Ramblings: January 04, 2016

As I have previously indicated I am going to try to post more here at the HikeLighter.Com website instead of only at my facebook page.

Doing this is likely going to result in posts that are not gear, safety, or educational, specific, so I am going to categorize these posts as “Ramblings” :: “A meandering talk with no specific topic or direction” – and I have no idea where they are going to lead too over the course of the 2016 year! Drop me a comment if you feel like these type of ramblings have no place within the confines of what you feel hikelighter.com stands for and represents itself as to you.

Over the last two weeks I had four very interesting conversations with different folks within the hiking industry. All of the conversations involved, at some point, cuben fiber pricing, supply, and other issues related to CT/DSM.

Some may remember that earlier this year the demand for cuben fiber was so great that Cubic Tech was having serious problems keeping up with S&D. Backorders after backorders. Just turned into one huge log jam. Than there was the CTC->DSM buy out: https://hikelighter.com/2015/06/20/cubic-tech-corp-buyout/

For two years I have been saying that cuben fiber material was going to increase and not decrease. Nobody believed me. Many even laughed and called me out on this. I have stood by my prediction. After DSM buying out CTC I continued to predict CF was going up in price and not down, and people thought I was even more crazy and wrong to be claiming that. That is fine, I can take it.

Having talked with a few people that buy large volumes of cuben fiber, they are all saying that DSM is significantly increasing the costs required to buy cuben fiber.

I will continue to say it: even though more and more cuben fiber is being manufactured/purchased/used year on end, I really do feel that hikers need to expect products made with cuben fiber to go up in price, not down. I really do not expect to be proven wrong in this matter.

Secondly, I really am left wondering how long it will be before the small cottage companies are no longer able to manufacture cuben fiber products, specifically because of the cost of cuben fiber going up. I do not mean ZPacks (which I believe is the largest global buyer of cuben fiber, behind Hyperlite Mountain Gear??) because at 60+ employees it is hard for me to consider ZPacks a cottage company anymore, but rather the folks like MLD, SMD, Kifaru, and the other handful of companies making only a few products within their catalog that are cuben fiber. I really am left wondering if they will be forced to either purchase from competitors like zpacks/hmg and not direct from CT/DSM, and/or (b) if that does happen if these small cottage companies will either choose to, or be forced too, stop selling CF products. This will be something to watch over the course of 2016. No predictions from me on this one, but it is one of those issues that has been on my mind the last few months.

I welcome thoughts and comments when it comes to those issues as well.


Let’s see, moving on…

In other news, in addition to yesterday’s ZPacks price increases, today ZPacks updated the quilt page of their website to specifically indicate that they are using “European goose down” and that “Our down is ethically sourced straight from the producer.

ZPacks is not providing any down source tracking to backup that claim though. In this, the Tundra line of sleeping bags are, I feel, still leading the industry when it comes to ethical sourcing of animal down – they claim that all of their animal down is “collected from nests and ponds“, not from a living – or dead – animal. THAT is what I call responsible animal down sourcing! ref: https://www.tundrasleepingbags.com/ethical-down/compassionately-collected-down

ZPacks has also updated their website to reflect new prices for their quilts. It looks like there is small and very reasonable $20 increase on all of the quilts… except for the 10-degree extra-wide, which has seen a rather steep increase (that IS, after all, a lot of animal down to have to stuff into those things!)… I cannot remember the last time ZPacks updated their quilt pricing… been a long long time, it seems like.


Lastly, towards the end of last year Mountain Laurel Designs teased us by adding a “FKT” set of categories to their website. I know I am amongst the group of folks really really waiting to see what MLD has planned for their FKT lineup of products. I have seen a few folks out there trying to predict what they will be. Anybody up for sharing what you think MLD has planned?

(oh, btw, if you are on facebook and do not follow me, do so here – and, be sure to join the facebook “sul/xul gear swap” group and the brand new “sul/xul” group that I have started for discussion of {most things} sub 5 pounds!)

[ps: if you feel like taking the time to comment regarding any of the above topics, please also let me know if you like this freestyle type of “pondering” posts]

18 thoughts on “Ramblings: January 04, 2016

  1. Hi John – I find your blog both informative and enjoyable and I would welcome ‘ramblings’ as an additional aspect of your articles.

    1. Oh man, I sooo miss those guys. Best radio show ever.

      Last that I heard, middle of last year, zpacks was at 60 people, I have heard they have been hiring again, so no idea what they are up to now. Pretty amazing success story. Have to give JV total respect for keeping manufacturing state-side, even though it means having to charge more for the product, and paying american wages, instead of sending the work to mexico, vietnam, or china.

  2. RipStop by the Roll has been producing some interesting new “SilPoly” fabrics that they claim are lighter than traditional SilNylon fabrics, don’t absorb as much water as silnylon, and don’t stretch like silnylon. I don’t have any experience with the fabric, but there’s been some discussion about it in the MYOG section of BPL.com. I wonder if we’ll see some cottage makers experiment with these fabrics as a cheaper alternative to CF. I love CF for its low weight, no stretch, and no water absorption.

    CF shelters are already incredibly expensive. I’m dismayed by the thought that they will become more expensive in the near future.

    1. That silpoly has been around a few years IIRC. I know most within this industry have said that if somebody can come up with a material/fabric that performs as cuben fibre does and offers a better financial value, that they would gladly change. Problem is, nobody has. Think it is safe to say that DSM is trying to position themselves to do so.

      This is just me… could totally be wrong… but I think it is going to take something other than xyz-nylon or xyz-polyester to get to us to the next level. I remember when that ‘argon silnylon’ was suppose to be the next big deal, and it never really got anywhere.

      For those not aware: silpoly is a double coated silicone ripstop polyester.

      It has a decent HH on it, but nowhere near ready to replace the likes of cuben fibre in overall performance.

      Right now it seems to be costing about $7 bucks per square yard, compared to the 1.0cf of $27 bucks per square yard. (retail, not whole sale). Dyneema X is still what, close to $28 bucks a square yard. Uggghhh.

  3. John: Enjoyed reading your ramblings. I find your sharing of information to be valuable no matter the form of delivery. Ramblings can be every bit as valuable as an indepth article. Keep up the great work.

  4. Thanks John. Good stuff.

    I’m planning for an FKT attempt this summer ;-) …and although I already have a Zpacks Zero on order, I’m very intrigued by the idea of a purpose designed FKT pack by MLD — can’t wait to see it.

    I think maybe that is what you may be eluding too. In a nutshell, what we don’t want to lose as the “Cottage” industry grows up is choices or niche focused innovation.

    1. Thanks Paul.

      Nice to hear you are going to take on a FKT. I hope to see mine beaten this year.

      I have held off buying a MLD pack (the 1300 Core) to see what Ron Bell has planned. Personally, I hope it is more than just a CF version of an existing backpack offered by MLD. I am still waiting for that pack that is in between the UD PB Vest and the SMD Flight 30. I set my FKT with the UDPB and it was just a few liters too small. I just bought the new 2015 generation of the SMD Flight 30 last week when it was on sale. Owned the previous/original generation of it, liked it, but passed it along after having contentions with some of its design. Looks like they fixed them in the newest generation, so going to give it another go. I do wish it was down in the 22L rather though.

      What you said about having the cottage industry growing up and companies product catalogs drifting away is one of the things that I spend too much time pondering on. I think one of these days I might try contacting all of the different cottage guys and seeing just how much their business has grown over the last 5-8 years… starting back when the recession hit and thus the backpacking/hiking community started to explode once again.

      1. I agree. The Core looks nice, but not sure how it would feel moving fast. I like to see something more vest like and with extra compression bits. I like/looked UD Fastpack30 and the Inov-8 Race Elite 24 (2015) before deciding to get the Zero. I’m looking at stuff in that volume range because I need to carry multiple days of food. I ordered the Zero with some options that will hopefully get it close, as far as, carry ability. The real litmus test is how it does it real usage.

        1. That’s great Paul !! The Zero bounces too much for most trail runners. If you do not trail run, the Zero is an awesome low features backpack. Have thousands of miles with the Zero Extra-Small. Used it until I got into trail running. Please stop by after you get some miles on it and let me know how it works out for ya! And if you ever want to write up a review on it and have it posted here at hikelighter.com just let me know!

  5. Cuben is definitely getting out of my price range; now retired. So, I have been tooling around with the polyester alternates; recently Xenon sil from Dutchwaregear and most likely soon, membrane silpoly from RSBTR. Have made a hammock tarp from Xenon sil. Decent material, easy to work with (not as easy as cuben though). Of course, it is twice the weight, but the material was on sale at $4.50 per yard, so I can live with that. As for your ramblings: just keep on rambling; good stuff can be found in those ramblings. I too like hitting web pages; they are less restrictive than facebook and most likely more secure. Hike On!

    1. Thank you so very much for the comment.

      The issue of cuben fibre going up in price I think might reach a point where folks will start seeking out fabrics that use to be used, or in your case, lesser used and known fabrics that are available at a much more reasonable price. $4.50 a yard is a whole lot better than $34 a yard!

  6. Okay so my question is why is “no one” taking a stand for the new 7d or Membrane?
    Both fabrics are amazing and as for Membrane is 10X easier to sew than Sil Nylon.
    I’m not taking about taking over Cuben but there are so many companies out there that sell most of there versions of gear in some shape or form of a Sil Nylon.

    Lighter, more water-proff, less slippery meaning easier to work with. If I were a cottage company that makes Sil Nylon gear, I would have already made the switch. I wish TarpTent would catch on first. they are the one company that could benefit from it the most.

    Is everybody waiting for a 7d with the same characteristics as Membrane?
    The strength of Membrane seems better suited for public needs in replacing Sil Nylon.

    So it’s not really the question of Cuben replacement as it is the replacement of the now behind the times Sil Nylon.

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