a few words about the longevity of a cuben shelter

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    Jennifer Mitol
    BPL Member


    Locale: In my dreams....


    Because details tend to get lost in longer threads, I want to make a point about my cuben fiber duomid that I was lucky enough to actually “wear out”: I spent close to 300 nights in that shelter, and I’ve cowboy camped maybe 2 times in my life.  So when I use a shelter…I use it.  Every night.

    And this past summer, we spent 36 (37?) very wet, rainy nights in our shelters (including a few full days, as well…) and that duomid was stuffed and unstuffed and stuffed again…over and over and over…inside a too-small cuben stuff sack. On my JMT trips – same thing – every day, stuff and unstuff with all that dirt; here in the deserts of West Texas – nothing but dirt all over while I stuff and unstuff.  Get it?

    I am nice to my gear but by no means do I baby it…and as the years have gone by I am, indeed, wearing things out.  My custom made Zimmerbuilt pack no longer has one side of the hip belt attached, and the stay has poked through the bottom of the reinforced Xpac material.  My favorite exped downmat UL7 has more patches on it than I can count…and for all of this I am grateful.

    Yes, I wanted my very expensive cuben fiber duomid, what has become my absolute favorite shelter (and that’s after trying more than my fair share of tents), to last forever.  But, alas, it didn’t.

    I’m trying to save all my money this year, thus my wavering about buying another shelter that I can hopefully “use up” in cuben (which is what I really want…), or sil because it’s perfectly fine and I need to be far more conservative with my money and the red is really pretty anyway.

    Anyway, just wanted to clarify what I said before…and to point out that holy-crap-I’m-lucky-enough-to-wear-out-a-cuben-duomid!




    BPL Member


    Locale: The Cascades

    Cuben apologist. Hrrmph.

    BPL Member


    Locale: San Diego

    Lucky you, to have gotten out so much to wear out a cuben shelter. Keep doing
    what you are, and getting out there and enjoying our beautiful scenery we have
    here in the good ole US.

    Richard May
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nature Deficit Disorder

    Awesome. You are clearly doing something right!

    Jenny A
    BPL Member


    Locale: Front Range

    Luck-eeee!  Nice.  I don’t know of many tents that would last 300 days:  UV gets to fabrics, coatings wear and peel and get stinky, things just wear out.  Have fun finding a worthy replacement!

    Edward Jursek
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Amen! It is a gift to wear out our gear. I buy a lot of used gear, cuben included, and aspire to wear out, grind it down, trash every piece, wring every last ounce and penny out of it. Cuben tape, thread, duct tape, whatever it takes to limp it along. I will hold onto my DuoMid and Hexamid Twin until the amount of cuben repair tape exceeds the original cuben material. My Zpacks Ponch/Ground Sheet has a few repairs but it is still the best poncho I have ever owned. I reconcile myself to the fleeting life of my cuben gear in particular, but even sil, like youth and love, fades away. Sure, your great grandchildren can heft you McHale pack someday, but I will take the gossamer and ethereal thrill of cuben or even old spinnaker fabric any day.   There is no romance, no joy or thrill in heavy Cordura or some robic grid stop crap. Viva La Cuben!

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    How did your cuben shelter wear out? What failed on it exactly?

    John S.
    BPL Member


    Don’t  stuff cuben for maximum longevity?

    Owen McMurrey


    Locale: SE US

    Not the most cost efficient thing in the world, sure, but given the cost per night relative to the other stuff we spend money on for this and other hobbies, it’s not that bad, either.

    All things considered, the fact that you love the shelter and got a reasonable service life from it makes it worth the premium, IMO.

    Jennifer Mitol
    BPL Member


    Locale: In my dreams....

    a) yes, I think, in hindsight, I’d NOT tightly stuff anything cuben, and I’d use a sil stuff sack to further cut down on abrasion (my stuff sack was definitely too small – user error)

    b) it “wore out” by becoming – you guess it! – very abraded.  The surface was rough and held onto water even more than a sil shelter did.  It was still perfectly waterproof, and perfectly acceptable as a shelter…but I hike in the rain a lot and it was, frankly, very annoying to deal with that soggy mess every day.  It took forever to dry in the sun, and wouldn’t really wipe off no matter how much I tried.

    Justin W


    Interesting Jen.  So what it sounds like to me is that as the mylar film gets abraded, it creates almost short micro fibers, which increases the surface area and spaces for water to be held.  PET/mylar type materials do absorb a tiny bit of moisture, but it sounds more like it’s holding water in the new spaces being created.  It’s like a smooth, non fibrous/porous plastic film vs a woven or knitted fabric.

    Ironically, an inexpensive and relatively easy fix, would be to make a silicone adhesive slurry and paint both sides of the cuben, filling in those spaces.  Most effective would be to do a first coat with a very thinned slurry, and after that’s cured/dried, then go over with a thicker/less thinned slurry of silicone.

    And yes, if the shelter is cleaned well first, silicone adhesive will bond to it–at least to the mylar.  Mylar, PET, and polyester are all basically the same kind of plastic, and silicone is well bonded to polyester fabrics all the time (EPIC and similar fabrics, etc).  It wouldn’t bond as well to new cuben though.  Just like with many materials you want to add adhesive, glue or epoxy to, you first have to abrade the materials (often with sandpaper) being bonded.

    It would add a little weight, but should fix the issue for awhile (and could be reapplied if need be).  Unfortunately, then you can’t conveniently tape it anymore, but you could add silnylon patches with silicone adhesive.  The silicone coating would help to protect the mylar film from getting abraded in the first place anyways.

    But hey, you could be the first person to say that you have a Sil-Cuben (excuse me, “Dyneema”) shelter.

    Ross L
    BPL Member


    Locale: Beautiful BC

    What I would like to see is a scientific comparison between crumpling (stuffing) cuben versus rolling it. I would think the mylar breaks down much quicker with crumpling. I always roll my cuben shelters but do not have the mileage on them that Jen has. As for the longevity of Silnylon, I  used an  Integral Designs Sil Shelter (13 oz) extensively from 1999 til 2011 and then sold it for $20 to a young fellow from the Yukon that still has it. (always rolled that too)

    Paul Magnanti
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Plateau

    As an aside, my first ever “real” tent (as opposed to an old Eureka I lugged with fiberglass poles that was meant for car camping!) was a Walrus Swift. For those who aren’t familiar with the tent, it was a classic two-pole style tent similar to the older Clip Flashlight. Well made, at 3.5 lbs, light for the time (it was 1.5 person tent mind you…)

    I don’t know how many nights I put in the tent, but eventually the waterproofing wore out on the fly. Even after treating it, it wasn’t the same.

    Some gear last longer. My simple silnylon tarp has a few pinholes in it is but is otherwise serviceable. To be fair, I mainly cowboy camped when using the tarp. The old tent was used on an AT thru-hike on an El Nino year, two Long Trail hikes and all over wet New England in general. I never cowboy camped then.

    Guess my point is, gear does wear out.

    I am not CF apologist or whatever. But I’d like to think I take a simple approach to these things. Meaning, lots of gear use and setup equals wear and tear. I suspect a CF tarp that is only used in bad weather would last longer than Jennifer’s tent.   Much like my old silnylon tarp….

    (Mind you, I thin a CF pack is not good investment. :) )



    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    For 5 years (hundreds of nights) I have brought a Cuben shelter (Hexamid), Cuben poncho, and an EE Cuben quilt. I have had one problem, I poked a hole in my quilt with a finger nail, which will tell you how thin the material is. Other than that I have had zero issues. The Hexamid is an early model, I don’t remember the thickness, but it isn’t the thick stuff because it weighs less than 4 ounces.

    Long ago I quit using stuff sacks for larger items (after the finger nail episode).

    I only use the shelter when there is rain or strong winds. However, the shelter is taken out of my pack every night and returned every morning because the quilt is at the bottom of my pack. NONE of the Cuben goes into a stuff sack.

    I pack in layers, which may change depending on the trip. Here is the typical packing procedure. Quilt in the bottom, then shelter, poncho, puffy. All are stuffed without sacks. Next are all the clothes I probably won’t need during the day in a large Cuben sack, so it can be stuffed into nooks and crannies. Using this method the fore mentioned Cuben gear still looks new, other than a little dirtier than when I bought them.

    One thing about Cuben shelters, you can knock/shake off or wipe off almost all the water and moisture so it doesn’t get the rest of your gear wet. You can’t do this with sil. All bets are off if packing in a down pour. Since I usually use a trash compactor bag, I can put all my gear, except the shelter, in that and the shelter on top if needed. None of my packs have mesh pockets because I hate them.

    I have a sil Trailstar for certain trips. I bought sil because the stretch is an advantage in this shelter vs Cuben. My nasty winter snow shelter is a sil Scarp 1. Last year I bought a Cuben Deschutes to get a little more coverage than my Hexamid, and I didn’t even consider sil. So for most trips my choice has been, and will continue to to be, Cuben. I doubt I will ever need to buy another shelter, what I have will last until I die, unless I do something stupid or careless to damage one of them.

    Cuben shelters are not for everyone and sil is very serviceable. I am 65, so reducing every ounce is important to me, as it allows me to continue hiking at the same pace as in my younger years.

    Lester Moore
    BPL Member


    Locale: Olympic Peninsula, WA

    Jennifer – all the time you’ve spent outside has allowed you to test your gear and get to know its pros, cons and limitations better than most of us weekend warriors. If you really know how that duomid works for you, if you can continue to deal with it’s quirks and limitations, and if it puts a big smile on your face when you use it, then I say follow your heart.

    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Cuben of DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabrics) in it’s simplest form is two sheets of plastic, pressed and bonded(usually just by pressure) over a “loose” woven Dyneema/Spectra material. There are a lot of variations possible, of course, carbon fiber, mylar, kevlar, different weights, multiple layers, type of weave used for coring…well, a lot more research and experimentation is needed.  Anyway, the fibers will form a grid of “stand out” areas that will abraid quite easily, and like any plastic will shred. But, being well bonded to the core and other layer of plastic, it just forms little fibers that will “hold” water…not really soaking it, nor penetrating through it. Rather than having a plain sheet of plastic, only those areas that stick out get worn quickly. That usually means that some large percentage of any wear will be concentrated on a tiny portion of section of fabric. Ripstop does this also, but nylon is more elastic, it bends away from abrasive stuff rather than developing small shreds.

    So, as a plastic, I assume that it just picks up a lot of surface water that becomes nearly impossible to wipe off unless it is fairly new. Yes, it will likely also stick with other things that we do not normally associate with sticking to plastic: silicone, “stains” & discoloration, epoxy, etc.But just like water, it is not really “bonded”, it is just surface bound.

    Plastics are by nature, heavy. Most plastics are about the density of water maybe slightly less. Look in the sink with a plastic bowl. The bowels barely float. Polystyrene will actually sink. Anyway, only the size makes them light. Or, injecting them with “air” (styrofoam for example.) Spectra is one of the few fibers I know of that floats.

    Given the same coverage tarp, say 9×9, silnylon will generally pack 10-15% smaller because it is a softer more elastic material. I can fold it paper thin and there is no damage. DCF will whiten showing that some (the outside molecular layers) is extended beyond what it was capable of tolerating. Like my cedar strip canoes, with two layers of fiberglass over a center core of cedar, the two plastic layers over a web of Dyneema/Spectra fibers makes it much stiffer than simply adding up all three layers. That means there is more air in every fold because it will not flatten as much. When repeated in the same area, DCF weakens. You really should not fold cuben tightly (as in a “too small stuff sack”,) nor, repeatedly in the same spot, it is really too stiff for tight folding, rolling is best. But, then you worry about the edges. Generally this comes through to most people as abrasion resistance, but it is really a property of the DCF and the materials they use.

    Similar to winding a 1/32″ steel cable as opposed to using a 1/32″ steel wire, silnylon is a twisted batch of “small” diameter “wires.” Much more flexible and stronger, except in stiffness. The silicone treatment is highly elastic, and doesn’t really count as a separate item, but it flows into the “wire” like threads, not really bonding, but again a very strong bite. You can fold it repeatedly in the same area and have it simply bounce back. Fold a wire repeatedly in the same area and it breaks.  It also has a strange property which is self affinity. If the coating is damaged, it will actually stick back together, or “self healing,” much like a modern tire.

    However, UV damage done to either material is likely not good. Fortunately, mostly I camp in the ADK’s and in heavily forested areas.  So, I can get 10-15 years out of a tarp.  I worry more about punctures and abrasion. (As was mentioned, elastic bands (hair ties) will keep things fairly tight in the rain.) But, it is usually heavier at 1.3-1.5oz/yd as opposed to .6 or .8oz/yd like DCF.  The trade off is what keeps this list interesting. I have settled on a 20oz maximum devoted to my shelter for solo use. I usually do not bring a net, nor, ground cloth. Depends on your area and what you will tolerate.



    James holden
    BPL Member


    If you use anything enough youll wear it out

    if you use it for hundreds of days then cost is well amortized

    Im no fan of $$$$ gear generally, but better a tent you use daily than a closet queen that youll eventually post in gear swap

    i bet ron at MLD would be happy to see every duomid die from being well used and perhaps even a bit abused

    i likely wont go cuben personally, but whatever makes you happi and gets used


    on a side note … the more or less same argument is playing out in the climbing with dyneema vs nylon slings

    tests have shown that thin dyneema slings are much less abrasion and UV resistance than thicker nylon slings or cord … and they are more expensive

    however they are much lighter and less bulky, which matters for certain applications

    the problem lies when folks who dont need the weight savings use em for general use and wear em out faster … and arent aware of the retirement protocols …. ironically gear manufacturers say little about it as IMO they want to sell more fancy $$$$ dyneema gear

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    This is an old thread, but it has got me thinking.

    A white .75 oz cuben duomid is currently going for $435. That works out to $1.45 per night. This does not seem like a lot, but when we start to calculate the cost per day of all of our gear combined I think it could really add up.

    Another example of cost per day would be a sleeping bag. On this thread: , the poster claims that after 700 nights of use she is considering replacing her western mountaineering sleeping bag. This works out $0.57 per night.

    I don’t think these costs are very important if you are employed and have a permanent residence.

    But lets say you are someone who really enjoys traveling or going on long backpacking trips for months at a time. You work hard at a temporary job so you can go backpacking or traveling for as long as possible until your funds run out. You need to live fairly cheaply.

    Lets say you plan to live on $30 per day. Now you need to factor in the $1.45 per night for your duomid and the $0.57 per night of your sleeping bag. When you look at all of the gear you carry and use, I think the cost could really add up. If you choose to buy gear which will most likely last longer, your overall cost of living could be something like $40 per day instead of $50 day. That means that you could travel for 20% longer before running out of funds.

    Just my thoughts as I would like to take some extended through hiking/travel trips some day.

    Franco Darioli


    Locale: Gauche, CU.

    German Tourist has demonstrated how you can at least halve the cost of a shelter but as for the sleeping bag I’m not so sure.


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