn't deform in high winds. Water Absorption: Nylon is a water absorbing material so it can easily gain 100% of it's weight in water, and can be up to 200 -300%. That's a big deal because it can be a pound or more on a shelter. Conversely poly hardly absorbs water (2-6%) so it's vastly better here. Big advantage for poly. See my comment at the top here for more on this: Overall, polyester is a longer last material with similar abrasion resistance and better strength in the long run. It's much more suited as a tent material because it doesn't absorb a ton of water weight, and especially so for trekking pole tents because the expansion that nylon experiences will compromise the structure of trekking pole tents built with nylon. That's why the X-Mid is built of polyester and has done a lot to popularize using poly in trekking pole tents, with numerous competitors now switching to poly.
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