Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber… using eVENT technology
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.
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 an 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.
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.
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
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.