How did your DCF shelter age (and expire)?
Nov 20, 2021 at 8:43 am #3732792
We’ve all seen pictures and heard stories about how DCF shelters have met their maker due to wind or hail or other extreme weather. Everything has a lifespan and most commonly, like one’s eyesight, the demise of a piece of gear involves a slow gradual decline that is often unnoticed until the failure. As the owner of an 8 year old Duplex, I am interested in stories of DCF shelter expiration due to time and normal use.
So how did your DCF shelter get retired? What was/were the cause(s)? Did you see the final failure coming and, perhaps most importantly, would you recognize it again if you saw it?Nov 20, 2021 at 9:10 am #3732794ArthurBPL Member
This is a Zpacks duplex after about 50 nights. Same on all 4 corners. Never in high winds or left up exposed to the sun for more than about 3 days total. Not pitched excessively tight. Zpacks said it was “normal” wear and tear. Makes we want to go back to my good old Tarptent that is 300 grams heavier but seems to be lasting forever.Nov 20, 2021 at 9:12 am #3732795
Here is a thread about couple of folks experience on DCF tarps:Nov 20, 2021 at 12:34 pm #3732800
@Arthur – wow, that is some serious damage. Is that .51 DCF?
@MuraliC – thanks, I had followed that thread as it developed.
My Duplex is .75, as was the Grace tarp (in the mentioned thread) that lasted so long. My main interest is in learning how DCF ages and fails (presumably slowly) due to “normal” wear and tear. Hoping to recognize when the shelter is nearly done and avoid discovering it during a storm, or worse.Nov 20, 2021 at 12:38 pm #3732801
I think @Miner said his started misting after a PCT thru and other hikes – but that was from the early days of DCF I suppose.Nov 20, 2021 at 1:32 pm #3732804ArthurBPL Member
Its the 0,5. probably a bad call buying that thinNov 20, 2021 at 3:51 pm #3732808Steve CockburnBPL Member
Interesting, both my Zpacks tarps have gone this way. The first after 3 years and I bought another and after 3-4 years, the same thing. I ended up patching the corners with DCF tape and that helped. I was thinking of going lighter and buying a DCF tent but as they seem to have a short lifespan,I now am thinking they are not worth the investment. I would love to go DCF but I think it’s just not worth it cost-wise ( Unless you are doing a very long walk where you need to lighten up to make it to the end).Nov 20, 2021 at 7:02 pm #3732818MinerBPL Member
Well as I mentioned in the other thread, with the 1st generation cuben fiber material, after 8 years I started to notice the bottom side of the MLD Grace Solo tarp feeling wet in a prolonged downpour. As large rain drops hit the tarp, it would knock the moisture loose and I would get misted; not a big deal since I use a bivy sack. It had stopped looking shiny and completely smooth. I actually remember hearing a similar story with someone’s MLD mid tarp on the forums here, though it was not nearly as old and of the more recent generation. After only 3 years, I did notice a few pin size holes that I never did figure out where they came from. They were too small to let water through though. A few months before I decided to retire it, I did notice a larger dime size hole with some threads across it that looked like it had abraded. I will note that I had used this tarp in very high winds several times without issue, but pitched low to the ground with rocks on the stakes. I never left the tarp up during the day except for a few days on the PCT at one of the various PCT gatherings along the trail; tarp was only 1.5 years old at the time.
I had been using a cuben fiber stuff sack which is higher friction than a silnylon one that most people ship their DCF tarps in today. I had replaced the one that came with it, with a smaller size that barely fit so it did get more friction being pushed in. I always fold and roll my tarp. That said, I only set the tarp up a few days a year since I normally cowboy camp, but I often did use it under my stuff sack that gets used as a pillow for more height which I sure caused some rubbing.
My 0.5wt weight DCF MLD Grace Solo tarp from 2016 came in a silnylon stuff sack which I did swap out for a smaller one, but it also was silnylon which should not have as much friction on the DCF. I also stopped using it under my pillow at night figuring that was adding some wear. I’ve never left this one up during the day. Though I still only set it up a few times a year, preferring to cowboy camp if possible. I did get really high winds in it 2.5 years ago on a section hike of the CDT when a thunderstorm went right over me for 5.5 hours. The wind hit at a bad angle starting at midnight and I didn’t have room to rotate the tarp so a stake pulled out of the front corner where the wind came under and caught it like a sail. A few rocks on the stakes afterwards helped, but I was never sure why none of the others pulled out because I was convinced they would everytime the wind picked up. I still fold and roll and the tarp still looks almost as good as new after 5 years with a nice shiny sheen to it.
I also have a 0.5wt DCF MLD Cricket shaped tarp, but I bought that late last year and it’s barely used as I don’t use it as my primary shelter. So I let you know how it holds up in a few years.Nov 20, 2021 at 8:11 pm #3732824
The night I lost all faith in DCF. Hunter Mountain with hit a little snow storm. About 8- 10 inches of snow and wind 25+ with gusts to 40- 50mph. Brand new tarp Second night out.. Shredded like tissue of the ridge line. Thankfully I had my Borah Gear Snowyside eVent bivy with me and also John Rob lean to very close by. I still have dcf tarps for my hammock but have no confidence in them for windy days\nights . I understand what I was in was pushing the limits.. those are conditions I enjoy being in.. now I know..Nov 20, 2021 at 8:21 pm #3732825Nov 21, 2021 at 11:57 am #3732851
Its interesting how some folks get 5000 miles or so on 0.51 Zpacks tents while it dies for others with only 50 nights etc. Bad batch of DCF or user error?Nov 21, 2021 at 12:22 pm #3732853Jon SolomonBPL Member
The bottom edges of my 11 year old Duomid have been stretched over time and are a little floppy now. The DCF fabric used at the time was 0.74 osy but it looks visibly different from similar weight DCF that I’ve seen more recently. Looks like the mylar layer used to be flimsier. I bet that you’d find a lot of microscopic holes on the old stuff but have no way to check this.Nov 22, 2021 at 8:46 am #3732884
In the first picture starting the thread it looks like the darker tie-out reinforcement fabric/layer is delaminated from the fabric layer comprising the body of the tent and the stress is then being transferred right on up the material.
So the reinforced corner has failed. I guess that qualifies as a statement of the obvious? So what can be done?Nov 22, 2021 at 9:14 am #3732885
Anyway it certainly is a great illustration of this statement: “Spectra and Dyneema are not fabrics. Spectra and Dyneema fibers don’t differ from each other much. It has become conventional to refer to nylon fabrics with a small amount of Dyneema reinforcement as “Dyneema fabric.” These are the “grid” fabrics.” from this thread: https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/spectra-vs-dyneema-packs/
You can clearly see that the spectra or dyneema or “Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene” fibers are layered and not woven.Nov 22, 2021 at 11:09 am #3732892Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
“Interesting, both my Zpacks tarps have gone this way…..I ended up patching the corners….I was thinking of going lighter and buying a DCF tent but as they seem to have a short lifespan.”
The problem with the corners on the Duplex (and some other Zpacks products) isn’t with the material, but rather improper design. Those corners are pulling on the DCF on the bias (diagonal) which causes the material to pull apart/distort/delaminate. Unfortunately Zpacks has never bothered to fix this, so lots of people have shelters dying early but the problem is with the design, not the material.
Major lines of tension like that need to be aligned with the dyneema strands, not diagonal to them. If that’s not possible, then what is needed is a strip of DCF tape along that line of tension that has the strands parallel to the tension, so resist the tension so the material doesn’t pull apart. That’s what basically everyone else does (e.g. HMG, TarpTent, Locus Gear). DCF as a material does have some quirks so it is important to consider those during design.Nov 22, 2021 at 12:07 pm #3732897Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Interesting, that makes sense
Are all the DCF failures zpacks? Have there been any HMG, TarpTent, or Locus Gear failures?
Looking through this thread and the other thread it would appear that all DCF failures were zpacks.Nov 22, 2021 at 12:13 pm #3732898
Dan’s explanation makes perfect sense and totally aligns with Arthur’s photo. I don’t remember for sure, but I think Dirtbag’s tarp was not ZPacks.Nov 22, 2021 at 12:57 pm #3732901
I have an old .51 hexamid which I guess is now @ 15 years old. Somewhere back in time reading another thread on this great blog I was schooled in the form of Dan’s statement above. I bought a bunch of DCF tape and did what he recommends; and for good measure taped every seam. It’s still very functional and just used it again back at the end of September. The weight gain was a few grams. I also “don’t leave home without it” WR2 dcf tape. 50″ of 1″ tape in a little 2×2 pill bag weighs 6g. Most of the weight is in the tape backing.
I’ve used the hexamid on trips to the Sierra, the Bears Ears area, all over the mid Atlantic (including one trip wayyy back where I met Tipi Walter and he was quite reasonably skeptical of my little shelter so had a little chuckle when I noticed he started the thread linked above) and more recently 3 trips to the Winds where I encountered the usual variety of challenging weather including small hail. It certainly does tend to make one particular about site selection when the weather looks bad. After the third trip I decided to get a .75 dcf duomid which I used on the 4th and most recent and of course the weather was splendid. The duomid does seem to be designed to orient the strain so as not to overly stress the material in ways that would pull the fibers apart and then tear the mylar. But I’d note that the panel tie-outs also use shock-cord which seems like a reasonable precaution.
Based on information shared here; specifically WR2 an earlier post by Dirtbag about his experience with his hammock tarp repeated above; I am thinking of using an 8.5 x 10 .75 DCF flat tarp as a hammock tarp. Worth the slight weight gain and very versatile. (Thanks Dirtbag)
I like DCF but might change my mind if I had a real ‘blowout’ experience. It can influence site selection which can be tedious and time consuming and dictate where you go/stop etc. especially when it’s stormy. I might stop short or I might go further but I’ve never had those concerns change my overall route.Nov 22, 2021 at 1:12 pm #3732903
My DCF hammock tarps are all from Hammock Gear.
I used to have MLD Grace solo and duo dfc tarps.. but sold them both and now use/LOVE my Borah Gear solo Silpoly and Borah Gear 7×9 tarpsNov 22, 2021 at 1:43 pm #3732907
from HMG website; “Dyneema® fiber is laid out in opposing grid orientations, sandwiched between thin outer layers of polyester film, and melded together in a high-pressure autoclave.”
In Arthur’s picture, are we not seeing the fibers laid out in a X grid with the polyester layer abrading? Just curious is that is what is showing in the picture.Nov 22, 2021 at 3:51 pm #3732930
^^ Looks to me like the fibers are getting pulled and stressed in such a way that the bond with the Mylar is getting damaged and then the Mylar de-laminates. You can see this in the photo top-left of the tie-out stitching where it’s peeling loose and flaking. Then above that it’s missing altogether and only the Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene” fibers remain.
Edit to add: That’s not my understanding of the term ‘abrading’ it’s another type of force that’s separating the Mylar from the fibers by pulling and twisting the fibers. I think the twisting type forces may be the critical problem. The fibers are darn tough but the film is just that; a film.
Another edit: Where’s Nisley when we definitely need him ;)Nov 22, 2021 at 6:37 pm #3732970
I guess where I am going with this is that the tent is still structurally sound because the super strong fibers are still intact – not like what happened to Dirtbag’s hammock – where it appears like the fibers themselves were broken. Sure the waterproofing is gone and you don’t want it to spread. So, won’t applying some tape fix the problem?
Edit: But doing what Dan says can I suppose eliminate the problem entirely! Interesting insight!Nov 22, 2021 at 8:08 pm #3732987Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
I haven’t had any problems with DCF. I have a Pocket Tarp and a homemade flat tarp. I don’t think I’ve been in any conditions with my Pocket Tarp that could cause any stress and I have only used the flat tarp a few times.
Is there something I should do to my flat tarp to make it more sturdy? Here are close-ups of the corners.
I sewed an extra layer of DCF to the corner and then sewed the tie-out and then taped the underside and the top side.
Do you think it will come apart?Nov 23, 2021 at 9:11 am #3733034Brad WBPL Member
Another question is-with a tent made of silnylon and similar design shape-would it hold up better or suffer different age/wear related issues?Dec 3, 2021 at 3:39 am #3733775Sam FarringtonBPL Member
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
“The fibers are darn tough but the film is just that; a film.”
And a mighty fragile film it is, even compared with, say, saran wrap. That’s been my fear of DCF from day one. As for sewing, forget it. But sorry, do not have any experience with DCF as a tent fabric. Have experimented several times with DP pack fabrics. One went into the trash because it would not hold stitches, and another delaminated. Hope this thread garners more responses, though.
In the meantime, will stick with woven fabrics, probably polyester, and look at design and materials such as cordage, poles, pegs, and hardware for ways to cut weight. Examples of ‘design’ would be ways to reduce pole length, or locate more space in areas used while sitting up, and less space in areas above head and feet when sleeping. The latter approach can also make canopy walls more horizontal, producing a structure more aerodynamic in heavy winds.
I live at the bottom of an open bowl created by a crescent-shaped mountain ridge. While much of the time this provides good shelter from winds, there are a few times during the year when the winds seem to be focused by the topography and wind direction toward the bottom of the bowl. And there is an unremitting howl that sounds like an engine from hell. The dogs stay in, trees blow over, and the lights inevitably go out, sometimes for days. Tarps like those regularly pictured on BPL would not have a prayer. The tarps are popular for good reasons, but the purpose of a tent is to save your bacon. While much of the time tents could be done without, when it is impossible to know when nature will show its worst, the tent always goes along on a trek.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.