Daily life 7 min
Plastics go off on an adventure
Discovering the world, sporty hikes, camping... each has their own vision of how best to spend the summer holidays. However, everyone aims to relax and simplify life, which is why plastics also go on vacation.
Plastics go off on an adventure
Plastics go off on an adventure

Roaming, polymers to guarantee a good trip

Whether you're an adventurer, a backpacker or a simple itinerant tourist, you won't refuse a little comfort here and there. Manufacturers of camping equipment know this and every year they bring out new innovations to make the nights spent outside more comfortable. Better still, and this is almost a priority, they seek to simplify their users' lives. This is logical when you are dealing with a population that is primarily on holiday.

Plastics push out metals

Although the ridge tent remains the most recognizable symbol of the first generations of adventurers in popular imagery, it is now largely outdated. While it did provide a roof over your head when you were camping, if you look closely, it had many drawbacks. To begin with, it weighed a lot, mostly because of its double roof made of oiled cotton. A relatively waterproof material, but not light, which moreover has the annoying tendency to absorb moisture from condensation, making it even heavier. Made of a cotton sheet envelope and a double roof, assembly was time-consuming. It also required regular maintenance as it had to be waterproofed from time to time. In short, it was no picnic. Cotton was to give way to synthetic textiles such as polyester in the 1970s, but this tent was still complicated to put up.


Modern tents are ultra-lightweight, easily folded and transportable, and no longer take up so much room in your luggage while still providing that most essential of features: a shelter at nightfall.

It was not until about ten years later that the first igloo tents put the good old ridge tent out of business (or almost). Made mostly of polyester fibre, an ultra-lightweight, ultra-flexible and waterproof material, they weigh only a few kilograms and can be folded or even rolled into a ball with disconcerting ease. Iron poles have been replaced by fibreglass or aluminium hoops which also weigh only a few grams.

For the same capacity, we have gone from a large travel bag to a small storage bag and its weight has been divided by four! It's easy to see why hikers and cyclists immediately adopted it.

Polymers to make life easier

Manufacturers could have left it at that, but here too the competition is fierce and the slightest innovation can mean success. For example, about fifteen years ago, the well-known brand Decathlon launched the 2-second tent, named after the time it takes to put it up! The principle is based on its folding mechanism where the poles and the canvas are pre-assembled and compressed a bit like a spring.
Just release them and the tent unfolds. And it works like a charm! The only problem was that folding the tent back up was still a tedious operation.
The engineers went back to the drawing board and the latest models meet all the requirements to make life much easier for campers. While the envelope is still made of classic polyester, the poles have been the subject of much research, as they are the basis of the "2-second" technology. They are made of a composite material based on glass fibres and polyoxymethylene, a thermoplastic polymer with advanced mechanical properties that is very resistant to traction and impact, is not very sensitive to creep (deformation) and above all does not lose its characteristics over time.
And to be truly in tune with nature, the French brand has chosen not to dye the double roof, keeping the raw colour of the polyester, white. This choice saves the water needed for dyeing and avoids discharging water contaminated by the dye baths.
The only problem is that white is not the best colour for insulating against sunlight. To remedy this, the polyester is coated with titanium dioxide, a chemically-inert component that has a remarkable opacifying power and the ability to reflect the sun's rays.

© Décathlon

By designing the 2-second tent, the Decathlon brand was going to prove that it was still possible to innovate by improving a product considered as very mature.

It should be noted, however, that these "automatic" tents are only available in small models for 2 to 3 people. They are not intended for families with young children, who nevertheless claim the right not to make their holidays unnecessarily complicated. There are now family tents with several rooms that can be inflated. Well, the poles can be inflated. These are made of heat-welded cases of polyurethane, a truly all-terrain and strong polymer (found in motorbike riders' protective gear, for example) and valves. They can be inflated them with a simple pump and the tent structure appears. All that remains to be done is to attach the textile parts: room divisions, roof, etc. This system saves time, and also reduces the weight of the tent.

Finally, for those who prefer to travel around a country or region by car, there are roof tents that can be attached to a roof rack (a bit like a roof box). The materials used are more or less the same, the only difference being that the tent is fixed to a hinged aluminium base which acts as a protective box once folded.

Polymers strengthen their position

A mattress is essential for getting a comfortable night’s sleep in a tent, mainly to isolate yourself from the ground and protect you from its roughness and any humidity. A tent mattress must therefore be comfortable, that is its primary purpose. It must also be easy to transport and thus fold or roll up to fit into a small bag and, of course, not be too heavy. Does that seem unrealistically demanding? It certainly would have been without polymers! There is something for every taste and above all every budget. The most affordable models are made of foamed polyethylene, a relatively comfortable material but which does not fold. They have to be rolled up and attached to the top of your backpack. The top-of-the-range models are made of polyester or polyurethane, are inflatable and in most cases have anti-slip silicone patches. They are extremely comfortable and provide excellent insulation from the ground, but this is not their only advantage as they weigh only a few hundred grams and fit into a small pouch.


Floor mats, sleeping bags... polymers also provide many services for spending cosy nights even in the middle of nowhere.

Finally, more and more manufacturers, including the most prestigious like Vaude, are introducing recycled polymers into their models. The German brand recovers polyester scraps from its own production lines that were previously thrown away. In this way, it saves its resources while protecting the planet.


The same trend towards greener products is seen in sleeping bags, which, as a reminder, are made up of an envelope (the bag) filled with an insulating material (the lining).
Some manufacturers use recycled polyamide fibres, most often from end-of-life fishing nets, to make the envelope.


Floor mats, sleeping bags... polymers also provide many services for spending cosy nights even in the middle of nowhere.

For the lining, they use hollow polyester fibres, at least for bags that can be used in extreme cold. These fibres are filled with air and therefore store heat better. In addition, they bind together to form a multitude of small air pockets to further improve the bag’s insulating properties.

Motorhomes, plastics take to the road

Other adventurous holidaymakers prefer the comfort of a motorhome or even a caravan.
See Vision Venture - a futuristic motorhome

This market is expanding rapidly, especially among senior citizens. The interior is generally a perfect cocoon entirely dedicated to comfort and practicality, which is normal, since space is limited.
A few years ago, Hymer, one of the leading German manufacturers on the market, proposed its vision of the motorhome of the future. The manufacturer has made extensive use of polymers, which are lightweight, not very fragile and can be moulded very easily. To develop the Vision Venture, as it is called, the German manufacturer got together with BASF, one of the world’s main producers of polymers. Since it is still at the prototype stage (it is expected to go on sale in 2025), the polymers chosen and developed for this project have not yet been revealed. We already know that its roof will be equipped with polymeric voltaic panels and will be liftable thanks to a system of pneumatic bellows also made of polymers. BASF has also developed a paint called Chromacool that absorbs heat. When the mercury reaches the higher temperatures, the paint can help to lower the heat of the vehicle's bodywork by about 20 degrees, thus reducing the interior temperature by 4 degrees. This saves on using the energy-intensive air conditioning system. The toilet area is built around a pivoting partition that is also mounted on a plastic gusset to increase the space available for showering. Finally, Hymer states that certain body parts are manufactured by additive technology (3D printer) in order to provide options to personalise the vehicle. It is difficult to know whether we will see the Vision Future on the road in 2025, but one thing is certain: these innovations will be included, at least in part, in future products.

© BASF SE Photo from Plastics le Mag

Hymer teamed up with polymer manufacturer BASF to design its Vision Venture, the motorhome of the future.

Polymers for an adventure with everything under control

When setting off on an adventure, some people take along a multitude of accessories that are sometimes practical or even essential for getting out of difficult situations. Among them, the indispensable cooler, which comes in flexible or rigid models or even in a backpack format. Most of them guarantee that they will keep food and drink cool for more than 10 hours. Their envelope is generally made of polypropylene for the rigid models or polyester for the soft ones, and the interior is usually composed of different layers of polystyrene and polyurethane foam.

To ensure that pleasant moments can be shared during meals, camping tables and chairs now weigh almost nothing and can be folded for better storage. Although the frames are still made of steel or aluminium, the seats and backrests have long been made of textile fibres such as polyester. As for backpackers, they will find their happiness in water bottles equipped with polymer membranes such as hydrophilic polyethersulfone (PES) whose pores of a few tenths of a micron retain almost all impurities, including bacteria. They are now indispensable to hikers who, thanks to them, can now set off without worrying about water, since they can fill the water bottles from any watercourse without having to fear dysentery.


Because a single blister can ruin a good hike, some bandage manufacturers offer real second skins made from polymers.

A foot blister or injury can also spoil a hike. In the first case, there are super effective bandages that instantly erase the pain.
Called second skin, they are composed of an elastomer for softness, a polyurethane film to isolate the wound and a thermoplastic adhesive resin to hold the bandage in place.
They detach themselves when the blister is healed, almost by magic.

Finally, for big injuries, such as a cut, there are super-absorbent dressings to accelerate coagulation. They consist of a layer of viscose and polyester to diffuse the blood and another layer, known as a superabsorbent, made from a mixture of cellulose fibres and polyacrylate, a polymer that has the ability to absorb up to 300 times its mass in water. The outer layers are made of non-woven polypropylene fibres.


Although it is essential to have these products in your luggage, the best thing is not having to use them to have a great time...


 Happy holidays to you all!


Lightweight, quite durable and easy to carry, polymers are qualified to share all adventures!

See interview with novamen

If you enjoyed this article, you'll love the next!
  • “Save our Oceans”, a whole line of eco-responsible luggage!
    At a glance 1 min
    “Save our Oceans”, a whole line of eco-responsible luggage!

    Vivienne Westwood and Eastpak are taking a stand to "Save our Oceans" in their first ever collaboration....

  • La virgule, upcycled and responsible bags
    At a glance 2 min
    La virgule, upcycled and responsible bags

    La Virgule is a brand of backpacks and accessories created from end-of-life technical products. Kayaks, tents, inflatable boats, wetsuits, crash pads and safety belts, all will be given a new life! A...

  • Inflatable bar carriers!
    At a glance 1 min
    Inflatable bar carriers!

    What is the best way to easily transport your snowboard, paddleboard or kayak? Or simply increase your vehicle’s storage space without spending a fortune on a roof box or a trailer?...