When I posted a photo of a new pack manufactured with a highly unconventional fabric to my instagr.am feed yesterday, the resulting social media storm caught me by surprise. Here’s the story of the fabric that has the Twitterverse up in arms.
Conventional backpack fabrics include oxford nylon, ballistics nylon, and Cordura. More modern materials are impregnated or coated with silicone, or offer ripstop patterns with high molecular weight polyethylene rip threads for tear resistance. And, if you follow the ultralight industry, you certainly know about the variants of Cuben Fiber, which promise very high performance-to-weight ratios.
Unfortunately, all of these materials suffer from the limitations of being synthetic in nature. Disadvantages of synthetic fabrics include:
Consequently, there has been a significant push by the outdoor industry in recent years towards “natural” and “sustainable” fabrics, including bamboo, merino wool, and even fabrics made from the fibers of coconut shells and corn stalks.
Most of these natural fabrics cannot be processed in a way, however, that is most suitable for backpack materials, due to low strength-to-weight ratios, high elasticity, and high levels of water absorption.
Consequently, we have been partnering with our overseas backpack manufacturing facility to develop natural, sustainable fabrics that can be used in backpacks.
After researching a variety of manufacturing processes and fabric constructions, we are getting closer to a final fabric. This fabric will be featured in the 2012 Absaroka Backpack.
Some of its advantages include:
- The ability to absorb very small amounts of precipitation and perspiration into the fabric’s interstitial structure, to enhance wicking and prevent moisture from “dripping” off of pack fabric into your clothing system.
- The ability to regenerate the pack’s waterproofness via natural oil impregnation using many commonly available waterproofing solutions sold in shoe and organic food stores.
- Its ability to be manufactured from renewable resources (e.g., organic cotton) using modern automated looms that won’t require equipment upgrades.
The new fabric will be branded as “Canovaccio” and be manufactured by a well-known company that specializes in soft shell materials in the high alps of Italy.
We are confident that this fabric will have achieved widespread distribution and be available to small cottage manufacturers by the end of the year – hopefully spurring the development of garage innovation and new business for our friends in the cottage industry.
Ryan Jordan is the Founder and CEO of Backpacking Light and can be found on Twitter @bigskyry if you want to stay up to date about lightweight backpacking industry trends.