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Cuben Material Gear

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Cuben Material Gear

Postby Flux » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:45 am

I wanted to see if anyone had experience with this material, either by buying gear made from it or making your own. I have been kicking around the idea of making a tent from it, but have a couple concerns over the abrasion resistance and the "noise" factor.

I've seen more than a few nice tarps made from it and the UL folks really like this stuff for everything from stuff sacks to ponchos to packs to tarps. Recently I saw a few nice pyramid tent designs and then this:

Image

Now this is a Cuben tent with an aluminized inside. With Poles it's 2lb 4oz, pretty phenomenal for that kind of protection.



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Re: Cuben Material Gear

Postby Hetchy » Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:51 pm

Cuben fiber (also known as Cubic Fiber or Spectralight) is interesting stuff. For most applications it comes in .3, .5, to .75 ounce per square yard. This is nearly half the weight of silnylon.
Cuben Fiber has a greater tensile strength than steel of a similar thickness.
It is made up of layers of Mylar film and spectra fiber bonded together in a process that uses high energy plasma.
Basically they fry the Mylar and spectra fibers together in directionally biased layers.
I have been fortunate enough to come into contact with the stuff after it's extended use on the Pacific Crest trail. There a couple of hikers had been using Z-packs backpacks made of Cuben fiber for a thousand miles by the time i met them. They did have some abrasion issues on the bottom of the packs but no seam failures or tearing of the Cuben materiaL Itself. For them it made sense sine the 4 ounce cuben fiber packs were being used to haul their sub 8 lb base weights from Mexico to Canada. the lifespan of such a pack is about 2,665 miles or one thru hike.
They are single purpose gear.
The tarps on the other hand can withstand many thousands of miles since abrasion is not as much an issue. One of the side benefits of cuben is that it can be patched with duct tape. Adhesives do not stick to Silnylon or Spinnaker fabric well.
Cuben fiber does not stretch when it gets wet. This is one of the greatest assets besides it's superior tear strength to silnylon and spinnaker fabrics.
A tarp or shelter made of Cuben can be set up in the rain and it will remain taut so long as the stakes stay in place.
Silnylon and to a lesser extent spinnaker will need to be re-tensioned throughout the night or they will become loose and flappy under wet windy conditions.
As for noise factor brand new spinnaker fabric takes the prize as the most noisy stuff and has been described as sounding like a "potatoe chip bag" when new.
I found that after 10 compressions and set ups the spinnaker lost a lot of it's noise value.
Cuben fiber, despite it's appearance , has a hand more like plasticised cotton. It is rarely noisy, or so my friends that use it told me, because it goes up taut and stays that way due to it's complete lack of stretch. It is also the most waterproof of any fabric.
Cuben fiber is sensitive to abrasion. However the latest versions of multi-biased Cuben Fiber in the .75 weight category are vastly stronger than any other fabric on the market. The weaknesses tend to be how Cuben is bonded, as in how panels are joined in a tarp or tent. It can be sewn together but the more high end gear seems to favor chemically bonded seams. This has the advantege of no stiching to leak or require seam sealing.
Mountain Laurel Designs even boastes a 100% record of Cuben fiber seam integrity when bonded instead of sewn.
As for abrasion resistance comanies Like Mountain Laurel Designs, Lightheart gear, and Bear Paw Wilderness Designs are making bivy sacks and even groundsheets out of the newest versions of Cuben Fiber.
It is for those reasons and the weight factor that i have ordered up a MLD Patrol shelter in Cuben Fiber (Spectralight) at 5.8 ounces for my upcomming Appalachian trail thru hike.
I should be recieving my Patrol Shelter soon and i will be sure to post a thorough review here for High Sierra Topix.
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Re: Cuben Material Gear

Postby Flux » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:03 am

Hetchy,

Thanks very much. I have it in my head that I need to make a fully enclosed single wall tent in the spirit of the BD Lighthouse or a similar design. My goal is to see if I can design and build a free standing single wall tent that is roomy, strong, and coming in at 2lbs 4oz or less. My first pass at the design says 13 oz for the pole lengths with 9.5 sq yds of material. Add in some overlap, bug netting, adhesive, and zippers, and I think it could be done.

I don't have any first hand knowledge of Cuben so I am grateful for the rundown. I have been researching it as best i can as they seem to have made great strides with the material as of late and you are starting to see a few of the larger companies integrate it into their tents. Terra Nova's Laser Ultra has a Cuben Fly. Aside from that, all the kick butt UL gear makers in the US are really turning to this stuff and Zpacks has the whole spectrum of the materials.

I suppose I really enjoy the idea of single wall fully sealable shelter for ultimate protection. Maybe I am still a flatlander at heart and need my "den" in the wilderness or something. I should force myself to head out with a bivy and tarp one of these times. I currently own a bd lighthouse and really love it, but it suffers a couple design flaws (IMO). You can't really vent it from the bottom to top as it only has the big screen door and a high up window. I would add some vents down low that can be sealed. I am also not in love with the way the door works as you always end up with it in the dirt or stepping on it. I do love the ease of setup, the free standing design, and just about everything else. But not necessarily the 3.5 lbs.

Again, appreciate the input. Before I drop 300 bucks on materials, I better have a pretty clear path.
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