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Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber… using eVENT technology

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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.

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Written by John B. Abela

August 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm

One Year Review – ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket

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Author wearing the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket in the Redwoods of Northern California. Photo credit: Brian Doyle

It was a little over 14 months ago when I wrote my first review of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket (allow me to just abbreviate that as “ZPWPBCF” from here out) and it continues to be one of the most asked about pieces of gear that I own. A few months later I proceeded to write a follow-up article on the jacket that helped to address some of the more popular questions that I received about the jacket. Over the last year I have continued to carry and use the jacket out on the trail and at home when it is raining – which is quite often here in the Redwood rainforest of Northern California.

Since my initial purchase of the ZPWPBCF rain jacket I placed an order for a second jacket with longer arms and a shoulder pocket to hold my wallet when I am in a trail town and all of my cloths are being washed. It has proven to be very useful both out on the trail and in-town, and my thanks go out to ZPacks for their continued efforts put forth to make custom modifications to gear that they sale.

All of us as hikers seek different features in our gear, but when it comes to a rain jacket the end result is whether or not it keeps us dry. There are of course two factors regarding this: external moisture (rain/snow/etc) and internal moisture (thermoregulation) and usually one of those does not come about without the other trying to mess things up. It is an important part of learning to be a hiker is to learn how to properly manage and control your thermoregulation – failure to do so can result in a lot of unnecessary suffering on your part. For example: sometimes when it is raining and very cold, you are better off removing a layer or two of mid-layer base clothing when wearing a rain jacket to prevent overheating – which can lead to condensation build up on the inside of the jacket.

In this article I am going to try to summarize the questions I have received over the last year regarding the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket.

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Written by John B. Abela

May 23, 2013 at 6:51 am

Posted in Gear Reviews

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12 Favorite Pieces of Hiking Gear for 2012

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Greetings Hikers,

As the year comes to an end I felt it was time to look back and highlight my favorite pieces of hiking gear over the 2012 hiking season. Last year I did the same thing and I really enjoyed how it made me stop and really consider the truly exceptional pieces of gear that I had used over the year – and I have done a lot of refinement to my gear lists over the last few years and for the most part have them where I want them. This year I am going to list 12 items rather then ten, because this is 20″12″, and I just have more items I want to highlight.

The below items are going to be listed in no specific order, so please do not think that I feel that the first item in the list is any more or any less a favorite piece of gear.

#1 – Six Moon Designs Skyscape X - You can read my review of this shelter or head right over to their website. As is documented within my SUL/XUL Fully Enclosed Solo Shelter Comparison, the Skyscape X is “the worlds lightest Total Shelter Weight one-piece fully enclosed shelter“. I first saw this shelter when I was on a hike with the owner of Six Moon Designs and almost instantly feel in love with it. I have bought two of them in the last year or so and would buy another one without thought or hesitation if I needed another shelter. I have never found any one piece shelter at this weight (425 grams / 15 oz) that provides as much protection from the weather.

#2 – ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket - You can read my review of this jacket and my follow-up article on it or head right over to their website. There are rain jackets and then there are rain jackets. Some rain jackets are truly exceptional when it comes to breathablity. Some rain jackets are truly exceptional when it comes to weight. Other rain jackets are popular because of their price. This jacket from ZPacks is by far not the most breathable rain jacket in the world. It is nowhere near as breathable as the latest gore-tex nor the latest eVENT. This jacket is also not the most durable rain jacket in the world, and it falls in the middle of the price range for top end rain jackets. What this jacket has going for it is that it is the world lightest three layer rain jacket that is presently on the market. I have used this jacket for hundreds of miles in the rain, a couple of hours in the snow, in hail for twenty or so minutes, and on a day to day basis around town for months. I have bought two of them over the last year or so and some of the changes to the most recent versions have made this my defacto wind and rain jacket.

#3 – Icebreaker Men’s Bodyfit 260 Tech Top & Icebreaker Men’s Tech T Lite Short Sleeve Shirt - My long time readers will know I just moved into the world of Icebreakers this year. I use to be a die-hard Patagonia Capilene 3 user – and was for many years. The price-point of Icebreakers kept me away from them for many years. A sale on them early in the year was good enough that I picked up both the Tech T Lite shirt and the 260 Bodyfit. Together these two pieces of clothing have resulted in the best layer one and layer two setup I have ever used. By themselves they both have their weaknesses (and more weaknesses than positives) but when put together I have absolutely fallen in love with them.

#4 – Inov-8 Trailroc 245 - These shoes, only on the market for a short part of this year, have become an absolute mainstay in my hiking life. For a number of years I have used the Inov-8 X-Talon 212 shoes. I loved their weight, I loved their traction, I loved their support. What I did not love about them was their (for me) narrow toe-box. With the introduction of the Trailroc 2012 series Inov-8 has introduced a larger (anatomical) toe box. As I have said for years, there are times  when performance and functionality matter more then weight. In this case I have added 33 grams (1.16 ounces) of additional weight to my shoes in order to have a shoe that can handle my toes swelling as I am pounding out the long mileage days. Absolutely worth the additional weight. I went with the 245’s over the 235’s because as a long distance hiker I felt the need for a rock plate was of higher importance than ten grams. I am glad that I did. The X-Talon 212’s had two shock zones and to have gone from two to none would have just not been fun.

#5 – TrailDesigns Sidewinder & Evernew Titanium Non-Stick 900ml Pot – Just going to be honest, adding twice the amount of weight to my setup in order to have a more versatile cooking setup was both a hard one, but an amazingly rewarding one. What I have discovered, as a long distance backwoods hiker, is that I have come to value food the more that I hike. I use to be somebody who could feel I was happy with eating idaho potatoes and top romin for days on end. Both of these could be made very easily with just hot water – and honestly, most of the time I did not even heat up the water. But over the last year I have come to value and appreciate getting to camp and spending a few minutes sitting down and actually ‘making’ a real meal. Having a 900 ml pot allows me to make meals I could never make with a food in bag approach. I can sit there and chop up carrots and real potatoes and all kinds of other stuff and make a real meal, thanks to the larger pot. Yes, it means having a 5 ounce cook setup rather than a 2 ounce cook setup. The long term physiological effect of cooking a real meal more then makes up for those additional two or three ounces. The TrailDesigns Sidewinder is truly a magical cooking accessory. A pot stand and wind screen built into one. It rolls up and fits inside of my pot. Super easy. A bit expensive for what it does (my old pot stand and wind screen cost 25 bucks, versus 80 bucks for the sidewinder) but in this case, it is one of those times when the extra money is totally worth the all-in-one-ease-of-use-amazing-performance factor that the Sidewinder provides. (ps: yes, sometimes I even take the pan-lid that is part of the 900ml pot… I take with me some dehydrated o’brien potatoes and some EVOO and wow does it make an easy way to have a great breakfast.)

#6 – ACR ResQLink 406 PLB - This should be an obvious one. I have never actually had to use mine, but as a hiker that spends the vast majority of my time in the deep backwoods while building a new hiking trail, 130 grams worth of weight is something I do not even think about when it comes to overall life-safety. My PLB goes with me, without thought, without hesitation, without compromise.

#7 – Suunto MC-2G Global Compass – This has been a fairly new upgrade for me. I use to use a smaller, lighter, less feature rich compass. But as time goes on I have found the addition of the features of this compass worth the extra weight. Most hikers would question having a compass with a mirror on it for most trails in America, but it has its value in some situations. Moreover the mirror can do double-duty to help me see the bottom of my feet if I have a bad blister that needs to be taken care of (very rare), and can also be used for tending to any facial cuts that I might get from trees or such. See my article When bulk matters more than weight for more on my thoughts about this.

#8 – Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System - Very little can be said herein that has not already been said about this product. The weight to performance of this filter makes it the unquestionable king of filters for hikers. Combined together with the Evernew Water Carry Bags and you have yourself the best 1.0 Absolute Micron filter on the planet with water bags that are durable enough to handle long term use when used properly.

#9 – Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles - You can read my full review of these poles or head right over to their official website. These poles continue to be an exceptional pair of hiking poles. Thousands and thousands of miles using them. I list them as my “favorite gossamer gear product” on my Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador page for a reason: because they are the finest three-season hiking poles on the market from a weight to performance factor.

#10 – Black Rock Gear Vest - I am new to the world of hiking with vests rather then full on jackets, and the Black Rock Gear Vest has proven to me that vests have a place in a backpackers setup. Sadly the demand for these and the fact that Black Rock Gear is a small cottage company and the fact that sourcing material is often times hard, the availability of these vests have been extremely limited. I was lucky to get one from their last batches – and very glad I was able to get one!

#11 – Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles - You can read my short-term review of these poles or head right over to their official website. In my quest to find a four-season set of hiking poles, pretty much everybody I respect that I asked said these where the best ones out there. I gave them a go and have to agree. While significantly too heavy for summer time hiking (unless you are not a sul/xul hiker) these are freaking amazing bomb-proof trekking poles.

#12 – ZPacks Arc Blast Backpack - I have to be honest here and say that I have very few miles on this backpack. However once you have hiked a lot of miles you are able to very quickly know if a backpack is going to work for you or not. This year I have purchased 11 backpacks from three different cottage companies, most of them I used for less then 20 miles and just knew they were not going to work out. The Arc Blast reminds me a lot of the days when I had a ULA Circuit. It has the support and tough feeling factors that my normal non-frame cuben fiber backpacks lack. This should make it very nice for winter hiking and for those times when I am on the trail for 8 or 10 days between trail towns (note: I have not used this backpack in such a situation yet, as I only got it about a month ago, but one just knows these things.) Loaded up with all of my winter gear, this backpack feels like my load is around 4 pounds lighter then what I know it actually is – and that is sweet. I really look forward to using this backpack in 2013 in the deep backwoods of the Redwood forest. I was amazing hesitant to buy this (and did not buy it for over six months since it was released) because I had previously used hybrid cuben fiber backpacks from HMG and found the material to be way overkill for me. In the end my decision for buying it was other hikers reporting the ability to load it up with a fair amount of weight and have it carry the load very well. So far with the limited use I have used it for, I too have been amazingly impressed. I do not understand the how or the why, and my previous ZPacks Blast with external supports did not carry the load good at all, but this backpack is a whole other story. I have had a few buddies try it with a full load and it has made them go “wow”, just like I did the first time I put it on. A ULA Circuit is still going to be more comfortable overall, but if you are willing to give up 26 ounces for just a little bit of comfort, which I am, this could be the go-to backpack for me for the foreseeable future while I am long distance hiking. Only time spent on the trail will truly show if all of this is true or not.

 

 

Have you posted a “favorite gear of 2012 article”?? If so post a comment with a link to it so I and others can check out your favorite gear!!

 

 

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that I am a “Trail Ambassador” of Gossamer Gear. The Gossamer Gear products mentioned within the content of this review were purchased by myself and were not supplied to me free of charge, or in exchange for services, by Gossamer Gear, unless otherwise mentioned. I hereby declare that I am a “Sponsor” of Black Rock Gear. The Black Rock Gear products mentioned within the content of this review were purchased by myself and were not supplied to me free of charge, or in exchange for services, by Black Rock Gear, unless otherwise mentioned. Any other product(s) mentioned within the content of this review is free of endorsement(s) between myself and the manufacturer(s) and meets all FTC 16 CFR.255 compliance requirements. (i envy those of you who live in countries where these stupid disclaimers are not required by law to include in articles)

ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket – Update #1

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Greetings Hikers!

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:

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.

Product Updates:

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.

Other Uses:

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.

Thank you,
-Abela

(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.)

Written by John B. Abela

March 3, 2012 at 11:15 am