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Cuben Fiber, Dyneema, and the Ultralight Cottage Industry (Short Film & Commentary)


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Cuben Fiber, Dyneema, and the Ultralight Cottage Industry (Short Film & Commentary)

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 95 total)
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  • #3374092
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to: Cuben Fiber, Dyneema, and the Ultralight Cottage Industry (Short Film & Commentary)

    The introduction of Dyneema (a.k.a., Cuben Fiber) fabrics is one of the most exciting developments to hit the ultralight gear niche over the past several years. With the introduction of several new cottage manufacturers, the acquisition of Cubic Tech, and innovation in ultralight gear made with Cuben Fiber / Dyneema, there are exciting times ahead.

    #3374105
    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member

    @here

    Locale: Right there

    .

    #3374107
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    It’s not clear quite yet how DSM Dyneema is going to brand what was/is Cuben Fiber and its families, and how it plans to distinguish it from its other fabric names. I notice that HMG is using the terminology “Full Dyneema” for its 100% Dyneema fabrics, but this isn’t exactly Cuben Fiber.

    #3374136
    Gator Paddler
    BPL Member

    @gatorpaddler

    Although they are both highly aligned UHWMPE, Spectra and Dyneema are products by different manufacturers at different facilities. As I understand it, both use a gel-spinning process but there are some differences in their processes, including their drawing steps.

    As far as branding goes, I think the name only matters so that we can know what materials are going into the products we purchase. It looks like DSM is looking to expand their fabric line-ups, so I think branding and naming conventions will be important to the cottage industry and us particular consumers.

     

    #3374363
    W I S N E R !
    Spectator

    @xnomanx

    Did I just spend 5 minutes watching a post-buyout rebranding sales pitch?  Seems less “short documentary” and more something that would be shown in a boardroom full of potential investors in DSM Dyneema.

     

    I’d love to see an actual documentary about the cottage makers featured in this, something more about their creative process, approach to design, etc.

    #3374370
    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member

    @here

    Locale: Right there

    .

    #3374408
    David Chenault
    BPL Member

    @davec

    Locale: Queen City, MT

    The appeal of cuben continues to elude me.  More than doubling the cost of (for example) an MLD Supermid to go from 29 to 19 ounces just does not add up.  Ditto for a 300 tiny tarp (HMG), even if it is well built, and even if the lack of stretch is nifty.

    It apparently isn’t good marketing, but I think HMG doesn’t give themselves enough credit by emphasizing the material out of which their packs are made, rather than the great design and increasingly good workmanship.

    In the end I suppose HMG et al want to grow beyond the limited market of fanatics and into the realm of hobbyists, and that has always required flash over substance.

    #3374414
    Greg Mihalik
    Spectator

    @greg23

    Locale: Colorado

    Cuben in shelters is lighter, does not absorb water, does not stretch, and packs smaller than other fabrics.

    That works for me.

    #3374422
    Dylan Atkinson
    BPL Member

    @atkinsondylan

    Locale: Southwest

    Of the gear available made out of cuben, the only one that makes sense to me is a shelter. I’m with Greg – those attributes sold me on a cuben shelter. As for backpacks – I’m not convinced it’s worth the sacrifice in durability.

    I would love to see HMG’s attention to detail and excellent craftsmanship applied to other materials.

    #3374443
    Steve K
    BPL Member

    @skomae

    Locale: northeastern US

    I don’t agree that cuben is a pointless pack material. I think that the hybrid polyester/cuben material that HMG is using is pretty close to the ideal for my needs. The cuben side of the equation lends some much needed fabric rigidity and strength, and the polyester side adds sufficient abrasion resistance. Finally, it is reasonably waterproof for most needs.

    Having a waterproof, or mostly waterproof pack is great both in the city and on the trail, particularly in shoulder season like we’re having in the NE this “winter”: plenty of rain and ice rain. It is also light and tough enough. I don’t feel the same way about plain cuben fiber, which doesn’t feel like it wears as well when used in a pack.

    Honestly, I feel more confident in my HMG packs and their fabric durability than most of the packs I’ve gone through before trying HMG. I’ve torn and worn through plenty of pack pockets and fabric on packs heavier than these.

    I don’t think cuben is a material that’s right for everybody, but for those who enjoy being on the cutting edge there are excellent benefits at some detriment to overall longevity.

    #3374466
    John S.
    BPL Member

    @jshann

    Gator, I think someone is deliberately deleting posts. Mine is gone too. Yes, it was joking, but if you can’t take a joke….

    #3374471
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Cuben in shelters is lighter, does not absorb water, does not stretch, and packs smaller than other fabrics.

    And the little holes made by sewing stretch into big holes under tension, and the fabric itself develops lots of little holes at the creases after a while so it leaks at a low pressure. Both extensively verified by testing reported here at BPL.

    As for the idea of changing the name of the fabric from the well-known Cuben to Dyneema, which everyone knows as a high tensile thread – ah shakes ma head.

    Cheers

     

    #3374478
    W I S N E R !
    Spectator

    @xnomanx

    Well said David C.

    #3374490
    Josh Leavitt
    BPL Member

    @joshleavitt

    Locale: Ruta Locura

    I’ll start this by saying I really like Cuben, and transition into, I’ll never make anything out of it again. And I will avoid buying products made from it as well.

    After DSM bought up CubicTech, I can’t even get a response to my emails, let alone buy anything from them. I’m “cottage gear”, though we have grown a little over the years. The first titanium we bought over a decade ago was $600 I did not have to spend, now we have purchased tons, and single orders are 1/4 at a time. And I’ve out grown about 5 of the largest carbon fiber suppliers in the United states. But these guys that are supposedly all about the cottage industry won’t return my emails, even after BPL runs a review on our product made out of their material? Sorry, I don’t think so. The only thing exciting coming to the ultralight industry by way of these folks will be a lack of more innovation and products.

    I have heard several disturbing stories from some smaller manufactures about price structure and treatment as well. You would think they would want my money for more PR films at least. They need a serious refocus………..

    #3374500
    J-L
    BPL Member

    @johnnyh88

    Has cuben fiber actually “revolutionzed” UL backpacking? In my opinion – no. For sure, it has some good applications and can save some weight, but it’s not like I’m suddenly UL because I use cuben fiber (like the advertisement/sales pitch implies)

    #3374502
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Big money firm takes over small niche market high tech firm.

    You can see the rest just by following history. The new management and marketing guys, utterly confident of their management skills and knowledge, will retarget the company to the mass market where there is lots more $$$, and in a year or two the whole thing will collapse. Think GoLite (and many others).

    Cheers

     

    #3374503
    Gabe P
    BPL Member

    @gabe

    BPL articles used to be more interesting. Now the gear reviews tend to be short and based on very limited experience. The trip reports are still okay (mostly) and the skills focused articles are, with some exceptions, less interesting. I remember a great three part article about avoiding and carefully dealing with forest fires, which I loved. It’s been a while since I’ve read one like that here on BPL.

    Honestly, the articles here nowadays are often just an aggregation of things being posted on other websites and this  video on cuben fiber, well I don’t even get why it’s posted here on BPL. It’s basically just an advertisement.

    I’m also disappointed in the intense and what seems like an increased focus on lightweight evangelism through new gear, when that’s just a piece of how to effectively lighten your load.  To me, it’s more about building your skills and confidence than it is buying an $800 tarp. I like learning about how people here are using their gear and how that gear performs.  It’s fascinating and helpful.  But I must admit that I miss how BPL used to be and for some reason Josh’s post and the video on cuben fiber reminded me of this. It’s a bad sign when someone like Josh, who has built some great gear, can’t get new materials to innovate with. And it’s a bad sign when BPL has what seems like an advertisement disguised as an article. It seems bizarre to me to call an ad a documentary, which this article did. I’ll be even more disappointed if I learn that BPL was paid to publish it

     

     

     

    #3374509
    Josh Leavitt
    BPL Member

    @joshleavitt

    Locale: Ruta Locura

    Rodger, I watched this play out through two Carbon fiber firms, both of which collapsed. DSM has a patent on their technology, and they are not invested solely in just Cuben. So this will play out a little different,  over a different time scale. But one of the Carbon manufactures was bought by a parent/supply company, so that parallel is eerily similar. And the price structure looks exactly like what I watched play out with carbon. After the one carbon firm was reborn, I did business with them for a while, before moving on. They still contact me on occasion, and I learned that they lost a huge chunk of their smaller clients, in the restructure which almost broke them. They have made strides to correct their errors, and I’ll give them credit for learning from their mistakes, but I won’t give them my money.

    #3374513
    Josh Leavitt
    BPL Member

    @joshleavitt

    Locale: Ruta Locura

    Gabe, plan on being more disappointed, people have to pay bills. I’m not all that concerned with that part of it. Here is my come from. So Ryan does a review on a tent and stove, here on BPL. I did not even build the tent anymore, it was not even available on my website anymore. I quite building them for several reasons, some personal, and all before DSM bought Cubic. So my phone starts to ring and I start getting emails about a product that people want, that I no longer offer. So I start putting things together to build more tents for people because that’s what my customers want. After three weeks of minimal exchanges(two returned emails) with DSM, they won’t answer my emails, and requests to purchase Cuben. So I start talking to people and buying Cuben from other sources(paid a premium on every meter and learned a lot), which got really interesting to say the least.  In the end, I shipped the last tent like a week ago, and I now tell people that we are not making them, which is something you don’t like to have to tell your customers, but my only choice currently is to buy at retail from other manufactures, which means the extra cost gets passed on to the customer(you guys watching this video about how great this all is), and leaves me no incentive to use their product.

    To be clear, the new price structure has Cuben at ~$50 meter in the smallest quantities. Don’t you think that if people were trying to buy it from you at that price you would sell it to them?

    Then, I get an email pointing me to this “article”…………needless to say…………..

    #3374516
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    “Cuben in shelters is lighter, does not absorb water, does not stretch, and packs smaller than other fabrics.

    That works for me.”

    You could say the same about Ripstop By the Roll’s Membrane Silpoly fabric in comparison to traditional silnylon, and in comparison to Cuben fiber–list greater abrasion resistance, higher and longer term waterproofness in favor of the MSP, and most importantly to the average consumer–from a 4th to a 5th of the cost of Cuben fiber. Oh, and potential holes or rips, can also be taped like with Cuben.

    But yeah, technically you could save a couple to a few ounces on a cuben shelter vs a Membrane silpoly one, but is it worth the 4 to 5 times higher material cost–especially for us MYOG’ers?

    I’m not a cuben hater by any means, i own an MLD cuben solomid (bought used from here) and quite like it.  But, if MLD had offered a Membrane Silpoly version, i would definitely have gone with that, and likely would have been able to have afforded to buy it new if i had wanted to–unlike the Cuben version.

    Anyways, now that fabrics like Membrane SP are available, Cuben has lost it’s glamour for me.

    #3374517
    Danny Milks
    BPL Member

    @dannymilks

    Locale: SF Bay Area

    I have to agree with the general sentiment, which seems to be that

    • CF is good for some people/uses but not worth the cost for most of us
    • This is a really bizarre “article” that appears to be more like a PR stunt for the CF manufacturer. Using the term “film” is misleading, whether intentional or not.

    I would disagree with the Ryan’s statement that HMG is the most well known CF company, as that is a very objective statement unless he has data to back it up. Anecdotally, I don’t personally know a single person who has HMG gear. I do however have several local friends and acquaintances who own Zpacks shelters, backpacks, and stuff sacks. In the forum thread on members’ favorite gear for 2015, there were 7 mentions for Zpacks and 0 for HMG (my counting was quick, please excuse me if I missed any).

    So, can it be quantified that HMG is the most well known? I ask because Ryan mentions HMG very frequently in articles and posts, choses their pack as his top 3 gear picks for 2015, and it seems like most images that he posts of himself, his son or his son’s outing troop, all prominently feature HMG packs and shelters. While I don’t suggest there is anything nefarious about that, as everyone is allowed to have and use their favorite gear, this type of prominence does lend itself to some doubt of objectiveness within BPL’s reviews, ratings, relationships and so on.

    It also seems like more could have been done to actually talk with more people in Ultralight Cottage Industry. Interviewing one company that doesn’t use CF, and talking about two that do, is not a great representation. One need not look any further than Josh’s post.

    #3374524
    Josh Leavitt
    BPL Member

    @joshleavitt

    Locale: Ruta Locura

    Danny, as for nefarious, I’ll make the claim. When I gave the tent and stove to Ryan in 2013 for a supposed piece on winter camping, I never saw it materialize.  The original agreement was that I was to get the the tent back, and he could keep the stove. I later told Ryan he could keep the tent in exchange for some promotion of my nonprofit(wildlife ecology work).

    So almost 2 years later, after I am no longer offering these tents, he does a review of them here on BPL? It always seemed strange, but I chocked it up to one of those whatever? things that happen. When I go back and look at the timing of DSM’s acquisition of Cubic Tech, it all starts to make a lot more sense.  Ryan’s review was not for me, or even the readership here, but rather probably for DSM.

    And up to that point of the review, it is still all just one of those whatever? things. That is until I try to purchase cuben from DSM, and have my time and money wasted.

    Hey, they could have interviewed me as the guy that does NOT use Cuben………

    I guess I can’t afford the payola for Hot97, and yet I’m still keeping someones lights on, besides my own.

    #3374527
    W I S N E R !
    Spectator

    @xnomanx

    Seems to me that Joe Valesko is the obvious King of Cuben.  I wonder what all of this means for ZPacks?

    #3374553
    Gator Paddler
    BPL Member

    @gatorpaddler

    I am hopeful but not optimistic about DSM taking over CubicTech. I’m hopeful because this could potentially bring these materials to a larger market and begin to bring costs down.

    However, my experience with DSM divisions is that they tend to be innovative and somewhat autonomous, but the pricing and marketing structure will likely not be favorable to the cottage industry, at least initially. A division that I’ve worked with is very tight with their supply chain, and you can only get parts and materials through extremely limited authorized outfits (for this division, I think there was only 1 or 2 in all N. America).

    I also suspect that DSM will pursue larger markets, and I would guess that will be more likely woven type fabrics, apparel and fibers (ropes, fishing lines, etc.) than the laminate fabrics we use for shelters. I mean, have you seen that they have Dyneema Denim?

    Still, if these starting materials, meaning highly oriented UHMWPE, become highly used with large volumes and expanded licensing, we will likely see favorable prices and spin-off manufacturers. In the meantime, these fibers are still a niche market.

    #3374555
    Josh Leavitt
    BPL Member

    @joshleavitt

    Locale: Ruta Locura

    So far we have seen just the opposite of what you hope for. To date it has been increased prices and reduced availability, of an already expensive product that had availability issues.

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