Nylon vs Polyester, Ripstop vs Taffeta – Hammock Fabric Comparison

hammcok fabric comparison

A camping hammock is a popular gear for outdoor hiking and camping activities for its lightweight and versatile use, it can be easily packed in a backpack by taking a little space, and used as a resting and sleeping bed outside.

There are lots of different styles and functions of hammocks online or at your local market, but one of the most essential elements you mustn’t ignore when choosing a hammock is: Fabric.

If you’ve ever had a notice at hammock’s fabric specification, you might see words like: “nylon”, “polyester”, “ripstop”, “taffeta”, “oxford”, “DWR”, “70D”.

What are they meaning?

70D represents the thickness of fabric threads, it reflects the weight capacity and stretch level, more details see this article. Nylon and polyester are the material; ripstop, taffeta and oxford are fabric woven patterns; DWR is water-repellent processing for fabric.

In the rest of the article, I’ll thoroughly explain the fabric of camping hammocks and help you have a better understanding when choosing a hammock.

What are the differences between nylon and polyester?

Nylon and polyester are both synthetic materials widely used in camping hammocks for their durable, lightweight and breathable features. No doubt, nylon and polyester have some different characteristics:

Nylon – Absorbs more water than polyester, dries quickly, tends to stretch, shrink resistant, mildew resistant.

Polyester – Absorbs less water than nylon, dries slower, more UV resistant than nylon, minimal stretch, resistant to shrinking, resists pilling, mildew resistant, more heat-resistant.

When these two materials are made into a hammock, the differences appear in:

Nylon hammock – Stretches more; feels softer; stronger than polyester hammock.

Polyester hammock – Stretches less, some people might feel too stiff when laying in; has a slippery surface; has static; feels more plasticy.

What are the ripstop, taffeta and oxford?

Ripstop, taffeta and oxford are patterns made by different weave techniques, can be found in both nylon and polyester.

ripstop taffeta and oxford
From left to right: ripstop, taffeta and oxford

Ripstop: A grid pattern of fabric, which is interwoven by reinforced yarns at the regular fabric base. Ripstop can stop rips and tears from continuing once they start, fabric with ripstop often comes in 30D or 70D. Widely used in nylon material.

Taffeta: A plain fabric surface, does not have grid patterns like ripstop. It tends to be a bit more abrasion resistant, but can’t stop tears when it appears. Taffeta is also commonly found in 30D and 70D fabric. Widely used in both nylon and polyester.

Oxford: Like taffeta, but has a much more rugged surface due to its higher thread density, almost in 200 or 210 denier. It’s not comfortable for skin touch, so it’s not often used for a normal hammock, only for heavy duty expedition hammock; more ideal for men’s shirts and packcloth.

What are the differences between ripstop, teffeta and oxford in hammock?

  1. Generally, taffeta is more comfortable and softer than ripstop, oxford feels coarse.
  2. A taffeta hammock is a bit heavier than ripstop hammock in the same size, oxford is the heaviest.

Why ripstop nylon is the most used material for camping hammocks?

Due to the availability of ripstop nylon and its outstanding performance, it dominates the share of camping hammock fabric, all-scale manufacturers use it to make hammocks. While larger manufacturers have more sources to use different fabrics with different patterns to make various hammocks.

When fabric connects with a woven pattern, ripstop nylon is the most used for commercial camping hammock, followed by taffeta nylon and ripstop polyester. Oxford nylon sometimes can be found in heavy-duty expedition hammocks. While taffeta polyester is almost only used for hammockers to DIY their own hammocks.

Examples of camping hammocks in different fabrics:

  1. Kammok Roo Double Camping Hammock: 40D Ripstop Nylon with DWR Waterproofing
  2. ENO DoubleNest Hammock Prints Hammock: 70D High Tenacity Taffeta Nylon
  3. Hennessy Safari Deluxe Classic XXL: 210D Oxford Nylon
  4. Wise Owl Doubleowl Hammock: 210T Parachute Nylon
  5. Grand Trunk Ultralight Starter Hammock: Ripstop Polyester

From the above examples, you might notice #1 Kammok hammock has “DWR” in its material and #4 Wise Owl hammock uses “parachute nylon”, unfamiliar words, right?

What is parachute nylon?

Parachute nylon
Parachute nylon

Parachute nylon fabric actually is a sort of crinkle taffeta nylon, plain weave taffeta nylon with silk-like appearance. Manufacturers use jet dying Antron Taffeta Nylon (a shiny fabric), dyeing gives fabric a wrinkled appearance, so the final fabric looks as bright as parachute silk. It has strong and thick threads around 70 deniers, doesn’t have ripstop grid patterns, often used for outdoor camping hammocks.

What is DWR?

DWR stands for Durable Water Repellent, it’s a chemical solution that is usually sprayed or poured on fabrics to repel water (not waterproof) but still maintain breathability. Different from PU or Silicone coated processing, fabric just with DWR still belongs to uncoated material.

Nylon added with DWR can effectively shed off water, will avoid moisture flow through in the night. But it won’t make much sense if you use a full-length underquilt.

Fabric with DWR
Fabric with DWR

Which fabric should I choose?

As a starter, go with ripstop nylon won’t have any problem. After you have some experience and self-understanding, you could have a try with other wovens and materials, till finding your sweetest combination.

Apart from fabric material, you should also notice fabric weight (or Denier), choose the proper intensity fabric which is not too stretchy or stiff.

At last, you will get your most comfortable fabric combo, like “40D Ripstop Nylon with DWR” or “70D Teffta Polyester” (more likely in your DIY hammock).


Frequently Asked Questions:

How to protect fabric from abrasion or tears?

Don’t put sharp objects like keys in your pants pockets, especially in butt pockets.

Don’t let the hammock touch the ground directly, if you want to use a hammock as a bivvy, put a piece of other fabric under the hammock.

Take a repair patch kit to stop further tears when it occurs.

How to clean the hammock?

1. Soak the hammock in soapy warm water, gently scrub the stain off by hand.

2. Rinse the hammock with clean water.

3. Hang up in the air to dry, avoid direct sunlight.

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