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Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber… using eVENT technology

with 25 comments

Author and hiker, John Abela, wearing a Waterproof Breathable rain jacket made by ZPacks

Author and hiker, John Abela, wearing a Waterproof Breathable rain jacket made by ZPacks LLC in the Redwood forest of Northern California.
Photo Credit: Brian Doyle.

Greetings Hikers,

The topic today is the “waterproof breathable fabric” from Cuben Tech Corp.

The issue: that they have been using GE eVENT in their WP/B material.

Yes, that’s right… Cuben Tech Corp has been using eVENT inside of their breathable cuben fiber/laminate.

When I first learned about this information I have to say that I simply did not believe it. I thought the individual who told me about this was joking around with me. I quickly came to realize that my leg was not being pulled and I think my response was along the lines of “wow“. I sat stunned in my chair and it probably took me a good ten minutes to respond back to the person with that one-word response.

Why Is This Important, My Personal Thoughts:

This knowledge is important for a few reasons, and far more reasons than just what I plan to address today.

I believe this is an issue worth writing about, and the hiking community as a whole discussing, because for far too long there have been a lot of haters of the material that Cuben Tech produces. For some of these haters I believe they have total justification for having the opinions that they have, but for the vast majority of the ‘haters’ of the cuben fiber material it has all just been a bunch of puff and smoke with no real substance. It is not my goal here to change their minds, I might further validate some of their issues and I might further invalidate their issues, I have no idea and really it does not matter all that much, haters will be haters. But what I hope to do is to point out some facts that those of us who care a great deal about the gear we use, is that often times it seems that we, the end-users of gear, tend to be left in the dark about things and that sometimes can do more harm than it can do good.

I do not know if anybody in the very small world of manufacturers that are using the WPBCF know for certain just how long Cuben Tech has been using eVENT. To the best of my knowledge the generation of WPBCF that companies have been using the last few years has been the second generation fabric. I have heard a few stories from individuals who had access to what was called the first generation WPBCF and they are all pretty much horror stories when it came to the breathability scale (MVTR). Many in the manufacturing industry, along with many long distance hikers, adventure racers and alpinists, have been critical of the second generation of WPBCF fabric that we have all been using the last few years, claiming that it has not had a high enough g/m2/24hr rating – and I consider myself to be within that group, though I have done so sparingly.

Cuben Tech has been indicating that the generation of WPBCF in production over the last few years has been in the 20,000-25,000 g/m2/24hrs range. This has been a hotly contested issue and rightly so I believe. Independent tests by manufacturers that sell cuben fiber gear have indicated their testing of the material is between ‘8,000 g/m2/24hrs1‘ and 10,000 g/m2/24hrs.

Having used a number of rain gear systems over the years I have always tended to side with these independent results and felt the MVTR of the WPBCF was not anywhere near where it was claimed to be. I have continued to use the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket because it has been the lightest three-layer rain jacket available and I tend to rarely care if I am wet – after all, being wet is not a bad thing… it is being wet and cold that is the real issue. It can be raining and you can be warm and there is really no need for a rain jacket. Reference my article on core temperature for more on this – I have addressed this issue many times over the years. But, in those times when it is raining or snowing  and the temperatures are on the cold side, having a rain jacket that can breath can be of the utmost importance.

A New WPB/CF/eVENT:

Cuben Tech released in July/August of 2013 a new generation of their waterproof breathable laminate, and I do not have solid numbers on the material at this point, but the numbers I have been provided from an independant source indicate to me that this 3rd generation material is in the 40,000-45,000 g/m2/24hrs range, based on information provided to them from Cuben Tech. If at any point I am able to get rock-solid numbers on the MVTR of this newest generation of WPBCF I will update this article with that information/data.

Update: August 20, 2013:

I have now been provided information from CTC via a distributor that the new generation of their waterproof breathable fabric “has an MVTR of ~41,000g/m^2/24hr (JIS L 1099)” – this is information directly from CTC.

This is some amazing information and I am very grateful to those involved in supplying me this information. It is safe to say that a MVTR of 41k is just amazing!

With a MVTR rating of 41k, it truly does make this new generation of fabric a big-boy in the world of fabrics and nobody has any reason to not include garments made from this fabric on their list of prospective rain garments to consider when deciding on a new rain jacket. No longer can people make the claim that the Cuben Tech Corp (CTC) waterproof breathable fabric does not have a high enough breathability rating, because these ratings of 41k put it up there at the same levels of other three-layer garments made from eVENT, Gor-Tex, Dry.Q and such – and totally blows away just about every two-layer rain garments on the market. This truly does place this material up there with the big names folks, I know I keep saying it… but it is not every day we see a new fabric reach these levels. And even more impressive is that CTC has done this with some of the lightest material in the world of three-layer garments. With companies such as ZPacks producing their rain jackets in the 4 ounce range and the $200 dollar range, and NW Alpine producing their rain jacket in the 4 to 5 ounce range and the $600 dollar range, it could very well be time that these garments be listed upon the top candidates for rain gear for any hiker.

[end update]

There are a few issues here, with these new numbers, and the newest generation of the WPBCF material, that I want to talk about today. Take all of this as just me sharing some of my own thoughts, nothing more.

Up first is of course that this new information being provided by Cuben Tech about their latest generation of WP/B is a quantum leap forward for them and their material. This is a doubling of breathability (MVTR) from gen2 to gen3. It makes one, well at least me, wonder if their previous generations were two layers of Cuben Fiber Dyneema  and one layer of eVENT… that would be an interesting tid-bit of info to know… and it would make sense from a numbers perspective.

ZPacks LLC, on August 07, 2013, updated their website to indicate that the newest generation of the CTC WPB fabric that they have received is a single layer of Dyneema and two layers of GE eVENT fabric2

The key word there being two layers of eVENT fabric.

I am not aware of any company that purchases more WPB from Cuben Tech Corp than ZPacks, so one has to believe that any information coming from them is rock solid and direct from Cuben Tech Corp and they would not be publishing it on their website unless they were cleared to do so from Cuben Tech Corp.

What Do These Changes Mean:

The fact that this new generation of CTC WPB fabric is in fact two layers of GE eVENT and one layer of Dyneema really makes one wonder about a whole lot of things – and thus the purpose of this article.

I have been one of the leaders in the hiking community pushing forward WPBCF material and my multiple articles on the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket are unquestionably the most detailed articles on the internet about this material and long term use of rain garments made from this material. Over the 2013 hiking season I have written a number of comments around the internet that Cuben Tech Corp really needed an update to their WPB material in order to better increase the MVTR (g/m2/24hr) breathability to a higher level. Whether you choose to believe the CTC 20k ratings, or the independent 8k ratings, both of those numbers are now rather low compared to the products that have hit the market in late 2012 and 2013 – specifically the newer versions of Gore-Tex Paclite and all eVENT laminate. Companies like Rab, Montane and Arcteryx have been pushing out rain gear that have blown away the CTC WPB material when it comes to breathability – so these new MVTR ratings for the latest generation of WPBCF rain jackets are very good news for those in the market for the lightest possible three layer rain jacket.

So I suppose one of the main issues I am trying to present here is that it appears that in order for Cuben Tech Corp to keep pushing forward on the breathability scale they have had to seek material from outside their own company. To me this is really disappointing, because as I have said a lot of times, the main reason I keep promoting the CTC WPB is in hopes that Cuben Tech Corp  would use the money generated by sales from the material to further their R&D on the material and hopefully produce better and better material, to potentially become competitive with the likes of Gore-Tex and GE eVENT.

It is going to take a lot of testing over the course of the next year or two by folks like myself, other long distance hikers, adventure racers, and alpinists, to really be able to know if these new numbers, a doubling on the breathability scale, work out to real life improvements. We are likewise going to continue to need outside sources doing hydrostatic pressure testing and reporting their results.

Another important factor with the latest generation of the CTC WPB material is that these new Moisture Vapor Transmission Rates (MVTR(aka: g/m2/24hrs) puts this latest generation of WPB fabric up at the same level as the big boys. As I mentioned above, Gore-Tex and General Electric eVENT have been making huge leaps in the last few years and pushing very hard to get their market share.

Thoughts On Pricing:

I personally believe the only thing that has really been stopping the forward progress of these newer materials, and the products being made from them from flooding the store room floors, have been the costs of the garments made with their new fabrics.

It seems like I am always hearing people say that the ZPacks WPB Rain Jacket costs too much at $225 dollars, yet these same people seem to have no problems with the $650 price tag of a Arcteryx Alpha SV, or $400 for a Rab Stretch Neo (another 3 layer jacket, which has one-half the advertised MVTR as the 2gen WPBCF), or the $450 dollars of the Montane Alpine Endurance (another 3 layer with a 22,000 g/m2/24hrs rating).

I am not being critical of these three other garments, just using them as reference for the oddity/stupidity of these folks out there claiming they will not buy a WPBCF garment because of the price. All three of these rain jackets are amazing jackets using the latest technology, but they are all double the cost (or more) and triple (or more) the weight of a ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket — just saying.

Additionally, NW Alpine is producing a rain jacket made from the latest generation of CTC WPB fabric. They are indicating a weight of 4 to 5 ounce range and the $600 dollar range. While this price is triple what ZPacks charges for their rain jacket, it does place the jacket at the same price range as the aforementioned top-end rain jackets.

Now with the new 41k g/m2/24hr rating, the rain jacket from ZPacks can hold its on on the MVTR scale as well. So, it seems to offer a better price, a lighter weight, and now comparable or better breathability. All three of these factors sort of makes the CTC WPB material, and the jacket from ZPacks, seem to be a dominate leader in the rain jacket department. If, of course, these new ratings from the new generation of CTC WPB fabric prove to be true – so I really would love to hear about any independent tests from those of you with a hydrostatic tester on this newest generation of this material.

All of these rain garments are top-end and are not $100 rain jackets – if that is all you want go buy a Montbell Versalite or OR Helium and call it good. But if you want to play with the big boys, it is going to mean dropping some serious money on a single piece of gear, and the latest generation of CTC WPB can now be considered to be “up there” with the big boys on the MVTR scale.

Pushing The Edge:

Back on May 28, 2013 on the HikeLighter facebook page I posted my thoughts about the new KUIU Yukon Jacket using TORAY Derminaz NX, which has a 20,000mm/24hr (waterproof rating) and a 40,000 g/m2/24hr (breathability rating) and I believe I used the term “ultracrazybreathable” along with “This is a four way stretch material that is putting the hurt to eVENT and Gor-tex.” KUIU builds backpacks and garments specifically for hunting guides, ultra tough, yet as light as it can be, and I really think what they are doing is an amazing thing. While their garments are too heavy for my style of hiking (and outside the scope of hiking garments) it is really great to see a company out there investing so much into helping push forward technology and material.

NW Alpine, another cottage company, based out of Oregon USA, is producing a rain jacket made from the latest CTC WPB fabric. It offers a few more features than the ZPacks jacket, which results in about an additional 15 or so grams (about half an ounce), and has (at the time of this article being published) a MSRP of $600 dollars.

These three companies are some of the few small cottage companies that are investing the big bucks to buy material for the niche market and it is great to see! The TORAY Derminax NX deserves just as much attention, and scrutinization, that the Cuben Tech WPB fabric should have – I welcome both.

I really do look forward to other companies that decide to start making gear from the latest generation of the CTC WPB fabric. If you know of any please let me know.

Reality For End-Users:

For those of us that are the end-users, the lack of information on the materials within these garments (not just CTC WPB) makes it often times very hard to decide which of the garments we should invest our money in, and from which brand/name company. The fact that I have been so dedicated to sticking with CTC WPBCF and helping to promote it so much, has always been about helping Cuben Tech Corp, as I explained above and elsewhere in the past.

I suppose what it will come down to at this point, at least for me, is that I will now have a rain jacket that has the same MVTR as a rain jacket that is half the weight and half or three times less expensive than one of the big-name-brand rain garments.

Hopefully the numbers being provided by Cuben Tech Corp will prove to be somewhat accurate by those who do independent testing on the material – and if the numbers are anywhere near what Cuben Tech Corp has claimed, it will be a huge win for them and a huge win for us in the hiking/adventure/alpinist communities, as it will mean a jacket with the highest level of waterproofness and breathability as jackets that are both two or three times heavier and more expensive.

In Closing:

I am not defending Cuben Tech Corp, nor condemning them. I think that them allowing garment manufacturers to know the facts about their WPB material – and the right to disclose this information to their customers – is a good thing. For that I give them high praise. It really helps us understand a great deal about the MVTR of the material that we have been using over the last few years. It also gives us a good insight into the direction that Cuben Tech Corp is going in the future – less about in-house R&D and more about using other technologies - which I suppose is an issue that very few out there probably care about… but some of us, myself included, do care about such things.

In closing, let me just say that all of these thoughts are nothing but my own thoughts. I share them simply in the hopes of shedding some light and information, and potentially hearing what others think and might know. I think it is great that this information is being disclosed to the hiking community. I think it is great that we know some facts about the latest generation of the CTC WPB material. I think it is great to hear that Cuben Tech Corp has started using (been using?) GE eVENT to increase their MVTR, because the material really did need an increase in g/m2/24hrs. I think Cuben Tech Corp could have done themselves some good by disclosing more information about the fabric many years ago – it could have gone a long way to helping stem a lot of the ill-will directed their way and to cuben fiber in general.

Also note that I have made a number of comments below this article that further explain thoughts and knowledge regarding all of this. It might be worth a few extra minutes to continue reading through all of the comments below.

I very much welcome feedback from other hikers, adventure racers, alpinists, manufacturers and so forth. I do approve all comments before they are made public – so long as you do not post anything that is attacking in nature I will approve your comments – that has been my standard since day one.

Post Publication Updates:

On December 19, 2013 an independent lab test was performed on this fabric – it is very much worth reading.

Thank you,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com

Footnotes:

1)  Ron Bell, Mountain Laurel Designs. May 22, 2013. https://www.facebook.com/groups/131793047725/permalink/10151606563107726/

2) ZPacks LLC. May 07, 2013. http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/wpb_jacket.shtml

Updates:

August 20, 2013 – a major update to include confirmed MVTR from CTC regarding the latest generation of their fabric, along with a massive update of the entire article to clean up the text, make it easier to read, added section titles, and remove content that I felt did not contribute to the article.


In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Gossamer Gear, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.

Written by John Abela

August 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm

25 Responses

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  1. John

    That’s very interesting news. I recently sent my size large Zpacks rain jacket back – it was a bit tight across the chest, so they sent me an XL (free of charge no quibbles, typical Zpacks service).

    I noticed a difference in the finish to the fabric between the two jackets. The first jacket had an almost felt-like fuzzy finish to it, whereas the newer larger jacket has a fine micro patterning (from memory a fine zigzagging). I suspect I now have a third generation jacket.

    What would be good is a standardised field test to compare jackets when in use. I’d be pleased to contribute/report back if someone out there can describe what the standardised conditions and activities would be for such a test.

    A BPL contributor issued an article comparing several jackets where the same tester climbed a hill in a number of different jackets and used a thermometer inside the jacket to judge how much evapouration had cooled the wearer for each jacket. Ideas anyone?

    Andy Jarman

    August 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    • Hello Andy,

      I have not had access to any of the 3rd Gen production WP/B/CF/eVENT that ZPacks is using for production of their jacket so I am unaware of any changes to the feel/patterning that it has. This is one of those aspects that will be of great insight for those who like to do the whole macro-photography of material/fabric – specifically to validate the structural aspects of two sheets of eVENT with a layer of Dyneema slapped in the middle of it.

      >>> What would be good is a standardised field test to compare jackets when in use.

      There are no standardized tests for any of this that I am aware of. At best, we have to take the word of the manufacture of the given fabric and compare those numbers to what data is provided by those with a hydrostatic tester – and I only know of three or four folks that have one.

      I think the “thermometer inside the jacket” is a fun idea, but that is about all the merit I would give it… “fun marit”. I am not aware of who did the test nor the test you are speaking of – I am no longer an active participant of BPL – so I am not intending to be critical of whoever it was. But let us just be realistic, in the same way that EN Ratings for sleeping bags are so totally unusable, so to would this whole “thermometer inside the jacket” test result in totally unusable data. Why? Because we are all different – when it comes to peripheral temperature. What temperature rating of a sleeping bag makes me feel warm and what makes you feel warm are probably going to be totally different. Likewise, when I start feeling hot and overheating inside of a rain jacket is likely going to be totally different for you.

      Just take this one very brief example from the ZPacks website, in which the owners Joe and Sheryl shared their experiences regarding when they felt the ZPacks WPBCF rain jacket caused them to sweat out.

      As long as the temperature stayed below 60F (15C) I was comfortable and stayed dry from sweat. In warmer weather it was too hot to hike in any jacket, so of course I did sweat some. The jacket was also comfortable to wear as a wind shirt, or to sleep in, as long as the outside temperature was appropriate.

      Sheryl sweats more than I do. I would say her comfort zone was probably more like 50F (10C). Above that and she would get a little damp from perspiration. This was especially evident under her belt, shoulder straps, and sternum strap where the moisture could not escape. I don’t think this was any fault of the jacket, any warm shirt or jacket has the same effect on her.

      For me, it is closer to what Sheryl has… unless there is a really cold wind, I can sweat out the jacket if it is much over 54 or 55 degrees (f). — I would like to inject here that a jacket like the OR Helium causes me to sweat out at much lower temps… I have sweated out in that jacket, when I owned one, when it was 48(f) degrees and there was a cool breeze. It is why I sold that jacket and went on the hunt for something better.

      So I just do not really know what else to share here Andy. When it comes to “breathability tests” it all comes down to the hard proven numbers, and, how each of us handle peripheral temperatures.

      If there are other type of testing devices out there to perform hard-data results, I would be interested in knowing about them.

      John B. Abela

      August 8, 2013 at 2:24 am

      • @ Andy, I just came across this on wikipedia that reminded me if your question and thought to myself I should pass along to you. Maybe it helps answer the question of “what types of tests exists” (???)

        John B. Abela

        August 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

  2. Very interesting article, thanks for biting the bullet and putting it out there. I must admit I read about the eVent collaboration and thought the information must have been mistaken! With Zpacks confirming it to be so then obviously it is so.
    I do not understand why adding two membrane layers to a garment is A Good Thing wrt breathability. Are there any other jackets with two, say, Goretex layers? Why would adding another layer make it MORE breathable (and they are claiming double)? Seems counter-intuitive to me. What would the outer layer accomplish?

    Philip Bichard

    August 8, 2013 at 2:47 am

    • Hello Philip,

      >>> thanks for biting the bullet and putting it out there

      Thanks, this was a hard article to write.

      >>> I must admit I read about the eVent collaboration and thought the information must have been mistaken

      It was nice to see it mentioned by a few folks who attended the OR event last week. It finally gave me a chance to share my own thoughts about it. I too, as I mentioned in the article, was rather surprised.

      >>> Are there any other jackets with two, say, Goretex layers?

      Yes, there are a number of 2 layer jackets, and 2.5 layer jackets, made in both Gor-Tex and eVENT, that are exceptionally good jackets. I had been really close to hanging up my 2nd Gen ZPacks WPBCF jacket and going with another one using the latest and greatest eVENT fabric. At this point, with this increase in MVTR in the latest generation of WP/B/CF/eVENT fabric, I plan on going with another jacket from ZPacks – after all, it takes a whole lot of rain *and* cold weather for me to put on a rain jacket, so the lightest weight one I can find makes it all the much better, and in the end, the newest ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber-eVent Rain Jacket still appears to be the lightest three layer jacket on the market.

      >>> Why would adding another layer make it MORE breathable (and they are claiming double)?

      At this time I am NOT aware of why Cuben Tech choose to go with a three layer fabric over a 2 or 2.5 layer material for their WPB material.

      >>> What would the outer layer accomplish?

      There are only a few reasons that manufactures make a three layer material… probably the two most common reasons are durability and extra comfort. Again, I have no knowledge of why Cuben Tech made the decision of going with a three layer.

      John B. Abela

      August 8, 2013 at 3:08 am

  3. Oh, and speaking to the value aspect of the Zpacks jacket it appears that NW Alpine are about to release a Gen3 cuben rain jacket with full zip and velcro tabs for 140g – and $600.

    http://nwalpine.com/store/#!/~/product/category=5235882&id=21771509

    Philip Bichard

    August 8, 2013 at 6:55 am

  4. John – IMHO, Cuben fiber is too expensive. I shudder when I think about products I’ve purchased that are made out of the stuff. Does adding eVent make cubic less expensive to buy by the yard or or more expensive? Does adding eVent make cubic less expensive to manufacture with because it’s easier to work with and production can be outsourced overseas?

    • Hey Philip, thanks for stopping by!

      I cannot answer the second question you asked, and not really sure who out there could outside of CTC.

      The first question is an interesting one. We know that CTC has used Kevlar, Carbon, and even Vectran (which NASA/DHS use) within their fabrics, so I would suspect that they already have the process for slapping a new type of fabric into their fabric layering is no big deal for them at this point – but as to how much that results in a price increase, I would tend to guess, would result on the cost of the tertiary fabric.

      Which, of course, leads to the even more interesting question… which type of eVent is CTC using within their WPBCF fabric! (and, that is a question that I suspect only those within CTC/GE know the answer to) I am guessing it has to be one of the most/more recent generations of eVENT in order for them to be hitting the g/m2/24hrs levels that they are saying they have.

      John B. Abela

      August 14, 2013 at 12:56 am

  5. Hi There – I’m not an textiles expert, but I do know the sportswear & outdoor industries and I think I can answer a number of peoples questions.

    “eVENT considered the biggest competition to Cuben [sic] Tech?” I think there’s a common misconception here. Although we talk about eVENT fabrics, eVENT is actually only the brand name for GE’s membrane technology. GE are not really in competition with Cubic Technologies – composite fabric specialists (admittedly CT’s non-woven expertise means there’s some cross-over, but no more so than the other fabric suppliers I can think of who partner with GE to produce the face-fabrics for eVENT’s product line).

    Knowing brand marketing teams, I wouldn’t read too much into Zpacks “sandwich construction” description. They maybe wrong, maybe there is a sandwich of membranes, but alternatively it maybe a matter of definition – the wizardry of eVENT isn’t just the membrane, it’s also the tricky issue of ePTFE lamination (incidentally, an aspect of WPB mfg Gore might be ahead of them on), so perhaps eVENT glues are used in binding the composite layers together?

    On the subject of lamination, Cubic Tech’s special ingredient is the wonder fiber, Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. UHMWPE has a low melt temperature, so the high temperatures required for so-called “2.5layer” PU coatings rule them out. Thus the WPB CTF³ must be a “3 Layer” type laminate.

    As for breathability. I think material science and technology dictates that it’s a case of “strong, light, breathable, cheap – choose 2!”

    O Johnson

    August 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    • I agree with O Johnson. Cubic Tech is in the business of laminating various materials together to make light and strong composite non-woven fabrics (talk about niche). They don’t produce ANY materials themselves. The only way they even offered a WPBCF is by sourcing a breathable membrane and combining it with other fabrics, just like all other cuben fiber product lines. The switch to eVent membranes just means they’re using a new supplier, and one that holds a reputation as being one of the better membranes on the market.

      This is actually GOOD news. CF has slowly been gaining market share in big brand products and moving out of the cottage industry. This increases demand and allows Cubic Tech to scale production and reduce costs. If the same thing happens for the WPBCF then that’s only good news for both the consumer and manufacturers.

      Cubic Tech has probably been using GE membranes for a long time, they only recently announced it because GE probably finally approved the fabric as mature and worthy enough to be branded “eVent.” Look at goretex. To actually make and advertise a “goretex” jacket requires extensive testing of the jacket design by Goretex to ensure the product lives up to the brand’s reputation. It would make sense that GE uses a similar process to ensure brand quality for eVent fabrics. It’s also why GE has been partnering with individual brands to make vanity product lines, such as all the Mountain Hardwear DRY.Q fabrics which utilize GE membranes but adhere to MHW design metrics and not eVent’s.

      D Short

      August 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      • @Johnson / @Short,

        Yep, agree with both of you guys. My article was all over the place, covering a lot of different topics – some decently, some not so well, nor in depth – in an attempt to just get out into the open the topics that have been on my mind in regards to all of this.

        I am, it should be obvious, just an end-user of gear. While I have designed a half-dozen pieces of gear that are being manufactured by different companies, none of them have been clothing garments. I do know that a number of gear manufacturers and those in the textile industry follow my articles, and my hope was to draw out those within the industry to share thoughts and knowledge from an inside perspective, that we on the outside can only speculate on.

        Over the last 12 days I have received a number of private emails regarding a lot of this and it has helped open my eyes a bit more. As a result I have made minor updates to the article and I hope to continue to do so as I learn more.

        At this point in time I am still seeking further clarification on the MTVR and breathabilty results from CTC regarding their newest generation of the wpb/cf/event fabric and if they are willing to provide that data I will update the article.

        John B. Abela

        August 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

  6. This is fascinating reading. Thank you for taking the time to pull all of this information together and for continually updating this amazing resource article. I never cease to be amazed at the advancements that are being made in technical fabrics and to be honest find it hard to stay up to date on what’s going on and what it means in a practical sense. I’d be lost without your articles. Thanks John!

    Brian Green (@bfgreen)

    August 21, 2013 at 9:04 am

    • Hey Brian, thanks for stopping by.

      As you well know, there are not a whole lot of places for further advancement anywhere within the gear sector of hiking.

      Stove systems got down to about as light as they can via Titanium.
      Shelters have gotten to be about as light as they can via cuben fiber.
      Footwear has gotten about as light as they can get with the transition to minimalist style, or even luna sandals.
      Backpacks have gotten to be about as light as they can, as a result of cuben fiber and a lack of ‘weekender’ features that just add weight.
      Sleeping bags turned into quilts and then quilts got even lighter as more manufacturers found different ways to get them lighter, and for a few years we all thought they were about as light as they were going to get. Than a company comes along (zpacks) and decided, “hey, lets use 10d for sleeping bags, it is about the only way to shave off more grams!” and wow has that been a huge success – and here recently they made the switch to using .75 oz/sqyd Pertex Quantum GL, which is even lighter weight.

      Guess what I am saying is that I really only see the next major advancement in hiking gear coming from fabrics, in the garment sector, the sleeping bag sector, and the shelter sector.

      Just stop and think about how many garments are on the market that are using 10D fabric.

      Or as I wrote about, the 2013 Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket using 7-denier. A few years ago 7d was not being used by anybody, and now there are a half-dozen garments being made from it.

      I could be wrong in all of this, but I think over the next few years that true advancements in the hiking sector of gear is going to continue to be in the textile industry.

      John B. Abela

      August 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      • Hi John, tanks for your article! Some of the stuff was lengthy but the content kept me going.

        Where I see possibilities for lighter I think of poles, trekking/tent. With carbon fibre you can go lighter, a pole doesn’t need to have a closed surface to perform its duties. Think of the delta7 bike with a truss structure. There are ‘some’ manufacturing bumps to overcome, but in theory its possible. The tricky bit is that trekking poles don’t generate that much money as bikes.

        I think fabric is where the biggest steps can be made and therefore are made. Also heat resistance of fibers is getting better. When I go totally crazy I think of pans made out of fibre, with perhaps the underside of titanium because thats the hottest.

        Just my 2 cents

        Michiel Verburg

        September 20, 2013 at 8:51 am

  7. Great post.

    Other colours than white would be nice.

    I wonder how good the dwr is. Even though it would fail, the cuben fiber does not gain much water. Which means that this fabric should perform better in the lang run.

    wanderererer

    August 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

    • I have been trying to get the Water resistance (mm) rating for the final product (three layers) and so far no luck in getting that from CTC. When/if they ever release it and allow it to be publically published I will be sure to update this article with the mm rating!

      John B. Abela

      August 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm

  8. I must say I don’t get it. The whole point of putting a woven fabric layer on the outside is to protect against abrasion. If this is correct then Cuben are putting the fragile ePTFE layers on the outside of their laminate, with the cuben layer providing tensile strength and tear resistance but nothing to provide abrasion resistance…

    Jeremy

    August 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    • Yeah, makes one wonder, huh Jeremy.

      If it is: eVENT – CF – eVENT

      Typically, as I understand it, three layer garments are designed something along the lines of this:

      Tough Outer Fabric -> Waterproof/Breathable Fabric -> Soft Inner Fabric

      So, if CTC has placed their fabric in the middle, as what has been indicated by data provided to us, CTC is using the eVENT fabric in all the wrong places… thus making it so I agree with you… it makes no sense. Then again, as I have indicated, I am not exactly a specialist in the world of garment or fabric manufacturing, so really, what the heck do I (we?) really know, eh.

      I have personally not been provided any solid information to indicate that things are different than listed above.

      As you say, it could very well make a lot more sense to go something such as:

      CF -> eVENT -> CF so that we could have that “tough -> performance -> protection” system that three layer garments are known for.

      By the way, an exact explanation, and probably the best I have seen, on the differences between 2 layer, 2.5 layer, and 3 layer garments is located here and is totally worth a read.

      Now obviously the CF -> eVENT -> CF layering method would not work, as the CF does not breath anywhere near as good as eVENT, so it would basically (logically to me?) seem like the two layers of CF would just suffocate the one layer of eVENT and not allow it to do its job.

      Whether or not the two layers of eVENT are going to be durable enough to hold up in the most recent generation of the fabric we can only wait and see. I personally at guessing (and that is all it is, a guess) that the previous generation(s?) of this WPBCF from CTC was also two layers of eVENT and one layer of CTC Dyneema (again, just a guess on my part) and I have more than proven over thousands of miles of being on the trail that the previous generation of this fabric held up amazingly well. To expect otherwise from the latest generation just seems illogical. But again, all of this is just guessing on my part.

      John B. Abela

      August 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm

  9. Joe from Zpacks has written to me to advise my suspicions about their waterproofs were correct (see my email near the top of all this!). I referred to the new replacement jacket that Zpacks sent me as have a fine zigzagging, Joe refers to the surface finish as “little squares”…

    “The new jacket with the little squares is the new fabric that John talks about. Both the old material and the new material both had the eVent membrane, the difference is the new kind has the little squares which improve the vapor transfer.”

    With reference to my comment about objective comparisons between jackets I wrote;

    “the same tester climbed a hill in a number of different jackets and used a thermometer inside the jacket to judge how much evapouration had cooled the wearer for each jacket”

    I went back to Backpacking Light Magazine and discovered the test with the different waterproofs was by Ray Jordan. All the testing was done at once, so no scientific (repeatable) results were achieved, but a sketchy comparison of the performance-on-the-day of a variety of jackets was made.

    Perhaps at one of the big outdoor gear conventions in the States/Europe someone should mount a similar comparison and ‘challenge’ exhibitors to take part in a similar assesment? A no-sweat-olympics as it were? That would set the cat among the pigeons…

    Andy Jarman

    September 5, 2013 at 11:34 pm

  10. I have read the discussion about the vulnerability of the eVent layer being on the outside of the reinforcing (cuben fibre) layer above. Whilst it has a high tensile strength Cuben fibre is never to be expected to be abrasion resistant. As with a lot of this new lightweight equiment, I accept and expect it not to be as rough and tough as the heavier conventional gear. I expect the eVent to wear off quicker than if I bought a cordura gortex suit, perhaps this is the discoloration being described elsewhere in John’s blog? But then, the cost of a decent jacket and the times I will have to carry it without ever using means its worth having to take care of it, as and when I actually do need it. It takes guts to introduce this stuff when your reputation and livelihood are on on the line. Bravo Zpacks.

    Andy Jarman

    September 5, 2013 at 11:49 pm

  11. […] ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber / eVENT Rain Jacket – A very important article to read that talks about the latest generation of the ZPacks rain jacket! […]

  12. John, this article is excellent and gathers information into expert analysis available nowhere else. I’m in the market for a new rain jacket and ZPack’s latest looks like it could be the best value in rain jackets on the market, for those willing to go without pockets. I eagerly await your impressions. I know you’ll test the new jacket (new version) extensively, but I personally would appreciate a “first impressions” article before the full review to just give us a heads-up if the new breathable material is as revolutionary as the specifications indicate for those of us already sitting on the fence. I also greatly appreciate the coverage of KUIU, whose products are not the ultralight-style products your focus on but are excellent products nonetheless in their respective roles. For some activities their jacket and other garments would be preferable, and I’m glad you introduced me to their company.

    Paelorian

    October 17, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    • Hello,

      Thanks for the kind comments.

      At this point in time I have very limited amount of miles wearing the new generation of this fabric.

      I will say that I can notice a difference between it and the old version.

      Thanks,
      +John Abela

      John B. Abela

      October 18, 2013 at 12:50 am

  13. […] process which resulted in a massive increase of MVTR of the fabric.  I would encourage you to read this article that I wrote on the changes made to the fabric. Suffice to say, the jacket went from a […]

  14. […] was one time procrastinating helped me out…John Abela posted up a very exciting and interesting article about Cuben Tech releasing a new material which used eVENT technology! He went on to saying that the new material’s Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate (MVTR) was twice the […]


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