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Fabric and Technology

Terra Nova Equipment has unrivalled expertise in the development of specialist tent fabric and materials for its award-winning products. The company has always been at the forefront of technical development; it produced the first PU/Silicone coated flysheet tent fabric in the 1990s and more recently, was the first to use bonded seam technology in commercial tent production. Our tent fabrics and materials are specified from the first polymer stage, through to final fabric production. Working together with specialist fabric manufacturers we create exclusive, bespoke fabrics which provide optimal performance for specific tent models.

How Tent Fabric and materials are created

Nylon and polyester fabrics start life as polymer granules. The polymer is heated and extruded to produce an ultra-fine filament. These filaments are twisted together to form a yarn, which is then used to weave the finished tent fabric. The thickness of each yarn is measured as ‘Denier’.

  • Polymer Beads
  • 1 yarn showing filament construction
  • Preparations of yarns prior to water jet weaving process
How fabrics are created

What is Denier?

Denier is a unit of measurement that is used to determine the fibre thickness of individual threads or yarns used in the creation of textiles. Textiles with a high denier count tend to be thick, sturdy and durable. Textiles with a low denier count tend to be fine and lightweight. Woven fabric used for tent construction is often referred to in terms of denier. 10 or 15 deniers are amongst the lightest tent fabrics, 70 or 100 denier fabrics are amongst the most robust tent fabrics. By contrast, the human hair is around 20 denier.

Denier is defined as the mass in grammes per 9000m of yarn. Therefore 15 denier yarn weighs 15g per 9000m. The denier measurement originated from a natural reference: a single strand of silk is approximately 1 denier.

Tent Fabric Weight and Durability

In the quest for lighter fabrics, tear and tensile strength are equally important considerations. To ensure the balance of weight and performance Terra Nova Equipment develops fabrics with:

  • An optimised ripstop weave
  • Using the best polymer
  • Construction provides the best strength to weight ratio

Tent Fabric Testing

Terra Nova Equipment tests materials in its own laboratory, in commercial test houses and in the field. A range of tests are carried out on new fabrics, existing fabrics are also subject to regular QA tests.

Water Impermeability

A fabric’s ability to resist water penetration is expressed as its resistance to a vertical column of water over a given surface area. This test gives the ‘Hydrostatic Head’ measurement and is a good indicator of the waterproofing performance of a fabric. So a fabric with a Hydrostatic Head measurement of 3000mm, can support a vertical column of water 3000mm tall, without leaking. There are several test methods, but Terra Nova Equipment uses the ISO method because the applied pressure acts over a larger surface area and is, therefore, more severe. This gives a better representation of long-term performance than a test carried out over a small area such as the Mullen test method, which is preferred in some countries.

Tear, Tensile and Bending Tests

Our internal test equipment allows us to conduct comprehensive tear and tensile tests for our fabrics when new and after ageing. In addition, our 4 point load pole bending apparatus gives valuable feedback concerning the flexing, recovery and ultimate yield strength for all our tent poles.

Tear, Tensile and Bending Tests

Weathering Tests

Alongside our long-term weathering tests outdoors, Terra Nova Equipment also conducts accelerated weathering tests to ISO standards in order to give a complete picture of a fabric’s performance.

Weathering Tests

UV Degradation

UV light is one of the major causes of the reduction in flysheet performance. UV light degrades fabrics by cutting the molecular bonds that hold the fabric together. The effect of UV light is reduced in a number of ways:

  • UV inhibitors
  • Silicone elastomer coating on the outer surface provides additional protection
  • Fabric dye colours are selected to give maximum UV resistance

Tents that are subject to a greater degree of UV light, such as base camp tents, have flysheet fabrics specified to provide more UV resistance than backpacking tents which tend to spend less time pitched during daylight hours.

Longevity of Tent Fabrics

Long-term weathering tests carried out in the laboratory and outside are an important part of the development process. When specifying fabrics Terra Nova Equipment not only looks at the performance of the fabric when it is new but more importantly how performance can be maintained.

Bonded Seam Construction

Terra Nova Equipment is a pioneer in the use of bonded seams (without sewing) technology and is amongst the first to use it on a commercial scale for tents. In tests, our bonded seam construction is stronger than the fabric itself. All bonded seam construction takes place in our UK factory.



ULTRA fabric is constructed from a UHMWPE mat, laminated on each side with a very thin high-performance polymer film. The UHMWPE patented mat is up to
25% stronger and only half the weight of many traditionally woven siliconised ripstop nylons. The material also retains a higher proportion of its strength and water resistance even after UV weathering exposure. Wherever possible we bond rather than sew ULTRA fabric. Bonding the seams offers higher tensile strength, lighter weight construction, and in long term tests, a high degree of resistance to UV weathering.


First developed by Terra Nova Equipment in 1992, Watershed® was the first silicone / PU coating hybrid for flysheets, designed to offer enhanced water resistance and withstand better the effects of UV light. Dyestuffs are treated to improve UV protection and UV coating inhibitors help reduce the degrading effects of UV light. Watershed® has evolved with a specialist PU coating with extra hydrolysis resistance. This improves water resistance and gives extra grip to seam sealing tape providing a fully waterproof seam. Watershed® fabric used in expedition/heavy duty tents has added UV inhibitors and light stabilisers in the coating to provide greater durability.

Watershed® Si2

Watershed® Si2 is a silicone/silicone-coated ripstop nylon flysheet fabric designed to be as light and as strong as possible, for specific end uses. Different constructions, yarn types and fabric weaves are used to provide the best performance for specific tent models. Various weights of fabric are used: 7, 10 and 20 deniers in the Superlight and Lightweight Series.


Waterbloc fabrics, generally used in Terra Nova® groundsheets, have been developed to be extremely water-resistant. A highly specified PU provides maximum resistance to hydrolysis action. Nylon is widely used for Terra Nova® groundsheets and flysheets due to the excellent chemical and mechanical bond it provides with the coating systems. Different weights and weaves of the fabric are used to provide the best performance for specific tent models.


Weathering Tests



DAC Poles

All DAC poles are extruded 7001 aluminium alloy. DAC has created an exclusive derivative called TH72M. After heat treatment to T8 state, the finished TH72M alloy gives an excellent balance of strength and stiffness ideally suited to the rigours of tent pole use. DAC NFL is the lightest type of DAC pole. This is achieved by swaging both ends of the pole section. DAC Green Anodising used on NFL poles is a more environmentally friendly anodising process achieved through water recycling and the choice of chemicals.

Terra Nova® Reflex Poles

Reflex poles are 7001 T6 extruded aluminium poles specified by Terra Nova Equipment and exclusive to Terra Nova®. The diameter of the pole is selected to suit each particular tent model. The colour-coded poles have pre-bent sections where appropriate to suit stress conditions and superior anodising treatments to reduce breakages and improve durability. In independent tests, Reflex poles have been shown to outperform and outlast other poles, even in extreme conditions. Pole feet are removable, allowing repairs in the field and reducing corrosive splitting and the Dura Cord shock cord won’t wither in extreme conditions.

Weathering Tests


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