- Feb 26, 2013 at 10:23 am #1299735
I have ordered a few cuben fiber pieces of new gear to treat myself, a new bp, nettingless shelter and netting topped bivy. The only piece I would have concerns with is the shelter and my skill in setting it up on that occasional very windy day. I was doing some thinking about some shelter tests from a few years ago, and Henry's reply on the latest TT shelter question got my brain engaged. Since I have concerns (after the fact) about a new cuben shelter, do any of the UL shelters make the cut or its just not in the cuben material to be that bomber? Comments, observations? I realize the material is used in sails, but our bp gear uses lighter weights. Cuben fiber material is still pretty foreign to me.
DuaneFeb 26, 2013 at 10:31 am #1958894
Cuben has advantages other than weight when if comes to shelters.
Many people have thru-hiked many long distance trails without issue and swear by it.
If you are worried about durability, don't get the lightest cuben you can find.Feb 26, 2013 at 11:26 am #1958912Cesar Valdez
I agree on the awesomeness of Cuben. I have had my hybrid Cuben Zpacks Zero backpack for almost a year now, and have taken it on many trips, a significant amount of the trips having bushwhacking involved. No holes, very few issues. I did have to replace a buckle on my shoulder strap, but I put it through more stress than I should have. I climbed down a cliff and then jumped down about a 2 meter drop and the plastic buckle snapped. Joe was nice enough to send me some more buckles and my wife was nice enough to fix it.
I also have a Zpacks solo Hex tarp and love it. Shelters should not ever come into contact with anything rough or sharp, just wind, rain, snow, and hail. I have seen a video on these forums before of a Hex in some pretty hardcore hail and it was fine. Anyhow, I have had my Hex tarp for over a year and have a hard time finding bad things to say about it. It has seen heavy rain and I was totally dry–as in, not a drop of rain on me–and very happy and cozy inside of it. Setting it up the first few times is tricky, but it's easy now. I may have to replace the guy lines, as a few of the knots have gotten messed up, but that has nothing to do with the Cuben.
There are some issues with Cuben, of course. There is no magic fabric for backpacking, but if you ask me Cuben is as close as you are going to get for a wide range of things. I think for backpacks, in general hybrid Cuben has no equal. A good argument could be made for thicker Cuben for shelters or even silnylon for certain situations, but for my needs and location the Hex tarp has been outstanding. When I need to replace it, which I am sure will happen eventually (as with most gear), I will either get a new Hex solo tarp or maybe take small weight bump up for a Hex solo plus tarp.Feb 26, 2013 at 11:40 am #1958923
Some advantages that cuben has over silnylon:
1) It doesn't shrink or sag – no readjustments needed when the temperature or humidity changes.
2) Less condensation or spray – less porous, so water tends to run off of the surface instead of clinging the way it does with silnylon.
3) Packs away drier and lighter – since it is less porous, almost all moisture shakes off easily.Feb 26, 2013 at 11:57 am #1958927Greg FBPL Member
@gregfLocale: Canadian Rockies
Cuban in terms of durability for weight is probably the best fabric we have for a wide range of situations but I think you need to look at what level of durability you need and deside if the particular thickness of Cuban you are looking at meets that requirement.
For example 1.4 oz Cuban would be far stronger than Sil in almost everyway however no one orders 1.4 oz Cuban because you are paying for lighter weight. Sil is not as durable as Cordora or 110D or 140D nylons but again you are doubling the weight.
I don't own any Cuban due to the cost (so I am doing spec sheet evaluation rather than experience) but I think in most cases it is superior to Sil when comparing .71 Cuban vs 30D Sil. The one area where Sil may be better is in the ability to handle gusts. Becaues Sil will stretch it will more evenly distribute the loading accross more of the tie outs and will reduce the peak load experienced by the shelter. However usually the weakest point in any shelter is the pegs holding it down so as long as the pegs fail before the fabric than your shelter is strong enough.Feb 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm #1958948
Very good info guys. Thank you. I know about the no shrinkage due to temp/moisture which I know I will love, not sure if I've read about less internal condensation, it should be a non-issue as I have a netless Hex ordered. I'm hoping it is enough shelter, the Plus was so close, but going for overall lower gear weight. I agree with the staking out part. No money left now for a quilt or new winter pad. Next year or later.
DuasneFeb 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm #1959022
There's several characteristics that are important for something to be considered 'bomber'. Outright strength is important, but so are other factors like abrasion resistance, UV exposure, puncture resistance etc. Of course this all depends on the application.
Cuben is insanely strong for its weight. It easily beats any form of nylon in this regard. It's also quite UV resistant and mediocre at puncture resistance. Where it runs into trouble is with abrasion. The lighter variants of cuben (sub 1oz/yd) use thin mylar outer layers that don't hold up well to abrasion. For example, a backpack made of 0.7oz/yd cuben won't fail because it's inadequately strong. It might fail at the seams (puncture enlargement from sewing) if it's poorly designed, but for the most part that's okay as well at regular loads. Where a 0.7oz/yd cuben backpack runs into trouble is with abrasion. Over time the outer mylar gets damaged and broken. Then the spectra starts to fray and holes form until eventually it's unusable. So the the thin mylar cubens (0.08 mylar) are best suited to applications where abrasion is low. Tarps are really a perfect application. With reasonable care (ie. don't walk on it when packing it up), a tarp sees very little abrasion and thus a well designed 0.5 or 0.7oz cuben tarp can achieve good durability. I'm not sure I'd use 'bomber', but certainly plenty good.
Once you get above 1oz/yd, cuben uses a thicker mylar layer (0.18) which holds up better to some abrasion. Abrasion is still its achilles heal, but it can hold up much better. I'd probably call a 1.2oz/yd cuben tarp 'bomber', although it still wouldn't qualify as such if you're pitching it next to a camp fire (sparks go right thru). Conversely a backpack made of 1.2oz/yd cuben would not be 'bomber' (since it all depends on application). These 1 to 1.5oz cuben varients are good for items that seem some abrasion, but not regularly. Some makers are using this for tent floors which I think is pushing it a bit, but with reasonable care it can last a long time as a tent floor -just don't use it on granite. Suitable applications that come to mind are stuff sacks and maybe a rain skirt for on trail use.
If you're really going to be subjecting an item to regular abrasion then even the .18 mylar is going to fail fairly quickly. My 1.5oz/yd cuben stuff sack that's been dragged thru a lot of tree branches (bear bagging) is getting pretty haggard and a 1.5oz/yd cuben backpack will normally look pretty haggard after a hundred days of use (depending of course on how it's treated). If you want the strength of cuben but with good abrasion resistance, then you want something for the outer layer besides mylar. This is where hybrid cuben comes in, which uses woven polyester as the outer layer (ie. HMG backpacks). This polyester comes in various weights and it's a good solution for abrasion for all but the highest wear applications (ie. rock climbing).Feb 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm #1959027Justin BakerBPL Member
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
If cuben is insanely strong for it's weight, then could you make something out of like 4 oz cuben (if that even exists) for a really heavy duty application?Feb 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm #1959032Nathan WattsBPL Member
"If cuben is insanely strong for it's weight, then could you make something out of like 4 oz cuben (if that even exists) for a really heavy duty application?"
Not sure on how the cost would compare at this fabric weight, but I think you'd be better off going with woven dyneema in this weight range.Feb 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm #1959050Edward JursekBPL Member
@nedjursekgmail-comLocale: Pacific Northwest
Dan's analysis of cuben as a material is spot on. I have a number of cuben pieces and I look overwhelming for weight savings and just enough durability to justify the much higher cost. For cuben, it is really all about the weight savings for a purchase to make sense. If you want something truly bomber in cuben, you will be paying too much and getting a product that is too heavy for the price. At heavier weights, there will be packs, rain gear, stuff sacks, ground sheets, etc made of other materials like Silnylon, Dyneema, Xpac, etc that will likely be much cheaper and closer in weight to cuban.Feb 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm #1959084John Brochu
@johnnybgood4Locale: New Hampshire
>>> If you want the strength of cuben but with good abrasion resistance, then you want something for the outer layer besides mylar. This is where hybrid cuben comes in, which uses woven polyester as the outer layer (ie. HMG backpacks). This polyester comes in various weights and it's a good solution for abrasion for all but the highest wear applications (ie. rock climbing).<<<
I can vouch for the hybrid material not quite being adequate for rock climbing.
I had Joe make me a Zero with the hybrid fabric for testing as an Alpine climbing pack intended for quick trips involving easy to moderate rock climbing and camping on non technical ground.
The maiden voyage was planned for the N. Ridge of Mount Conness, then a bivy followed by the W. Ridge of Conness. The pack carried great on the approach and climbed well on the N. Ridge. We had a great bivy down in the valley under the W. Ridge but then the next day turned back at the start of the climbing due to inclement weather.
The hybrid fabric didn't hold up well on the climbing pitches. It ended up with a couple of abrasions and two spots worn through with a small hole. If this pack was used as a crag back it would get destroyed. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend the hybrid material for most climbing purposes. However, I was able to easily fix the abraded spots with the repair tape Joe sells so I may be able to keep using it for these types of trips with the expectation that it will need small repairs after each use and probably won't last forever.Feb 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm #1959097
Even the hybrid cuben comes in a number of face fabric variants (and inner cuben variants). Zpacks is using a lighter outer polyester layer than HMG. In 'cuben speak' Zpacks is using about a "wov.20" polyester, whereas HMG is using a "wov.32". Just like nylon, these higher denier/thicker polyesters hold up much better than the lighter weaves.
Cubic tech also has an even more durable outer polyester ("wov.75") that no one is using for hiking applications presently (maybe McHale). Supposedly this outer polyester is very durable, but it weighs 3.5oz/yd for just the polyester, so if you toss a 1.5oz cuben backing on there, then you're at 5oz per yard. This material probably competes well in the ~5oz/yd fabric category except it's awfully expensive ($40-$50/yd I'd guess).
With a backpack, you need abrasion resistance and puncture resistance more than you need outright strength. Strong is good, but even 1.5oz cuben is awfully strong (200 lbs/inch breaking strength), it just lacks abrasion resistance and to a lesser extent puncture resistance. A 1.5oz (or 1.2oz) cuben with whatever face fabric gives you the durability you want is a great way to go since it'll meet your abrasion needs and be very strong and waterproof. Xpac makes some similar fabrics to this (heavy face layers on a weaker plastic layer).Feb 26, 2013 at 7:54 pm #1959100
This will be my first venture into more expensive and much ligher gear. If it makes if for a number of years, I'll be fine. If not, well, my SMD Starlight is doing fine. I'll be curious to see what my base weight will be after getting the new stuff. I did have a Golite Gust for awhile which was 16 oz., it developed a few small holes with the Garcia canister on the bottom on one partial XC bp trip in SEKI. Now for a new, large winter pack this coming season maybe.
DuaneFeb 26, 2013 at 8:11 pm #1959102John Brochu
@johnnybgood4Locale: New Hampshire
Thanks Dan, that's good info to know.
I've used a standard ZPacks Blast 18 in 1.5oz cuben for a number of backpacking trips and it's held up really well. I wasn't aware of different face fabric variants when I decided to have the test pack built so just went with Joe's standard hybrid fabric. Even Joe wasn't sure how it would hold up but I decided to try it and see for myself.
Are you aware if anyone has tested the "wov.32" with a 1.5oz cuben backing for rock climbing?
Edit: also to further answer OP's questions. I have lots of cuben items (all made by ZPacks) including a tarp, rain skirt, stuff sacks, pack cover, etc. and they have all held up well with no visible signs of wear and tear over several years of light to moderate backpacking use.Feb 27, 2013 at 5:49 am #1959166
DuaneFeb 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm #1959406
Both Zpacks and HMG are using 1.43oz/yd cuben on the inside of their hybrid fabrics. Zpacks has added 1.5oz/yd polyester to the outside, while HMG has added 1.9oz/yd, so obviously the HMG should be more durable but I wouldn't expect it to be radically so just based on the weights. The scale of difference might be analogous to 30D nylon (1.3oz) vs. 70D nylon (1.9oz).
The wov.75 fabric that cubic tech does make is much heavier – 3.5oz/yd for just the polyester. That's similar in weight to the 210D dyneema grid nylons out there (super popular) plus then you've got cuben inside for a total weight around 5oz/yd.
So HMG's hybrid cuben is going to hold up better, but my expectations are that it wouldn't be radically different. However, there are a lot of HMG packs out there seeing a lot of use (ie. BPL Porter review after 100-ish days) and I haven't seen anyone mention fabric troubles yet. I've ordered a wov.32 pack (ULA) that I intend to put a lot of off trail use on, but not climbing. Perhaps a simple (over simplified?) way of putting this all is:
wov.20 = trail use
wov.32 = off trail use
wov.75 = rock climbing
That's just a guess of course.Feb 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm #1959439
Dan, I've never tried a ULA pack. A few years ago, I was offered at a very low price, one of the early ULA packs. Maybe I should ask if the guy still has it, seemed he wanted $20-$25 for it. I know I had looked at a few different brands a few years ago before I got my SMD pack at a Dec. discount. SMD had the lowest weight and price. One thing I've noticed for a few years now, gear weights have gone back up for many gear makers, mostly bp's, I'm guessing they hit bottom for consumer comfort and have had to add comfort (weight) back in.
DuaneFeb 28, 2013 at 4:33 am #1959599
Re: "I'm guessing they hit bottom for consumer comfort"
That and the durability aspect. A lot of UL packs don't make it all the way to the end of a thru-hike. And I don't have problem with that. Would you rather replce your pack after a couple thousand miles or carry the extra weight?
A lot of companies were cutting weight by reducing the comfort components of packs with idea that the comfort can be brought back by carrying less weight inside.
You don't need a wide beefy hip belt, heavy padded shoulder straps and/or and internal frame if you rarely carry much over 25 lbs.
But people still like these things, even if they don't realize that they really don't add comfort if you don't carry much weight in your pack.
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