Posts Tagged ‘Cuben Fiber’
ZPacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp + Suluk46 Bug Proof Bivy = New Lightest Weight Enclosed Manufactured Shelter System
I am sure most of you that read my articles regularly and are SUL/XUL hikers have already heard that ZPacks has introduced a new hexamid shelter called the “Pocket Tarp” which is a 0.34 cuben fiber tarp using their standard hexamid shape design, and that it hits the scales at a crazy light 88 grams! Add some cordage and it goes up another 8 grams or thereabout, so lets just call it a 96 gram tarp!
I was working on updating my “SUL/XUL Fully Enclosed Shelter” spreadsheet today and figured I would update the spreadsheet to include this new shelter, and while working on that I thought about the fact that this could be the new worlds lightest fully enclosed two piece manufactured shelter system!
So I put out the word asking if anybody knew if a sub 140 gram bug bivy and Don’t Panic came through for me, mentioning the Suluk46 Bug Proof Bivy. So when I put them into the SUL/XUL Fully Enclosed Shelter spreadsheet it came out to 228 grams (8.042 ounces).
That beats the ZPacks Hexamid Solo+GG Groundsheet which is 354 grams (12.48 ounces) – but granted that is a one-piece shelter, and it uses a much more advisable 0.51 cuben fiber material.
When I am out on a long distance hike the less I have to carry the better, and I quickly become tired of having my money, identification, and a credit card in a heavy wallet or thrown into a stuff sack with other gear where the chances of loosing things increases. Early last year I was expressing some frustration about this matter with a friend of mine who makes some of my custom made gear, and he was gracious enough to put together for me a custom made wallet made from 0.34 cuben fiber that holds three plastic cards and a maximum of around twelve pieces of paper currency.
The vast majority of the time I carry fifty dollars in currency with me while out hiking. Five one dollar bills that I might use in trail towns for small snacks, five five dollar bills that I use to slip folks who give me a ride or other trail angels, and one twenty for if I should need to buy something else that does not warrant me using a credit card. I also carry my drivers license/identification, a credit card, an insurance card, and typically a calling card with enough money on it to make a phone call if I happen to get into a situation where I need to call home and have no other means of calling than to use a calling card. Read the rest of this entry »
For a numbers of years I have been using Black Rock Gear and have been a huge fan and supporter. Both here at HikeLighter.Com and my previous website, RedwoodOutdoors.Com, I have had the honor of announcing a few of their products to the hiking world.
To me, Black Rock Gear is at the very top of the list when it comes to the finest made specialty gear for hikers and runners. I have, honestly, never seen any clothing products made to such exact detail, precision, and quality. It is for this reason that BRG makes up such a large part of my gear lists in both the summer and winter hiking seasons. As a long distance hiker I demand high quality gear that can endure and be as light weight as possible with today’s fabric. A few years ago when I bought my first BRG hat I did not think a down filled hat could be any lighter weight, yet they have continued to push the edges and have been willing to invest the money in buying the leading edge material in order to keep producing even lighter weight hats and vests. Their cuben fiber rain mitts are the pinnacle of what it is I am talking about.
To me, becoming a Sponsor of Black Rock Gear means a great deal. Those who follow my articles know that I care a great deal about the hiking cottage industry. In my sponsorship letter to Black Rock Gear I made the point that the type of sponsorship I am after is not the type where I am asking for free gear, discounted gear, or gear of any kind. Sometimes sponsorships should not be about a hiker getting free gear and a company getting PR in exchange. The relationship and respect that I have had for Black Rock Gear has always been one where we drive each other to build the best that can be built (on their part) and I am out there on the trail using the gear and providing feedback on the gear. I value this type of a sponsorship more than any other – the type where a company is willing to listen to their customers and work with them to find ways to make their products better.
Over the last few years Black Rock Gear has sponsored a number of hikers, athletes and trips on Everest, K2, McKinley, the PCT, the AT, the Grand Canyon, the Machu Pichu trail, and trips to China, Pakistan, Patagonia and on both North and South Pole. A true testament of both their gear and their value to the cottage industry!
I would like to thank Black Rock Gear for trusting in me, for allowing me the honor of becoming a sponsor, and for being out there making the kind of gear that ends up in the backpacks of hikers such as myself.
This is an update to my previous article about the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, which I really recommend you read if you are at all interested in what is possibly the lightest cuben fiber rain jacket on the market.
As I promised within that article I would provide updates on this jacket as I get some usage of the jacket. I have now reached the 25 hour mark of wearing the jacket in the rain, and have nearly 40 hours of total wear time with this jacket. I believe it is safe to say that this is more than enough time spent wearing this jacket to provide a solid initial update article on this jacket.
I have been able to use the jacket on the trail, around my house, and while out doing business around town. It may not be the biggest fashion statement around town, but what SUL/XUL hiker cares about fashion – none that I know. It has performed flawlessly.
Keeping Things In Perspective:
In a comment I made in the original article I made this statement:
Over 90% of hikers do not hike a 500 miles a year. Of the remaining 10% less than half of them do over 2000 miles a year. Those rare few in the 1-5% of hikers that do more the vast majority of them that I have talked to have had very very few items that gotten used for 2000+ miles have durability issues, and typically it is socks and shoes, nothing more, and they are the two things we expect to not last that far. As most tripple crowner can testify too, the use of rain gear on the big-three trails is typically less than 2% of the 8000+ miles. You really going to be wearing your *rain jacket* for 2600 miles? Stop and think about that.
So with this in mind we need to ask ourselves, is the weight of a 10+ ounces rain jacket really worth carrying? I say no. If I can hike any of the long distance trails in the USA and typically encounter less than 20 days of rain, why would I carry twice the amount of dead weight when I need too. For me, being able to save 5 ounces off a largely dead-weight item such as a rain jacket is an amazingly exciting aspect.
It is no secrete that this latest edition of the waterproof breathable cuben fiber is not the most breathable material out there. I will be first in line to say such (though I know a lot of other folks that would like to get in line ahead of me, because they just enjoy trash talking cuben fiber) and have never made the statement that this new WPBCF is the end-all of breathable material, it is not.
However I can say for a fact that this WPBCF is pretty amazing. I have used it in hail, in snow, in the rain, in my sleeping bag, as a thermal barrier, and sometimes just as a jacket to slip on when I am going out the door. I have used it while hiking with a backpack on as well, obviously. I have tried to use it in every aspect of my life as I can since I purchased it.
Not a single time have I thought to myself “man, this jacket sucks!”. Not a single time.
As a SUL/XUL hiker I carry very little gear, so the gear that I do carry has to be amazingly reliable. The ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket has now officially made it into my backpack as an “always in my backpack item”. Yes, it is even in my sub-2-pounds summer gear setup!
How Does It Perform As A Wind Jacket?
This is the most popular question I have received about this jacket. While I did mention in my previous article that “I will no longer be taking” my wind jacket, I did not expect to get the kind of feedback about how this jacket performs as a wind jacket as what I have gotten.
Let us just look at this from a pure number perspective. The wind jacket I have been using the last few seasons is the MontBell Tachyon Anorak wind jacket which I really do love, though it is almost impossible to find for sale anymore. This wind jacket is made of 7-denier nylon. The ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket is made of 1.42 oz/sqyd cuben fiber. No matter what way you look at it, the 1.42 oz/sqyd cuben fiber is thicker than the 7-denier nylon material of the MontBell wind jacket. So from a material thickness perspective, the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket is a better wind jacket. Breathablity does not equate to the ability for wind to blow through it.
The ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket is also much less nosy than any other wind jacket I have owned and/or used. A couple years ago I had a wind jacket that was so loud I just could not stand using it. The WPBCF makes pretty much no flapping noise in even the strongest of wind that I have encountered.
So as I move into the 2012 hiking season the most awesome MontBell Tachyon Anorak wind jacket is going to be staying at home and the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket will for-sure be making it into the very top of my backpack for those times when I just want to put on a clothing item to help with some cold wind.
discolouration – the act of changing the natural color of something by making it duller or dingier or unnatural or faded
Within this photograph (click it to view a much larger image) you can see some discolouration that has occurred to the jacket. The white is slowing fading off in those places where it receives the most rubbing against my backpack, sleeping bag, and chair when I am wearing it around the house.
When I first noticed it I was a bit perplexed. I have read accounts of non white and non black cuben fiber rubbing off some of its colors, but I had never read any account of white cuben fiber having discolouration issues.
So I put out an email to a half-dozen guys I know that are developing products using this WPBCF material to see if any of them had encountered this issue. A few of them were able to confirm that this WPBCF does tend to have some discolouration issues. I keep meaning to ask two of the guys I know with a Water Penetration Tester (Hydrostatic Pressure Tester) to see if they would be willing to do tests on the jacket to see if the jacket is loosing any ability to repeal water, but it has been winter season and I have needed my jacket, so maybe come June or July I will see if they would be willing to test it. If they are willing and if I do have them test it I will be sure to provide any results that I get back from them.
I performed a standard water puddle test and the jacket did not have any seepage anywhere – be in in the middle of the hood where it is bright white, or the middle of the back where all the white has fadded off. I allowed the water to sit in a puddle for over 10 hours. That is more than good enough for me.
So I mention all of this just so other hikers who might have already bought this jacket, or those looking to buy it, are aware of this discolouration. In no way does it appear to be effecting the performance of the jacket.
A few days ago I emailed ZPacks and let them know that I was going to be writing a follow-up review of the jacket and asked if they had made any changes or updates to the jacket. (this is something I feel every reputable outdoor gear reviewer should do).
The next day the owner of ZPacks emailed me back and indicated the following:
I made one little update- I saw in your video it was a little tricky for you to cinch the wrist elastic. I added a second non-stretchy cord through the wrist that holds the cord lock in place. That way you can pull the elastic with just one hand. The same way as on my mitts.
Putting aside the fact that it is unbelievably awesome that a company is willing to update their product based on a video review of one of their products, I can say that this is really the only thing that was bothering me with the jacket. Not so much that I will be sending mine back - it really is not an issue at all - but just stop and think about that folks, a minor issue such as this and the company updated their product based on seeing the problem from a youtube video. Huge props to ZPacks for being so on-top of trying to make the best gear available. I never once mentioned to ZPacks or anybody else this minor annoyance.
Being somebody who does not like to carry single-use-items in my backpack (though I regrettably have a few), I have made it a goal of mine to try to find as many different uses for this jacket as I can.
Here is a list of other uses that I have used the jacket for – just let me be clear here though: I am not somebody who abuses their gear. I have only had a single piece of gear fail on me in the last three seasons of hiking. I treat my gear with the utmost care – you just have to when you are a SUL/XUL hiker.
Quasi-blanket. Over this winter season I have been trying out different winter season gear setups. One of the setups I have been trying is going without a sleeping bag. I purchased a pair of crazy warm down pants from GooseFeet and than using my MontBell down jacket, my ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava, Black Rock Gear Gloves and Hadron Hat, and Feathered Friends Down Booties. At one point the wind started blowing some really cold wind so I grabbed my ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket and put it over my shoulders to help control my core-temperature. It worked very well at blocking the wind and helping to reduce the shiver I felt coming on because my down jacket was not lofty enough for the temperatures – the cold wind caused a 16-degree temperature dip in the span of 20 minutes.
Food Prep. Sometimes when it comes time to prep your food it is nice to be able to put down something on the ground. I use to use my wind jacket, but this jacket works a lot better as it has a zipper and thus is larger, plus the white color makes finding those random mouse-size pieces of food I dropped – hey, calories count, grin.
Wind Jacket. I already address this issue above, but felt I should mention it here again. The jacket has thus-far proven to be very good at being a wind jacket.
A-Frame shelter door. When the weather has been nice I have gone out with my 0.34 cuben fiber tarp to continue long-term durability testing with it. Once a bit of light rain and horizontal wind came up so I threw my jacket up as a door/beak to help block the rain from coming into the shelter. It was not big enough to cover the entire entrance, but big enough to block enough rain that it was worth putting up. I might attach a small tie-out loop on the bottom of the jacket to help with staking it out better as a beak.
Future Article Updates:
As I mentioned above, I now have 25 hours of using the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket in the rain and nearly 40 hours of wearing the jacket when it has not been raining. It has performed without a single failure.
I will probably not be writing up another update for the rest of the 2012 hiking season, as once the main hiking season comes around I am on the trail to much to invest the two or three hours it takes to write these updates.
Should the jacket fail in some way, I will first notify ZPacks and from there decide what and how to share any details of the failure.
I just do not see how the jacket could have any failure if it is not directly related to user-abuse of some type. If after 25 hours of rain the jacket has not leaked, it seems safe to say that the material has proven itself.
I highly recommend the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket if you are looking to have the lightest breathable rain jacket that is presently on the market (at least that I know of). Only you can decide if it is worth the money, but given the fact that my last rain jacket was 10.2 ounces and this jacket from ZPacks is 4.6 ounces, as a SUL/XUL hiker, the extra money spent on this jacket was well worth it – I have spent far more money trying to save 5.6 ounces from my overall base pack weight.
(disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money. It was not provided to me for review, t&e or any other reason, I actually did buy it. ZPacks is not one of my hiking sponsors.)
Today I want to share with everybody my initial thoughts of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket which I was finally able to talk myself into buying recently and have now had the chance to test out since last week. While a week is not a long enough time to truly test any outdoor product, this is just an initial post on this jacket and I fully intend to write about it in the future as I am able to use it in future bad weather situations.
Yesterday while near the end of a hike it started to rain so I pulled out the jacket and put it on. It performed one hundred percent as expected. It kept me dry and it did not cause me to roast to death inside of it thanks to the truly stellar breathablity of the cuben fiber material. A short while later it started to snow and it handled that just as well. A short while after that it started to hail. At this point I became a little concerned because while the material is made of some rather rugged material (1.42 oz/sqyd) I was just not sure how it would handle the abuse of getting nailed by a million little hail comets raining down on it. After about three or four minutes the hail stopped and the sun came out. I took the opportunity to take off the jacket and give it a look over and it looked to be as in good of shape as it was when I put it on. I was totally and completely dry. I was not hot, and I did not feel clammy. The miracle rain jacket has been found!
I had read on the ZPacks website that the jacket is “breathable enough to sleep” and I will admit I put them to the test on that. The night I got it I put it on before I went to bed. I woke up like I usually do, without a single bit of feeling hot or clammy. The material has a rather soft silky/waxy feeling to it that I really enjoyed wearing. I fully expected I would wake up part of the way through the night all soaking wet, but this crazy material actually did its job. So the next night I went outside and threw up my tarp and bag and such and put on a base layer, a mid layer, a down jacket, and than the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket to see if it would cause me to roast to death and/or to wake up clammy when I had a four layer clothing system on. It got down to around 34(f) that night and when I woke up the next morning I was once again dry – and I was nice and warm.
I have owned just about every sub ten-ounce rain jacket that exists and I was not expecting anything better from this one than every other one that I have owned. Let me just declare herein that every single other rain jacket I own is now going to be sold, and the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket is the only rain jacket I plan on keeping in my backpack from henceforth.
The purchase of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket was not an easy one. It is an expensive piece of clothing (as most top end clothing it) and it uses a material that I have been able to find zero evidence from any other gear reviewers claiming actually works. My only previous experience with wp/b cf has been with my Black Rock Gear Ultralight Rain Mitts (which I will do a review on once I get a few more hours of use with them) and they have such a small amount of the material that it was rather impossible to know if the material actually does perform. I can now say without a doubt that this material has proven itself to me.
Here is a rather crappy photograph taken the day before it started raining/snowing/hailing. It was such a beautiful location that I just had to stop and take a photography. I was really disappointed that the photograph quality sucked, but here is a link to a rather nice photo (still a crappy iPhone4 photo though) looking the direction that I was looking at in the photo.
As you might be able to see from the photograph (you can click on the photo to see a larger version) the jacket goes a fair bit lower than my waist. I also ordered mine with extra-long arms as I am a long arm guy. I have attached a video that shows me opening the jacket when it showed up, along with some initial impressions, as well as some measurements of the jacket itself.
The total weight on mine, size large, with extra long arms, is: 135 grams (4.76 oz). The previous rain jacket I have been using is the ZPacks Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket (non waterproof breathable version) and it hits the scale at 82 (2.89 ounces) in size large and with the lighter weight material. So that means that this new WB/P CF rain is 53 grams (1.86 ounces) heavier. As somebody who spends a whole lot of money trying to find ways to loose half-an-ounce here and a gram-there, adding 53 grams to my SUL/XUL pack weight might not be something that will make me smile. However – let me say that again… however – there are times when we must realize as SUL/XUL hikers that a few extra grams for the ability to have a piece of gear that can perform above and beyond is something we need to be giving serious consideration too.
For those of you in the UL world 53 grams is not a whole lot of difference, so for you it really only comes down to the price-tag.
For those of us in the SUL/XUL world, here are my thoughts on the addition of 53 grams to my base pack weight – yet in the end I actually am able to reduce 12 grams from my base pack weight!
As I see it this jacket has the ability to perform four duties:
- First, it has the ability to be the finest rain jacket I have ever put on.
- Second, it has the ability to be an additional layer of clothing for when it gets cold at night, put it on over a puffy jacket and it can help trap a bit of heat – I do not yet know how much of a difference it will make, it is breathable after all.
- Third, it can be used as a quasi-beak on your tarp if you find that rain starts coming in at an angle – it is waterproof after all, and is wide enough to cover just about any solo tarp end that is in winter mode.
- Fourth, because of the fact that it breaths so well I will no longer be taking my most beloved MontBell Tachyon Anorak wind jacket which goes with me on every hike – so that right there saves me 65 grams (2.29 ounces) which in the end means I will be saving 12 grams (0.42 ounces) off my total pack weight (65 for Tachyon + 82 for previous rain jacket = 147, than minus 135 for this jacket, results in a savings of 12 grams – thanks to jp for the correction.)
Trust me when I say that I am very happy to be able to save 12 grams from my total pack weight, plus the small difference in overall pack volume, by switching over to have the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket in my backpack! A half an ounce is a half an ounce, and this jacket is one of those pieces of gear in a backpack that is beyond justifiable in both quality, fulfillment of purpose, and weight saved. For those willing to spend the big bucks on SUL/XUL gear this is one of those purchase that just makes sense.
Long term durability will be the next real test of this jacket – and by that I mean of the material itself – but given that the material is 1.42 oz/sqyd cuben fiber I highly suspect I will have any durability issues at all. The vast majority of gear that I have used for the last two hiking seasons have been 12-denier rip-stop Ballistic Airlight nylon for my pants and 7-denier rip-stop Ballistic Airlight nylon for my wind jacket and .74 oz/sqyd cuben fiber for my previous rain jacket, and given that I am not an abusive person when it comes to my gear – and I do not know of anybody who is a SUL/XUL hiker that is abusive to their gear – it stands to reason that if I am able to be out there hiking with 12d and 7d and 0.74 material, I should have very little to worry with a 1.42/sqyd cuben fiber material when it comes to durability issues. That said, the real test will come when the blackberry bushes start growing again later this year – those things I just hate, because they just so love to catch and try to rip to shreds SUL/XUL hiking gear.
I would really encourage you to check out the video I have posted below to see what this jacket looks like up-close and towards the end of the video I break out my tape measure to provide measurements, and than I put it on and show it off a little bit. As I get a chance in the future to encounter rain/snow and have a camera around I will continue to provide updates on this jacket and how it is performing.
You can find the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket online at: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/wpb_jacket.shtml
John B. Abela
Follow-Up Article About This Jacket: http://hikelighter.com/2012/03/03/zpacks-waterproof-breathable-cuben-fiber-rain-jacket-update-1/
(disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money. It was not provided to me for review, t&e or any other reason, I actually did buy it. ZPacks is not one of my hiking sponsors.)
I just got word about two hours ago that Mountain Laurel Designs has formally announced an initial product release of a cuben fiber version of their hugely popular TrailStar shelter called the Cuben TrailStar!
This is some pretty sweet news for those of us that are SUL hikers because it takes the weight of this tarp (MLD calls it a ‘shelter’, I consider it a tarp, as it is not a fully enclosed “shelter”) from 482 grams (17 ounces) down to 283 grams (10 ounces). Ron Bell, the owner of MLD, noted that if you remove the 10 LineLock 3′s that it has you can save around one ounce, so you could end up with a very sweet 255 gram (9 ounce) tarp!
The price on the Cuben Fiber TrailStar is $335 USD.
One of the many awesome features of this tent is that it is made up of five panels of the same length, and each panel is 7 feet long. Hikers around the world have been putting the TrailStar to a test over the last few years and every single report I have read about it says its the most rock solid tarp they have ever seen in the wind – and a lot of reports out there documenting its very strong in snow too!
Here at HikeLighter.Com I prefer to focus on gear that is SUL/XUL in nature, obviously, so it should be safe to say that MLD bringing the TrailStar into the Cuben Fiber world I do not think there are very many SUL hikers out there who are going to argue the fact that this new Cuben Fiber TrailStar is going to be a serious contender in the SUL tarp industry for a rather long time to come!
It is made, like all of the MLD Cuben Fiber tarps/shelters, using 0.74 cuben fiber. The 0.74 CF has been proven to be the sweet spot for tarps – it holds threads very well, it resists water permeation better than the 0.51 cuben fiber. It will last long, will probably never tear if a pine cone lands on top of it (with the possible exception of a Pinus lambertiana cone), and while most SUL hikers have gotten over a need for privacy, the 0.74 provides a little bit more see-through protection than the 0.51 does. Not that that matter of course, right ;)
The TrailStar gives you a whopping 50 sq/ft of space underneath it. The one chance I have had to see a TrailStar I was amazed at the room it provides. Another neat thing about the design is it gives you the ability to really set it up in some unique ways. I remember seeing some photos awhile back of a guy that had setup the TrailStar in some really unique configurations – possible because of the five equal sides. With enough guyline and a tall enough piece of wood you could have this be a raised shelter for a group, or you can put it all the way down to the ground for some serious protection in hard driving rain.
As you can see in the photograph above there is the ability to use one of the five sides as a raised entrance. Just use a second pole or stick and you got yourself a nice entry that can also give you some nice air flow to reduce condensation. Or, close the door for if you find yourself getting pounded by hard wind or driving rain or snow.
All in all, if you are looking for a tarp that will give you a serious amount of room that is under 284 grams (10 ounces) you should be giving this new Cuben Fiber TrailStar a serious about of consideration!
(disclaimer: I do not own this tarp, I was not paid to write this article. This is one uber sweet tarp and thus I am announcing it to my readers!)