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Canovaccio: Natural, Sustainable Pack Fabrics

New developments in durable and water-resistant backpack fabrics.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2011-04-01 00:01:00-06

When I posted a photo of a new pack manufactured with a highly unconventional fabric to my feed yesterday, the resulting social media storm caught me by surprise. Here's the story of the fabric that has the Twitterverse up in arms.

Conventional backpack fabrics include oxford nylon, ballistics nylon, and Cordura. More modern materials are impregnated or coated with silicone, or offer ripstop patterns with high molecular weight polyethylene rip threads for tear resistance. And, if you follow the ultralight industry, you certainly know about the variants of Cuben Fiber, which promise very high performance-to-weight ratios.

Unfortunately, all of these materials suffer from the limitations of being synthetic in nature. Disadvantages of synthetic fabrics include:

  • hydrolysis of solvent-based coatings in response to sustained exposure to wet conditions, resulting in peeling and failure of the coating;
  • manufacturing processes that depend on petroleum-based chemical processing;
  • the feeling of abrasiveness and irritation when worn next to skin (i.e., as in the contact areas of shoulder straps, hip belts, and back panels).

Consequently, there has been a significant push by the outdoor industry in recent years towards "natural" and "sustainable" fabrics, including bamboo, merino wool, and even fabrics made from the fibers of coconut shells and corn stalks.

Most of these natural fabrics cannot be processed in a way, however, that is most suitable for backpack materials, due to low strength-to-weight ratios, high elasticity, and high levels of water absorption.

Consequently, we have been partnering with our overseas backpack manufacturing facility to develop natural, sustainable fabrics that can be used in backpacks.

After researching a variety of manufacturing processes and fabric constructions, we are getting closer to a final fabric. This fabric will be featured in the 2012 Absaroka Backpack.

Some of its advantages include:

  1. The ability to absorb very small amounts of precipitation and perspiration into the fabric's interstitial structure, to enhance wicking and prevent moisture from "dripping" off of pack fabric into your clothing system.
  2. The ability to regenerate the pack's waterproofness via natural oil impregnation using many commonly available waterproofing solutions sold in shoe and organic food stores.
  3. Its ability to be manufactured from renewable resources (e.g., organic cotton) using modern automated looms that won't require equipment upgrades.

The new fabric will be branded as "Canovaccio" and be manufactured by a well-known company that specializes in soft shell materials in the high alps of Italy.

We are confident that this fabric will have achieved widespread distribution and be available to small cottage manufacturers by the end of the year - hopefully spurring the development of garage innovation and new business for our friends in the cottage industry.

Ryan Jordan is the Founder and CEO of Backpacking Light and can be found on Twitter @bigskyry if you want to stay up to date about lightweight backpacking industry trends.


"Canovaccio: Natural, Sustainable Pack Fabrics ," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2011-04-01 00:01:00-06.


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Canovaccio: Natural, Sustainable Pack Fabrics
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Pot Packs on 08/22/2011 19:13:17 MDT Print View

Carvaccio.. whatever.
Out here on the Left coast we have Hemp!
Now that is a proven sustainable high strength fiber that can be used to make packs.
Too bad the hippies keep smoking it all up...

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Pot Packs on 08/22/2011 19:22:16 MDT Print View

different hemp Dude.

a b
precisely the point my friend on 08/22/2011 19:45:37 MDT Print View

Actually it's just a different strain of Cannabis they use to make the fibers.
You are right that it's "different' in that it contains much less of the psycho-active component THC but it's still there.
It is still a valid argument fitting this thread.
Why is it, if fibers made from hemp can make a rope strong enough to sail a ship across an ocean, that we don't grow and harvest hemp in this country?
Hemp oil and fibers are the essence of sustainable resources.
If you cannot smoke the variety of Cannabis known as HEMP to get high but you CAN use it to make superbly strong fabrics, why is it banned?
Why do we overlook the obvious and proven resources we have?
Are we afraid 2nd graders will try and smoke their Hemp backpacks?
Interesting times my friend.

Edited by Ice-axe on 08/22/2011 19:46:39 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Canovaccio: Natural, Sustainable Pack Fabrics on 08/25/2011 14:23:55 MDT Print View

Well, the material is going to be very heavy compared to synthetic fabrics. Surely there are light canvas packs out there, and if you like canvas, then a 2-3lb pack isn't the end of the world. If you want something bombproof that can be maintained and waterproofed with natural, everyday materials, then it's hard to beat a good canvas pack.
But I don't see canvas catching on in the ultralight community. I would assume that any attempt to make a truly "light" natural fabric would yield flimsy results.

Edit: No, I wasn't replying to you in that post.

Edited by justin_baker on 08/25/2011 14:24:58 MDT.