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Tyvek v/s Nylon
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Timothy Howe
(buckyllama) - F
Tyvek v/s Nylon on 03/27/2007 08:04:19 MDT Print View

Hi all, I am new to the site (though not entirely new to UL backpacking)

I have been doing a lot of reading and I'm wondering if anyone has a good feel for the difference in durability and strength between tyvek and a similar weight of nylon fabric (1.3oz coated ripstop for example).

I'll qualify my question furthur. I am thinking of 3 items that can be constructed with either material (in theory) Tarps/tents, ground sheets, and back packs. How would tyvek perform compared to nylon in each instance? What are it's failure modes compared to nylon?

As an example, ripstop nylon may leak like a sieve, but still be structurally sound enough to function as a backpack. Would tyvek just tear and fail? or would it too fail gracefully.

I'm interested primarily because I'm thinking of doing a project with an outdoor boys group at my church (sort of boy scouts like) where we'd spend some number of weeks or months making our own UL gear. Test it, and then take it into the field for a multi-day backpacking trip. The thing is that cost is a major factor, so I'm looking for alternatives. Tyvek has the advantage of being dirt cheap, readily available (my father in law is a siding contractor), and requires no edge seaming.


John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Tyvek v/s Nylon on 03/27/2007 14:02:47 MDT Print View

Please take a look at disposable safety clothing made from Tyvek. Safety clothing Tyvek is designed to protect against exposure to chemical liquids and vapors. It is much finer, lighter, and not as porous as housewrap. Are you familiar with it? The clothing that I have been wearing, especially the pants have held up to some pretty rough treatment. Tyvek, as in the kind in house wrap is heavier, courser and more porous. This material has it’s limitations but for an ultra-lighter who is looking for reasonable protection in most situations it would seem to be ideal.

I have been wearing Tyvek pants for over 5 years on backpack trips during stormy weather putting significant strain on the seams when squatting, sitting and bending over. I have been amazed at how the lower leg portion has not frayed at all when all of my hiking pants quickly disintegrate at the cuff after only a few trips. I have washed them multiple times with no apparent damage. Recently I have been wearing them as wind pants.

The material is cheap and could produce a very inexpensive SUL tent. If you haven’t examined Tyvek clothing, take a look at. It takes care of water more than adequately and is more breathable than Gore-Tex. In fact the Du Pont promotional material makes the claim that Tyvek is:

“Tyvek® features a protective inherent barrier. Tyvek is 100% High Density Polyethylene, (HDPE), and it's generic trade name is "spunbonded olefin". So, unlike other protective suit fabrics, which have either a film or coating that can be easily scratched or worn away, Tyvek® provides barrier through the entire fabric. As a result, your protection is not compromised unless the clothing has been completely torn which isn’t easy to do because of the strength and durability of Tyvek.® Make sure you’re getting Tyvek.® Ask for itby name. Barrier Protection You Can Trust, Durability That Isn’t Easily Compromised Tyvek® is the industry standard for dry particulate barriers. Microscopic particles as small as 0.5 microns can’t pass through Tyvek® even after it’s been abraded. Tyvek® is an inherent barrier not easily scratched or worn away. Comfort You’d Never Expect Standing still, your body radiates heat and moisture vapor. So, it’s no surprise that working in protective apparel that can’t breathe escalates the problem dramatically and can affect productivity. It’s called heat stress. And, it can seriously compromise your safety, especially in hazardous environments. Tyvek® lets air and moisture vapor pass through. Tyvek® breathes. Breathability is a key factor in reducing heat stress. Tyvek® is six times more breathable than microporous film garment materials. Tyvek® is available in a wide variety of garment styles, such as coveralls, lab coats, smocks and aprons and has a wide range of applications in many different industries.”

This material, it would seem that it would produce an ideal single wall tent.

Kevin Lane
(Paddster) - F

Locale: western NY
Re: Tyvek v/s Nylon on 03/27/2007 14:39:31 MDT Print View

I cannot sew. I ordered some tyvek from a kite supplier and some polarguard sport insulation. I put this together into a blanket set up, and used tyvek tape to seal the open sides of the quilt - blanket (12 foot long piece of tyvek folded in half with a wedge of polarguard sport inside, kosher dill included). A 6' long by I suppose 5' wide blanket, with one layer of the Polarguard 4 weighs in at about a pound. I have now picked up an awl from a hardwear store, which is used to sew canvas, etc., and hope to hand finish this after cutting it down to size. I think I will come out with a nifty relatively inexpensive (less than $50) summer weight sleep system that is at least water resistant, important here in the east


Timothy Howe
(buckyllama) - F
Re: Re: Tyvek v/s Nylon on 03/27/2007 19:26:19 MDT Print View

I have heard about the tyvek clothing, and I'd be curious to know where you got yours. I've seen some jackets online, but usually it's either jackets only, or full length coveralls. The local big box home center has some coveralls but they are the perforated kind which is less useful for us. Is your rain gear sewn or glued?

It sounds like the tyvek used for clothing is similar to the "kite" tyvek (14xx series) that can be purchased from various sources online. I'm seriously looking at attempting a single wall tent from this material. I figure even if it's junk I'm only out maybe $35 in tyvek. The poles could be reused. Do you think this material would be sturdy enough for a backpack? Or would I be better off with the 10xx series?

Overall I'm thinking my best bet will be to glue (water based contact cement) seams whenever possible, and when I need to sew (backpack straps for example) I'll sew a large area and then bond a second piece of tyvek on the back to prevent postage stamp tearouts.

joseph daluz
(jfdiberian) - F

Locale: Columbia River Gorge
Re: Tyvek on 03/27/2007 22:32:45 MDT Print View

I have come into a huge 9 foot roll of Tyvek if you are interested, it has the letters "Tyvek" printed on one side.
I wouldn't use it as a ground cloth, I tried and you can 'push' water through quite readily with the weight of your body.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Tyvek on 03/27/2007 23:17:00 MDT Print View

Joseph, That sounds like the housewrap. It's heavy and porus. I wd not advise using it for a tent. Try to obtain the material used for protective clothing. Call Dupont directly. The clothing material is super lightweight and, as pointed above, very inexpensive.

Jason Turner
(headchange4u) - F
Tyvek Sources on 03/28/2007 08:59:46 MDT Print View

I recently did a 2 part article on the different types of Tyvek and their uses:

You can buy the soft structure Tyvek (kite Tyvek) from this site:

Timothy Howe
(buckyllama) - F
Re: Tyvek Sources on 03/28/2007 10:04:30 MDT Print View

Wow, thanks Jason. This is an excellent resource!

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Tyvek Sources on 03/28/2007 14:08:26 MDT Print View

Jason, Thanks for the web addresses. The latter site has very atttractive pricing and my wife, after a lot of coaxing, says an pyramid or similar type single wall shelter would be no problem for her sew. Materials Concepts is sending out some samples. Even though the pricing is reasonable, I understand that if purchased in bulk quantities, the material is much much cheaper.

Sharon Bingham
(lithandriel) - F - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Cost of soft-structure Tyvek on 08/20/2007 12:05:20 MDT Print View

So, I just spoke with the folks at

For 10 yards of 60" wide fabric, (type 1443R, 1.25 oz), it's $59. Which means this material is $5.90/yd, when purchased in this quantity.

Now, Thru-Hiker sells 60" wide 1.1 oz Silnylon seconds for $5.95/yd, and Quest Outfitters sells firsts starting at $8.95/yd...

So the thing is, I'm confused as to why there is a general idea floating out there that Tyvek is dirt cheap when compared to other materials. At least in this form, it seems about the same.

The only time it really would appear to be significantly cheaper is if you use the house-wrap variety, and buy a whole roll of it from, say, Home Depot (or similar).

Can anyone tell me what I'm missing here?

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: Cost of soft-structure Tyvek on 08/20/2007 12:15:27 MDT Print View

"So the thing is, I'm confused as to why there is a general idea floating out there that Tyvek is dirt cheap when compared to other materials. At least in this form, it seems about the same.

The only time it really would appear to be significantly cheaper is if you use the house-wrap variety, and buy a whole roll of it from, say, Home Depot (or similar)."

Because you're asking the wrong place for prices. The best place to purchase soft-sided tyvek from is kite supply shops... there's a couple of other places but the sites excape me at the moment. You can also pick up spectra bridle line for pretty inexpensive as well.

Also, as far as house-wrap goes, you can occasionally get contractors to give you their 'ends'. That or buy it from Goodling outdoors

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
cost efficiency on 08/20/2007 16:00:27 MDT Print View

Sharon, Maybe you are absolutely right on and I have missed it altogether. However my focus has been on the cost of a waterproof material that is breathable. Silnylon doesn’t breath. The Tyvek clothing that I have been wearing for raingear cost a little over a dollar a pair when bought in bulk and approximately $3-4 a pair when purchased individually.

Sharon Bingham
(lithandriel) - F - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Ah - breathability on 08/20/2007 18:22:41 MDT Print View

I had forgotten about that in my figuring. That does make a difference.

That still sounds pretty cheap for garments, if you're making them yourself. But it sounded like you bought yours already made. Is that so? If so, where did you find them so cheaply?

Oh, and thank you very much for the links to the other sites. I'm going to check them out!

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Cost on 08/20/2007 19:18:02 MDT Print View

Yes Sharon, they are ready to wear out of the box. Here is a link that provides info on the properties of this type of Tyvek. Also I have just learned that there is recycled Tyvek and original Tyvek. I have no idea the difference. Based on my experience with disposable clothing I would like to have a shelter made of the stuff. Since a shelter would not be exposed to the same harsh treatment that clothing is subjected, it would seem to last awhile depending on the care given to it. After all we are talking about ultra-lightweight and some concessions are generally made to acheive the weight savings and here durability would appear to be a possibility. However the rainpants you see in the avatar are 7 years old and have held up very well.

All of this being said, keep in mind that we are talking about a different type of material from housewrap, which none of this applies to.

Edited by johnk on 08/20/2007 19:19:01 MDT.

Mike Nielsen
(geophagous) - F

Locale: Pacific North West
Tyvek leaks on 08/21/2007 08:09:34 MDT Print View

I just made a Tarptent from the Henry Shires free pattern from the 14xx soft structure tyvek. Glued the center seam and sewed mesh on the sides. Glueing works very well and the tyvek fails prior to even just a 1/2 inch seam! I have used the gorilla glue for reinforcing at the pullouts with a 4X5 inch piece of tyvek. Makes it very strong. The center seam was made with an all purpose glue, can't remember the name.

Now for the down side. This weekend we had a nice long rain, all saturday night and sunday morning. I set up the tarptent and slept out for the night. After about 3 hours of light to medium rain a very small number of drips started on the ceiling. By the morning by bag had about 5 wetspots about 3X10 inches, mostly just damp. I could see that there were a few drops from the ceiling. I don't believe it was condensation as it was only at a few locations.

What I plan on doing is using my poncho as a rain fly to cover the middle 50% of the tarptent. I will add a small 3-4inch tube on each hiking pole to try and lift it off the tarp a bit and tie it to the same tieout points.

I also purchased mine from the material concepts website and they were nice, but a bit expensive. I was looking for a waterproof breathable shelter and had originally looked at using Epic, but it was about 2x the price.

I still think that the tyvek tarptent is nice. For a less significant rain of shorter duration I think there should be no issues, or such a small amount as to be no big deal.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Source of leak on 08/21/2007 09:47:44 MDT Print View


Did the moisture bleed through the material itself or did it leak through a seam?

Mike Nielsen
(geophagous) - F

Locale: Pacific North West
Maybe seam leaked? on 08/21/2007 12:53:56 MDT Print View

Bled thru the material. The only sewn seams were on the very edges. Although this is now making me wonder if I got water bleeding thru the seam at the front of the tent where I sewed in the mesh. I did see some drops forming not at the peak of the tent, but further down the sides by a few inches.

Now you have me thinking I need to do another experiment to see if I was getting some leaking from the seam at the front. The middle seam was glued and did not leak.

It did appear that some was "wetting" thru for lack of a better term. But when I pressed my finger against the tyvek it did not create a drip, or even get wet. It does appear when looking at the tyvek that there are thinner areas where you can see more light coming thru.

Great suggestion. I will wait for another good rainy day and put the poncho on to completly cover the sewn front of the tent and see what happens.

Steven Bergeron
(TheTurk) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Tyvek leaks on 08/21/2007 20:10:45 MDT Print View


I bought some Type 14xx to use as a ground sheet. (I had opted for the Soft Structure because it was quieter than the Hard - I was thinking of making a shelter out of it too.) My experience is that it is definitely not waterproof.

I used it snow camping (directly on the snow) and my sleeping pad was in a puddle after 2 days. I posted this to a fourm (not this one) and was barraged with replies that it was only condensation.

I wasn't convinced, so I took a piece (cut from the original piece that the ground sheet came from) about a yard square, gathered up the corners, and poured a quart (32 fl oz, 946 ml - yes, I'm following that thread too) of water into the center. I did this at the kitchen sink and my plan was to take it out to the garage and suspend it over a bucket. I didn't get out of the kitchen before very large drops started hitting the floor. In an hour most of the water, that made it out of the kitchen, was in the bucket.

OK, only a sample size of 1, but I saw no reason to continue.

I think you should check out the fabric. You could drape a side of the tent over a bucket, make a slight depression, and pour some water into to see if it leaks. Note that this is not a proper test (google hydrostatic head) and the downside of such a simple test is that "no leak" does not necessarily mean that it's waterproof. But this might be a enough to replicate conditions similar to those you had in the rain.


Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Tyvek v/s Nylon on 08/21/2007 20:17:19 MDT Print View

Unless the white Tyvek is different from what I used to wear as "Moon Suits" in the Environmental field then no Tyvek is neither waterproof or breathes very well. Now the coated Tyvek material, that may well be pretty waterproof. But the coated Tyvek would breath even worse than the uncoated version.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 08/21/2007 20:18:20 MDT.

Mike Nielsen
(geophagous) - F

Locale: Pacific North West
Testing Tyvek on 08/22/2007 09:19:44 MDT Print View

I had thought of doing the water hose thing. I had actually made a small cylinder of the tyvek and glued it together. I added water and was only able to get drops after I squeezed my "bag". So I figured it was waterproof enough.

I will wait for a rain and I really want the real world test. I will add beaks and make sure that there are no sewn areas for it to leak thru.

If it fails still I will probably look at getting the Epic and using it instead. I know it also can wet out, but reports seeme to make it seem less of an issue usually.

I saw other threads on Momentum and Quantum and was wondering if they would be appropiate for a shelter rather than a bag? Are they strong enough?