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Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly.
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Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 13:03:17 MDT Print View

Let me be clear, the objective of this post isn't to stir up emotions or send cuben yielding hikers running to their closets in defense of their beloved 'Kryptonian' shell like pieces of gear. If you like cuben, more power to ya. I've thought about this recently, the aesthetics of packs, the tangible qualities found in particular fabrics, and how they form together. Some hit the mark, some don't.

Maybe I'm one of the few here that finds cuben fiber hideous, yes, downright ugly. Sure it works, but I'm not ready nor willing to accept it, neither is my thin wallet.

Does anyone else find cuben aesthetically lacking? Do you even consider or place value in the aesthetics of a pack?

There are a few instances where I've seen cuben fiber work in terms of aesthetics, on a few Mid shelters where the clean lines are complimented by the imperviously tight pitching spectra woven laminate, but in most cases it's function over form with cuben. It makes for great drybags and stuff sacks. I'm a function over form kind of guy really, but I just can't wrap my mind around cuben packs or clothing pieces, it reminds me of the Montbell windshells from a few years back that when taken out of a stuff sack resembled anodized aluminum foil or trash bags....hideous.

*Deep inside I'm hoping Doug will buy it all up, have amazing pieces of gear made out of it all, and sail away under cuben fiber sails to a far off land of eternal backpacking bliss. It's a win win situation, no more cuben packs, and Doug finds Nirvana.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 13:21:28 MDT Print View

A slight turn off for me is cuben's translucent quality -- although not nearly the show stopper as cuben's high price. I don't see the material as ugly though. Subjective, of course.

Jake Palmer
(jakep_82) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 13:28:19 MDT Print View

I actually like the way cuben looks. The only reason I don't have more gear made from it is the outrageous price.

L Miller
(LMiller) - F

Locale: Maryland
Re: Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 13:33:33 MDT Print View

LOL I agree. The packs are by far the ugliest.

But with the weight and tendency to not stretch, I could definitely look past the homeliness of a cuben tent or tarp -- if only the prices were more reasonable...

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Get to know her on 07/22/2011 13:57:43 MDT Print View

Have you ever met someone and thought they were kind of funny looking? Then, once you got to know them better, the physical imperfections became lovable and suddenly didn't look so bad?

Cuben is kind of like that.

Specially the black stuff.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 14:29:05 MDT Print View

You are not alone Eugene. Don't forget it makes crappy shade too.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 14:31:33 MDT Print View

Hmmmmm. To answer a couple of your questions: No, I don't find it aesthetically lacking at all. I'm one of the, few I guess, who actually like the way it looks. I really do. I love the first pack Chris made me with the light greenish/yellow against the white cuben. I really like the half pack with the white cuben against the dark dyneema. And I'm more than pleased with the look of my new panniers, again with the white cuben against the dark dyneema. I really enjoy seeing all the down inside my white cuben quilts from Tim Marshall. In fact, I'm probably an even smaller subset, I prefer the white cuben, and have asked for it when given a choice in all my packs and (I think) all my quilts.

But, like you, I'm a function over form guy. I don't really care much about the aesthetics, I want stuff that works for me, and works well. And so far, everything cuben I've gotten has done that completely. And I'm very lucky in that my wallet is not thin (which reminds me, I need a cuben wallet ........... Hey Chris!)

Now, on to: "*Deep inside I'm hoping Doug will buy it all up, have amazing pieces of gear made out of it all, and sail away under cuben fiber sails to a far off land of eternal backpacking bliss. It's a win win situation, no more cuben packs, and Doug finds Nirvana."

Dude, what can I say, I'm trying. I'm really trying......But do you really have to get rid of me and exile me to a far off land when I get all the cuben? Harsh, man. Really harsh......;-)

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Get to know her on 07/22/2011 14:32:22 MDT Print View

"Have you ever met someone and thought they were kind of funny looking? Then, once you got to know them better, the physical imperfections became lovable and suddenly didn't look so bad?"

Are you kidding! I'm counting on this if I'm ever to get a woman to date me......

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 15:26:31 MDT Print View

Given I pretty much have all the gear I need, it's the unbearable lightness of being expensive that really kills it for me (though semi-translucent shelters also make no sense).

I don't like the way it looks much either.

Ultimately, I'm a pretty practical guy when it comes to cost vs. weight saved. I went UL/SUL before much cuben was out there...I remember when spinnaker was the talk of the town, the holy grail of lightness. Never bought any of it, either.
Generally, the cost of cuben is completely prohibitive to me, especially considering anything I purchased that was made of cuben would simply be a lighter replacement for something I already have. I've still been using the same GoLite Jam2 that I bought used for about $70 nearly five years ago. I sewed my SUL pack out of 1.1 silnylon for less than $25 in materials and it's holding up like a champ. Dropping a couple hundred for a comparatively fragile, see-through pack? Nope, not feeling it.

Edited by xnomanx on 07/22/2011 15:30:33 MDT.

Peter Longobardi
(paintplongo) - F

Locale: Hopefully on the Trail
Really? on 07/22/2011 16:02:14 MDT Print View

Really debating about how things look? If the thread was about the price, it would make more sense to me. Thanks for the laugh on a Friday.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Really? on 07/22/2011 16:12:30 MDT Print View

""Really debating about how things look? If the thread was about the price, it would make more sense to me. Thanks for the laugh on a Friday.""

Right! Gear-Chaff? :)

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly." on 07/22/2011 17:16:25 MDT Print View

"Really debating about how things look? If the thread was about the price, it would make more sense to me. Thanks for the laugh on a Friday."

Glad I could humor you Peter.

I forgot this was the GEAR forum, serious things are taken very seriously here, sorry, mods move to chaff please. ;-p

If we could get beyond taking ourselves as backpackers so seriously, we could move onto deeper contemplative stuff....like how a white cuben rainskirt would look on me in a downpour, or perhaps how a pointed white cuben raincap would.....*scratch that idea.

Whatever stiffens your pudding. I just wanted to hear what others thought about cuben in the industry in terms of aesthetic quality, it's being utilized pretty extensively; it's currently very expensive but for how long? Will it be the staple material in a few years? We all know it's uber light, strong, waterproof, doesn't stretch, check. Terra Nova is incorporating it into most of their packs, pretty wisely I may say, their new Ultra 20 has a distinct Russian Cosmonaut quality to it, but it's sharp. 'The Zimmerman' uses cuben alongside other familiar materials in a really good way with his custom creations. Zpacks uses it. HMG is a cuben adopter, their pack prices reflect the use of cuben. Lots of cuben being used now.

Personally, I find Dyneema X gridstop strikes a nice balance in terms of fabric hand, durability, and function. A pack made in Dyneema X still has some substance and meat to it, there is enough to the material to still resemble a fabric. Cuben just doesn't sit right with me as a pack material, just a preference, I'm allowed to have that right?

I suppose I have a small amount of nostalgia when it comes to packs, the vintage Rivendell Mountain Works, Fjallraven, Jansport, and Kelty packs speak to me, they're timeless, albeit heavy. I like a pack to look like a backpack and feel like a backpack.... or at least what I think a pack should look and feel like. In the end these are all tools to serve a purpose and end, it's not big deal, just thinking aloud.

Edited by Eugeneius on 07/22/2011 17:17:34 MDT.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
The unbearable lightness of being........ugly on 07/22/2011 18:39:07 MDT Print View

If Eugene has his way BPL ratings will be based upon looks or even worse you must be good looking to even be a member.

Aris Dennis
(wentworth1) - F
title on 07/22/2011 18:41:27 MDT Print View

The thread title made me chuckle. Isn't there a book called "The unbearable lightness of scones"?

wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
Olive drab cuben on 07/22/2011 18:49:38 MDT Print View

I happen to have an olive drab ZPacks backpack and find it's color quite natural looking. It blends in perfectly with nature.

There's nothing ugly when one blends in with nature.

Edited by wiiawiwb on 07/22/2011 18:51:16 MDT.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: title on 07/22/2011 18:59:33 MDT Print View

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a significant novel and happened to turn into a very good film as well. Beware of spoilers if you research the film as these are essential to both the film and book. I'd say, try it-you'll probably like it.The film in 2 parts can be downloaded for free from this great sight. It used to be very difficult to find in DVD. I bought mine in Beijing.
http://stagevu.com/video/nxblpycezlaa

Edited by Meander on 07/22/2011 19:05:32 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Cuben: The unbearable lightness of being........ugly. on 07/22/2011 19:30:52 MDT Print View

Pull any one of us out of the tent at 4:30 AM-- the Cuben would look wonderful in comparison :)

It is an acquired taste, methinks. And it is mostly behind you, where you can't see it anyway. Most gear isn't very pretty fresh from the stuff sack--- or three days out with mud, sweat and dust.

It gets me when people want to dye the stuff. Be true to the materials, I say.

Now that I have a hammock, I want a Cuben tarp, and the best setup is a 12x10 cat-cut. My wallet shudders at the thought. I've used smaller sails!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Really? on 07/22/2011 20:02:23 MDT Print View

" If the thread was about the price, it would make more sense to me. "

Wonder if / when prices come tumbling down for Chinese or Vietnamese cuben -- how many will start bitching that we are losing more American jobs?

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
cuben on 07/22/2011 20:58:45 MDT Print View

"If Eugene has his way BPL ratings will be based upon looks or even worse you must be good looking to even be a member."

Apparently no one wants to be a member anymore Thom, shame, all those ladies and gents letting their good looks go to waste. I always assumed the rating system was looks based, which was why my profile rating barely tipped the scales.


@Dale,

Acquired taste may be right, I'm a jeans and flannel kind of guy, space age laminates for pack use aren't my cup o tea presently, even if it serves an end on a trip in the mountains. Maybe when Steve Evans engineers the next breakthrough material in his 'Little Shop of Wonders' and cuben goes the wayside like spinnaker recently did, Ill pick up some secondhand cuben artifacts, it will have retro credentials. ;-)

I had Javan build a quilt with cuben baffles, but use M90 as the outer, a nice hybrid use of materials, light but still resembles something I would want next to my skin. It has benefits of the cuben material inside the quilt, without a cuben exterior.

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder on 07/22/2011 21:16:15 MDT Print View

There is nothing more beautiful in the rain, snow, or wind than my cuben fiber MLD Grace Solo tarp in bland olive drab & the fact that it folds down like a handkerchief anywhere in my pack & weighs next to nothin' ain't bad either. In fact, most of my UL gear wouldn't win a beauty contest but I've always been a miss congeniality guy anyway! ;)