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Cuben bought out by Dyneema

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Cuben bought out by Dyneema

Postby Hobbes » Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:59 am

Don't know if gear is of that much interest to the general HST readership, but it's an area that I follow somewhat to keep abreast of materials technology. As in almost all market segments, military demand is ultimately the key driver behind advances in materials development in the never ending quest for lighter, stronger, warmer & dryer.

For anyone who has read some of my opinions on the matter, I believe these advances in materials technology have dramatically altered the backpacking/hiking game. I think one of the more interesting effects of the growth in popularity of the PCT has been the wide-ranging adoption of ultra-light philosophy and gear. Even more interesting - at least from my perspective - are the specific kinds of materials, uses & techniques being adopted to achieve UL weight goals.

I mentioned on the meet-up thread (viewtopic.php?f=36&t=12006&start=156#p97686) that I built a new backpack out of Dyneema 210. Recently, the large Dutch company that produces this fabric bought out the manufacturer of Cuben - a smaller company from Mesa AZ. This article provides an excellent in-depth analysis of the possible impact from the buyout:

http://hikelighter.com/2015/06/20/cubic ... rp-buyout/

For the record, I see cuben fabric as having only one good possible area for backpacking: shelters. As someone who has made my own quilts, tarps, backpacks, etc, one of the first things you learn is how much material is needed for each - duh! The second is intended use - also duh! But seriously, it's pretty straightforward:

- quilt: 7 yards, needs to be able to both breath + have a durable water repellent surface
- shelter: 7+ yards, needs to be water proof (not just resistant), strong and tear resistant
- pack: 1 yard, needs to be strong & tear resistant

The reason Dyneema is so dominant in the pack arena is because even though it's heavier than Cuben, you simply don't need that much fabric, so the total weight savings is substantially muted ie can be measured in ounces. Compared to the ease of use in cutting, sewing, repairing & maintaining Dyneema, it's easy to see why that green cross-hatched fabric is on practically every PCTer back.

Right now, I've got an over-sized silnylon cat-cut tarp, but I've been toying of re-doing it in Cuben. The stuff is pretty expensive however, so I'm not sure what the value may be in gaining a few more ounces of weight savings. Anyway, I find the topic interesting, so enjoy reading if it's something that triggers your interest.



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Re: Cuben bought out by Dyneema

Postby Bluewater » Thu Jul 02, 2015 5:54 am

Thanks for posting this Hobbes. We may be among the few here on HST who follow the changes in availability of materials closely for our MYOG projects. I find it really interesting. I hope the new ownership does not effect the quality, price and availability. Zpacks is currently running low on all of their most popular styles and weights of Cuben and Cuben Hybrid materials. Ron at MLD recently posted on FB about the change of ownership.

I noticed your green Dyneema pack in one of the photos from the MR on Whitney. I didn't realize it was one of your MYOG packs. The new material looks cool. Did you use an internal frame this time? Any changes in your hip belt design?

I still like using the 1.43 oz/sqyd Cuben for my packs but I usually use the heavier 2.92 oz/sqyd Cuben Hybrid or 4.8 oz/sqyd Dyneema (210d) on the bottom and lower pockets for better abrasion resistance. The weight savings is minimal but I can still feel the difference between my older all Cuben packs and the newer ones with 1/2 - 1/3 Dyneema. Here is a link to some info on my latest Heavyweight Ultralight "load hauler": http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... kpack.html. I like the Dyneema and it held up amazingly well during an accidental slide down a 20 foot granite wall last summer while it was loaded with a weeks worth of food. It saved my @$$, literally:)

I haven't bought a commercially available pack in years. . .but I finally broke down and ordered a Zpacks Arc Haul about 7 weeks ago. With a few 9-10 day trips scheduled this summer with no resupply it was time for a pack with a decent comfort level for weights nearing the 30 lb range. Even my internal frame packs were becoming uncomfortable at the start of long trips with heavy food loads. We are waiting for his first shipment of green Dyneema. It should be ready next week.

BTW, I've used the lighter 0.5 oz/sqyd Cuben for MYOG tarp shelters. It's easy to work with and holds up well even under extreme weather. While camping in a desert wind storm a few years ago the two guys using Tarptents had their shelters flattened due to ripped seams, but my homemade 3 oz Cuben 'wedge' tarp somehow made it through. I have been using a homemade poncho/groundsheet made with 0.5 oz/sqyd Cuben for the last three years and it has held up fine. That material is amazing.


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Re: Cuben bought out by Dyneema

Postby Hobbes » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:35 am

Andy, that's a really beautiful pack. It makes my efforts seem quite paltry in comparison. My packs are in the 35L range since they're designed for 3-5 day trips. I generally keep them very simple and just use a stuff-sack approach ie rolled top. On my latest pack (the one with dyneema 210), I originally didn't add hip belts since I expected the 'normal' carry weight to be below 20 lbs. I then added 1.5" belting, but then finally added padding afterward just because it carries even 15lbs really well.

I'm still just using my cut-down & folded Ridgerest sleeping pad as an internal pseudo-frame. Because I've designed my packs around my carried items, everything fits real snug & adds a lot of rigidity. I don't have any stand-alone photos of the green goblin, but here are two of its predecessor of which it's a veritable exact copy:

Image

Image

My sil tarp weighs in @ 10 ounces; I carry 6 Ti shepherd and 2 MSR ground hog stakes, which along with guy lines brings the entire shelter up to 14.5oz. I think it's pretty bomber:

Image

If I were to make something out of cuben, I'd try and replicate the tarp first. Still, a couple hundred $ is a lot to save 4-5 ounces.

One thing I (really) learned hiking the PCT section A, and this will elicit a big "duh" from everyone, is water is heavy. Now, we all know that of course, but when you're dealing with carrying 5-7L of water, little things like fabric weight really drop in significance. Desert hiking of that nature is an extreme example, but it does suggest there is a point of diminishing returns. Where that is I'm not sure, but I've got my baseweight @ 6.3lbs and I'm not sure I really need to get it any lower.
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Re: Cuben bought out by Dyneema

Postby freestone » Thu Jul 02, 2015 2:49 pm

An excellent business move by DSM that probably will make Cuben more available in Europe but won't drive the price down for the average UL trekker who does not design, sew, or bond... guys like me, so high fives in the Board Room on that one! I have a Cuben tarp and that was over $300.00 so I limit that material to ditty bags for now. My first Dyneema pack was the Kelty 50th Anniversary and surprisingly light for it's huge size. My latest Dyneema pack purchase is the Exped Lightning 45 Series (37 ounces). In between were UL packs that weighted little but had poor weight transfer to the hips. Even at loads of less than 25 pounds, I often hiked with my hands holding up the bottom of the pack to get the weight off my shoulders. Cuben packs? Lightest does not always equal best comfort and efficiency, but it is nice to have the Cuben option when price is not a hurdle to shed pounds off the net load.

Downsides to Cuben? if you crave privacy, it will not be your best shelter choice. Limited colors, mostly various shades on a theme of white.
Ultra light and flimsy (what tha?) On a windy night last year, my cuben stuff sack was off with the wind and in Owen's valley long before me.
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Re: Cuben bought out by Dyneema

Postby Hobbes » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:10 am

I don't know if I fall entirely in the anti-cuben camp, but I do have some issues with the cost, complexity & maintenance. What is really needed is the next generation of miracle silnylon, which is strong, easy to work with and relatively cheap. Maybe that is what DSM will try and deliver to the marketplace.
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Re: Cuben bought out by Dyneema

Postby Bluewater » Fri Jul 03, 2015 1:33 pm

Thanks for your feedback Hobbes! I look forward to seeing the dyneema "Green Goblin" at the meetup in a few weeks. BTW, Green Goblin sounds like a good marketing name for potentially selling your packs:). . . with a matching green cuben bomber tarp shelter? Zpacks carries a cool green cuben right now that might be good for a cuben version of your tarp shelter (http://zpacks.com/large_image.shtml?mat ... reen_l.jpg).

Your point about the diminishing returns from using lightweight materials while carry 5-7 liters of water in the desert PCT sections is spot on. With 40 - 56 lbs of water plus gear a full suspension pack would be the only way to go. Even Andrew Skurka used a 4.5 lb load hauler by Kifaru for heavy winter loads (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kifaru-I ... 5736383834).

Last summer my internal frame cuben/dyneema pack became very uncomfortable when approaching 30 lbs at the beginning of a 10 day trip, but mainly due to my hipbelt design. The MYOG pack making journey continues. . .
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Re: Cuben bought out by Dyneema

Postby Rockyroad » Sun Jul 05, 2015 7:38 pm

Thanks for posting the article. Last year's Zpacks shelter purchase was my first experience with cuben fiber and everything has been positive. I still can't get over the weight savings. The article mentions that many in the industry would like for this fabric "to just go away". Who and why? Competitors? This is a pretty strong statement. The only downside I see is cost but that is a choice for the consumer. As I see it, more choices are always good. Cool pack by the way. I have a lot of respect for MYOGers.
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