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Materials for sustainable hiking
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Brian UL

Locale: New England
Materials for sustainable hiking on 10/24/2009 03:06:17 MDT Print View

I've been working on a MYOG project for a while now.
Its taking a long time partly because its just a side project hobbie/ partly because its research intensive. I try to find the best all natural material and really try to understand how the materials work and how they have been used in the past. But I also want to apply contemporary UL principles to the designs.
Frankly its not difficult at all to go UL in most circumstances. The sticking points are the wet weather gear.

-high thread count (200 plus tc) cotton for shelters (a.k.a.balloon silk in old text A.K.A Egyptian OR Supima cotton)
use: tight weave blocks water droplets from penetrating, draw back is that it will absorb water in a short time - like water resistant shirts but it will remain water proof. This means carrying a wet, soaked shelter or waiting for it to dry. I have a 1000 tc Egyptian cotton sheet I treated with Nixwax cotton proof and plan on testing it in the rain. water runs off this fabric under the sink remaining dry for a few minutes.
-Hemp canvas, Im thinking Ill go with 14 oz. canvas as I want a real durable pack. Duluth packs for comparison use 18 oz cotton canvas. I will also treat with Nixwax cotton proof. I also have 7 oz.? ripstop cotton fabric that could probably be used to make a SUL pack if you wanted.
-Hemp webbing, This is a no brainer and can be had from the same suppliers in popular pack widths.
-Wax covered hemp twine, for draw string on pack.
-Silk, is already known to make a good shell for a down bag so insulation is an easy one exept for the time and money invested.
-Wool, and such for all your cloths, another easy one.
Sticking points:
-buckles, I don't know whether metal or plastic is "better" than the other. I will probably go with plastic for weight reasons.
-Ventile cotton, is the pre-Goretex natural W/P fabric. I havn't gotten my hands on any yet but reviews seem mixed with some loving it and others hating it. It seems that it is in fact water proof except for the seams witch will have to be sealed some how. It has the same draw back as EC shelters as it gets wet and thus heavier even if it keeps you dry. It may be a good natural alternative to water resistant poly shirts for these reasons but not the best choice it you really need to stay dry- we will have to see.
-padding for straps, This one was important too since I want a pack to be comfortable and don't want to use thin webbing that bites into me when I hike. Some suggestions are better wider straps, straps made of cord that is weaved so that it is pliable with some stretch, or natural foam rubber (natural sense tm) like that used in nonallergic foam mattresses.
I was going to put a kit together,test it, and weight it before posting about it but since other people seem interested in this stuff besides me Im happy to share.
I have already decided that unless there is a specific application where only synthetics will do I'm going with natural materials all the way.


Edited by MAYNARD76 on 10/24/2009 03:13:08 MDT.

>> Bender <<
(Bender) - MLife

Locale: NEO
Bamboo on 10/24/2009 09:38:37 MDT Print View

I think bamboo is the coolest! Unfortunately I have yet to see a waterproof bamboo fabric. The insulation looks interesting though. I would love to see if UL bamboo tent poles were possible.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Bamboo on 10/24/2009 10:15:42 MDT Print View

I'd like to follow what people are doing in this area, please keep posting if you've got projects. I have some ideas I'm getting together as well- will post when I get some stuff sewn.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Ventile on 10/24/2009 10:22:08 MDT Print View

Double Ventile has long been a popular choice of waterproof fabric amongst the 'traditional' hunting/fishing/shooting folk here in Scotland. Obviously it is very heavy when wet.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Ventile, Silk and other old technologies. on 10/24/2009 11:28:01 MDT Print View

Silk has been used for UL tents for a century; pitched tautly a silk tent will just mist a bit in heavy rain (with no waterproofing).

Ventile and Egyptian cotton are highly prized for cold winter clothing and tents. It is very hard to find here. If anyone has a source that is not outrageously expensive please post it. There is a style of heavy winter camping on snowshoes with gear hauled on a tobaggon, cotton tents and wood stoves.

A gold mine of information on lightweight camping 90 years ago is Horace Kephart, 'Camping and Woodcraft'. It is available at Amazon in reprint, and online at:

In particular, look at Vol. 2, Chapter VII, Trips Afoot (put p. 507 into the Adobe reader page #).
Starting on p. 520, there are descriptions of lightweight gear lists mainly for cyclists with base weights of 7 lb. to 10 lb (descriptions of silk tents).

Kephart gives waterproofing formulas. Do not use his bug dope, it contains seriously dangerous (natural) substances.

Edited by Snowleopard on 10/24/2009 11:29:08 MDT.

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
Ventile on 10/24/2009 12:00:20 MDT Print View

Snowsled, a UK clothing and equipment company use Ventile for many of their products, and have a history and explanation page about the material.
I used to use Ventile for my windshirt and pants, but they double in weight when wet, and stays wet and heavy a long time. They've been retired now and the modern synthetics I now use weigh 80% less, and dry much much quicker, even in wet conditions.
I hope this helps.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Materials for sustainable hiking on 10/25/2009 16:02:48 MDT Print View

The most weather-resistant bicycle panniers I have ever made were 12 oz marine duck. I stuffed my down bag directly in without a stuff sack or any other water protection while cycling in the Pacific NW in the rain. I would like an 8 ounce duck, but have not found any. Most canvas production from promising fibers such as hemp seems to be for upholstery - too open for water protection.

I have an attempred UL cotton pack that weighs 27 ounces, but gets there only by leaving off the pockets. The fabric is 14 oz marine duck.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Materials for sustainable hiking on 10/25/2009 22:49:17 MDT Print View

Interesting that relatively heavy cotton duck could be so water resistant. I wonder if it is the way its weaved
i.e. -"Duck fabric is woven with 2 yarns together in the warp and a single yarn in the weft"
or if its the tightness of the weave or the weight or all of the above?
-it may be a special Marine finish as well?
I got my hemp fabric from here:

You might try art supply stores for 8oz cotton canvas. Be warned anything sold for "art" automatically becomes more expensive.

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 10/25/2009 22:59:10 MDT.