The following guide to polyester illustrates its properties as a wonder fabric with multiple usages. Whether used as a backpack, sleeping bag, tent, or tarp, polyester shines as a synthetic fabric with multiple usages around your home and out on your favourite hiking trail. Below is an overview of polyester’s properties and suitability for a wide range of uses.
What is Polyester?
Polyester is polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), itself composed of purified terephthalic acid or dimethyl terephthalate and monoethylene glycol. The resulting polyester fabric is a very versatile and stain-resistant fabric that lends itself to a myriad of uses, including diverse apparel types, upholstery, blankets, and even computer mouse mats.
Polyester fabric is more able to be stretched than cotton. Also, polyester is resistant to mildew, stain-resistant, and can be preshrunk to prevent warping and shrinking. Polyester melts and burns simultaneously, and catches fire less easily than other synthetic fibres such as nylon. Still, it is still easily flammable and should not be placed near any flame. Polyester’s flammability is an asset as well, as it can be laser-cut into different shapes and sizes. Polyester itself is also non-allergenic, making it an ideal filling for blankets and sleeping bags as well as clothing.
Polyester’s Level of Water Resistance
While individual strands of polyester are waterproof, fabrics woven from polyester can become wet as fluid seeps into the space between the individual strands. The higher the strand count, the more fluid and water-resistant polyester is. Polyester is classified as water-resistant but not waterproof. After about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type and severity of wetness to which a polyester fabric is exposed, most polyesters become soaked to some degree. A higher degree of water resistance is created by increasing thread count and spraying polyester with a water-repelling agent, but even in these cases, gaps between the fibres leave polyester materials vulnerable to water and other fluids.
Polyester as a Backpack Fabric
Though not inherently waterproof, polyester dries faster than nylon and other synthetic fibres. Its quick-drying properties render polyester easy to clean. It is also highly stain resistant as compared to other synthetic fibres. Polyester is eminently washable, and alternately a dry piece of cloth can spot-dry to freshen its look. Its ability to maintain shape even after multiple washes lends polyester to environments where a backpack is exposed to rough handling.
Polyester Sleeping Bags
Polyester makes good sleeping bag insulation because it dries quickly. Polyester filling is usually formed from sheets of synthetic material sewn together. Synthetic insulation insulates when wet unlike down, which provides less insulation when wet and is very difficult to dry. As a sleeping bag shell, polyester offers moderate protection for an affordable price. It also serves as a good sleeping bag liner, as it provides extra warmth. Polyester is also breathable. There are, however, some caveats. Do not bring a polyester sleeping bag close to a campfire, as polyester is highly flammable. Also, wash a sleeping bag at least once a year. Avoid top loading washer machines in favour of front loading washing machines. Use a detergent specifically designed as a sleeping bag detergent, as regular detergent can contribute to clumping of the loft.
Polyester makes an excellent fabric for tents. Polyester dries faster than nylon and is lighter when wet. Polyester has excellent stretching properties, important for a temporary structure that will be erected and taken down multiple times. The risk of dyes bleeding together on a tent when it is wet is unfounded. The life of a polyester tent can be extended by draping the tent in a tarp.
Polyester provides a better alternative to nylon given its better stretching properties. Often polyester is coated in vinyl to provide a tarp that is thick, hard to tear, and is available in a wide range of colours and sizes. Also, polyester tarps are twice as strong as cotton canvas. As mentioned, anti-stretching properties and UV protection place polyester ahead of nylon as a tarp material.
The preceding is merely an overview of the many useful properties of polyester. Either as a backpack, sleeping bag, tent, or tarp, polyester is a workhorse fabric ideally suited to your favorite hike or merely as a sweatshirt on a colder day. While older alternatives such a nylon fabric exist for many of these applications, polyester shines as a stronger, sun and mildew resistant, and more breathable material.