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Down Sides of Cuben Tarps?
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Paul Davis
(FauxRealz) - F

Locale: East Coast
Down Sides of Cuben Tarps? on 12/08/2010 20:33:19 MST Print View

So, I'm strongly considering purchasing the HMG Echo II tarp using it in conjunction with the MLD Superlight Bivy. I plan to use this on my JMT hike this coming summer as well as using it a lot on the AT and some of the CT. I feel like this is a pretty standard set up and am quite confident in it for three season use.

My only question is concerning the Cuben tarp. HMG appears to make so high quality stuff, but Cuben Fiber itself... how does it hold up? Is it actually considerably stronger than any other alternatives? Or simply lighter? The only way I can make a $300 price tag ($270 sale price) on a tarp justifiable is if it is actually stronger and will last longer. Will it? Anything else I should know about Cuben before taking the plunge?

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Cuben on 12/08/2010 23:57:57 MST Print View

In the HMG thread in the gear deals section a thru-hiker (PCT?) used the Echo I and Echo II and I recall him saying something like they still looked new at the end. IMO, 0.74oz cuben is pretty bomber stuff when it's bonded & reinforced properly, which the HMG stuff is.

I don't think you'll regret going with cuben. This kinda stuff you can easily re-sell if desired for a good re-sale price. Consider asking HMG if they will do it in a color for you. I know Chris Wallace got a leaf green Echo II which looks awesome. White is fine, but the colors are really nice.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Racing Yachts on 12/09/2010 07:56:31 MST Print View

All I can say is that racing yachts use cuben for sails. The sails on racing yachts take an insane beating, but we are talking about tension stress and whipping.

They don't get much in the way of abrasion. I don't how well cuben holds up to abrasion.
Is abrasion much of an issue? Just don't strap it on the outside of your pack when you bushwhack and don't give it to the kids to play with:-)

Edited by brooklynkayak on 12/09/2010 08:54:33 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Depends on the grade on 12/09/2010 08:28:10 MST Print View

I would add that some stuff is heavier than others. VERRY STRONG. Cuben is a style of cloth and actully simply a plastic sheet. They laminate carbon, dynema, or other strong fibers between a couple layers of plastic under a LOT of pressure. Soo, it stays...impossible to delaminate it, even trying. It is not lighter than nylon. It is different. Nylon is woven cloth. Ripstop uses a heavier thread every so often so it creates small squares when viewed. Or a different thread is woven in...
Check the specs...
My thoughts only . . .

Aaron Reichow

Locale: Northern Minnesota
cuben on 12/09/2010 10:53:47 MST Print View

The only real downsides are price and availability. Less important downside but important to some is color- white is often the only choice, and you have to go to the heavier weight cuben to get colors that aren't pastel.

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
You are not kidding on 12/09/2010 11:26:51 MST Print View

I just ordered a custom square one from Joe at ZPacks. It is my first cuben product so I don't have any comment on downsides other than the obvious price and availability.

The cottage industry guys that are building stuff as a small business are a pleasure to support though. All of them I've dealt with are great people, most of them are guys who have hiked a couple long trails so they know their customer much better than the average company. I have a tent from Henry Shires (TarpTent), a pack from Chris at ULA, a tarp now from Joe at ZPacks, a stove from Russ, Rand and Lee @ Trail Designs. In all of these situations these small cottage guys make a better product than the larger companies for my use.

But back to your original question, the Cuben looks to be at least as durable as silnylon for tarp use. Abrasion seems to be an issue for the thinner materials but a tarp doesn't see much unless pitched in a way that causes it. Like anything in ultra-lightweight backpacking you are making an obvious trade-off to save weight but the tear strength seems to be sufficient when used appropriately.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Cuben Tarps on 12/09/2010 11:37:00 MST Print View

Cuben's main weakness is abrasion resistance, so don't rub it against something for a long period of time. This is why its less ideal for a floor/ground sheet (though some still do use it) unless you are careful. Its pretty strong otherwise. My MLD Grace Solo tarp that I bought in early 2008 is still going strong even after thru-hiking the PCT and I've been in strong winds, rain and snow.

Edited by Miner on 12/09/2010 20:13:13 MST.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Down Sides of Cuben Tarps? on 12/09/2010 11:53:27 MST Print View

Cuben can be pretty bomber. The following was on our OR coverage of Cilo Gear:

The cuben (NWD/Non-Woven Dyneema) pack pictured had seen extensive use on multiple climbing trips, including a multi-month expedition. The pack was in pretty great shape.

As others have noted above, there are distinctly different cubens... ie, not all cuben will hold up the same (for example, the Cubic Tech stuff Granite Gear uses for their uberlite sacks is very different than the material HMG uses in their packs). But the material is much stronger than it looks.

Evan Chartier
Cuben on 12/09/2010 11:54:25 MST Print View

I was on the PCT for 5 months this summer and used a cuben tarp through-out. It was really great and I still use it all the time. It will last as long as you treat it well. I like to keep it in a drybag or sack of somesort to minimize abrasion. Check out Zpacks for some quality, cost-effective tarps! (No affiliation)