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Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost)
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Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/23/2011 13:52:11 MST Print View

I keep seeing comments about making certain tents in Cuben and the possible weight savings.
There are at least 3 shelters out that are made with both silnylon and Cuben.
Note the cost difference compared to weight saved.

Terra Nova Photon $600
Ultra $1030 160g/5.6oz lighter

SMD Skyscape Trekker $225 ($192 right now)
X $450 200g/ 7oz lighter

LHG Solo $245 ($199 right now)
Cuben $475 200-250g /7/8.8oz lighter

(the TN cost was the aprox exchange rate when I did the comparison...)

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/23/2011 14:08:59 MST Print View

I understand that, but that's one of the choices that's made when gear weight reductions have progressed along the path of diminishing returns and I'm still willing to spend money to reduce weight. While that may appeal on the surface to those desiring to go SUL or XUL, it's also a good one for those of us that want to be very comfortable while remaining at the low end of UL or lower.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/23/2011 17:09:30 MST Print View

Interesting post. Opting for cuben in those 3 shelters mentioned costs $32 (SMD), $26-$32 (LHG) and $95 (Terra Nova) per ounce saved.

Based on that, it's pretty clear that Terra Nova is pricing their cuben tent ridiculously high (or there's a currency issue at play). I don't think it's really fair to use the Terra Nova example because it's not a fair representation of the costs/benefits of's just an example of a manufacturer chasing dollars by pricing a shelter as high as they think they can.

MLD is another company that uses both fabrics. Comparing the DuoMid, we see cuben costs $200 more for 6oz saved vs. silnylon, or $33 per ounce. Taking Terra Nova out of the equation, all of these companies are charging $26-$33 per ounce saved.

Is cuben worth $26-$33 per ounce saved? That all depends on a hikers personal UL journey and financial state, but for a lot of people the answer is yes. I'd rather pay this, than save weight through some compromise in functionality like opting for a single wall shelter over a double wall.

The other factor at play here is that cuben is about more than saving weight. Compared to silnylon, it's also far more waterproof, non-saggy and non-slippery. Low denier nylons like silnylon often require re-tensioning in extended rains or canopies can sag and stick to the inner. I also find silnylon floors to be annoyingly slippery, which is really only cured by adding weight (ie. using silicone stripes or dots). There's also the waterproof issue. I've personally had silnylon floors not stand up to wet ground on several occasions, while with a heavier duty (ie. 1.2oz or 1.5oz) cuben floor I would happily pitch it in the puddle without worry.

Yes you can argue some downsides to cuben too, but IMO it's a far better fabric than silnylon for shelter applications. Even if no weight was saved, I'd pay a premium for cuben. It's certainly not for everyone...especially people who are new to this and likely to swap shelters 5 times before they find one they really like, but for a fairly mature UL'er who's shaved most of the weight they can, cuben is a way to significantly lighten your load while increasing the functionality of your gear with the only downside being cost. I personally love ways to save weight when the only downside is cost (ie. higher FP down) because cost doesn't affect me in the field. When I save weight via other methods like reducing durability or decreasing functionality they I usually regret it. Pay the money for cuben and then you'll be stoked with that piece of gear for a long time.

Edited by dandydan on 11/24/2011 00:03:14 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/23/2011 17:46:12 MST Print View

"Opting for cuben in those 3 shelters mentioned costs $32 (SMD), $26-$32 (LHG) and $95 (Terra Nova)."

I don't think that is what you meant.


Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/23/2011 17:51:11 MST Print View

He means cost per ounce (saved over the silnylon version)

Edited by saparisor on 11/23/2011 19:37:40 MST.

Andrew McAlister
(mcalista) - F
Cost/weight on 11/23/2011 17:59:50 MST Print View

You are definitely right about the cost.

I keep a little spreadsheet detailing cost per ounce saved.(Actually, it's in metric, so it's actually per 100 grams).

I would dearly love to get a new sleeping bag to replace to 4 lb antique I have at the moment, but that spreadsheet clearly shows there are better value weight savings to be had elsewhere.

And while I might lust after the weight savings of cuben, it's just nowhere near competitive on dollars per ounce saved.

Of course, maybe someone who is further down the UL curve than I am may see cuben as good value.

Matt Summa
(shattercat) - F

Locale: I dig the South.
cuben on 11/23/2011 21:35:32 MST Print View

I completely agree with Dan. I would imagine that most people that visit this website are interested in light, high performance gear. When I was new to backpacking, I bought gear based on the manufacturer or the novelty of an item. Now, I specifically look at three main things, weight, durability, and performance. IMO, cuben out performs any other fabric out there based on these principles. Yeah, it costs more, but you get what you pay for. The more cuben gear I buy, the less gear Ill have to buy in the future to replace old, worn out gear. Makes sense to me, I must confess. I really like the idea of creating a permanent gear list, that is until they come out with something that out performs cuben.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Typo on 11/24/2011 00:03:45 MST Print View

"I don't think that is what you meant."

Fixed. I meant $/oz.

"I would dearly love to get a new sleeping bag to replace to 4 lb antique I have at the moment, but that spreadsheet clearly shows there are better value weight savings to be had elsewhere."

There are some amazing $/oz saved opportunities for people fairly new to their UL journey. A few examples that I came across in my own journey were:
- A 5oz Nalgene can be replaced with a $20 1oz Platypus or a free 1.5oz 'disposable' water bottle.
- I replaced my 5oz MSR Miox water gadget with chlorine dioxide pills and the pills weighing about .1oz/trip. I sold the Miox for enough money to buy pills for years.

Edited by dandydan on 11/24/2011 00:06:47 MST.

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/24/2011 00:12:16 MST Print View

Dan's hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. The advantage of cuben isn't just the weight saving. As for cost, we all have to prioritize our spending choices in life. My wife and I live cheaply and we both work (though relatively low-paid), which means we have some cash to spare when we want to splash out. Others may not be in the same position.
@ Franco: Do you know what Henry Shire's reluctance to use cuben is based on? Is it a personal feeling that it's somehow frivolous to spend so much for "so little" weight saving? Or has he done some sort of MR and found that there wouldn't be enough demand for cuben Tarptents to be worth the development effort and cost? As you say, you keep seeing comments about it - there is clearly some level of demand.

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
Re: Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/24/2011 08:33:54 MST Print View

I think "Cost" is an oversimplified term and the comparison of weight vs cost for cuben vs silnylon is a bit narrow for any comparison.

A few posters noted it is also about performance.
Others would also note satisfaction in having the lightest and strongest gear.
Still others would prefer cuben as a more purist expression representing their goals in the sport.

I usually think about any purchase in terms of Value - not cost.

Of course everyone has a set budget and assigns Value differently for different categories.

Gear and Running Shoes: I usually get the very best and feel I get back Value Over Time. Car's: I drive a 1998 Subaru and love it. Lawn Mowers: I usually buy the cheapest since I don't use it much and hate yard work. Maybe some faulty economics at work in my reasoning- but that's just how I roll...

If you can afford the cost difference at the start, then I think a far better comparison for any gear is Cost Per Use Day (CPUD- ha).

Shelter in Silnylon $200 20oz
Shelter in Cuben $370 14oz
$170 = 6oz - $28 per ounce
Sounds like a big difference just looking at it this way.

CPUD Factor- Engaged!
250 night usable service life (conservative number)
170/250 = .68

That's 68 cents more cost per day of use. Pretty Good!

(Of course I'm skipping the more elaborate economics math- but you get the idea.)

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Cuben v Sil on 11/24/2011 08:42:49 MST Print View

The actual weight difference between the SMD Trekker (24 oz) and X (15 oz) is 9 ounces. With a cost difference of $225 between the two tents, the price per ounce saved is $25.

You should also note that the high price for the Terra Nova tents is because they have included retail margin into the tent. We only sale the X directly. If sold through the retail chanel, it'd be significantly more expensive.


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Cuben v Silnylon (weight v cost) on 11/24/2011 14:15:10 MST Print View

Ron Moak
I took the figures from your web site, I could have made a mistake but I see now that the X is listed at 16oz and the Trekker at 24oz...

Anyway my intention was not to criticise the cost of Cuben just to highlight that maybe some expect greater weight savings than you in fact would get .

Of course if someone perceive Cuben to be a better solution (than silnylon or any other fabric) it could make sense to pay more even at the same weight.
I would...
And just for the record . I definitely DO NOT think TN charges ridiculously high prices simply because I don't know what their costs are.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
opportunity cost on 11/24/2011 15:08:12 MST Print View

the question IMO is better put into terms of what you are giving up ...

does that extra $200-$400 dollars means that youll have to scrimp on the rest of your gear ... does it mean that youll have to settle for a pack or shoes that dont fit as well ... or a heavier sleeping bag?

for some money is no object ... unfortunately in this economy, this is not so for many people ...

IMO id rather spend the extra moola on shoes that fit, a pack that doesnt cause backaches, or a sleeping bag that should last over a decade (longer than a tent) ...

as long as the sil version is the functionally equivalent (and i assume so as the great skurka took one with him when chasing alaskan bears) ... i dont worry about it

the worst is when yr giving up a trip in order to buy "better" gear ...

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Cuben durability on 11/29/2011 08:47:25 MST Print View

How about Cuben's long term durability? I haven't used it myself for long enough to know yet. Concerns about delamination in the not-so-long term due to sun exposure are probably not too much of a problem for shelters... how about sewing needle holes in tension areas? Do they become a problem over time? I actually am not up to date about construction techniques and I don't know if sewing is still used over bonding...

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
re: Cuben durability on 11/29/2011 12:02:00 MST Print View

I bought a Lightheart solo for the CDT this year, and got the main body (integral fly) in cuben, but the floor in sil-nylon --- for two reasons. Durability, and cost savings. For me, these came together to make that decision seem easy/obvious. The floor of a tent is just going to get more and harder wear.

I think it was a good decision; both fly and tent floor are doing fine after 100+ nights in the tent this year. I would be interested to hear how well a cuben floor lasts in a tent; based on how the cuben carry sack for the tent looks now, I wouldn't be optimistic, but who knows (and use of a ground cloth could certainly make a difference --- but then add back in more weight).

In terms of weight vs. cost (the overall thread theme): my personal opinion is that for most people, cuben is too expensive to justify the cost. I'm talking about someone who goes out for maybe a two week trip once a year, that sort of thing. I just don't think the weight savings is worth the cost. For me, spending five months where all but two nights out I slept in the tent, it was worth it. Particularly since this will become my go-to solo tent now, as it's effectively a double walled tent and I live in the Pacific NW. But without something as extensive as a thru-hike, I think an all sil-nylon version would have been the wise choice (or better yet, sticking with the solo tent I had been using).

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Cuben floors on 11/30/2011 23:25:09 MST Print View

The lighter variants (0.74oz and under) of cuben worry me when used a floor. Cuben does well with water, UV, strain, pulling etc but it doesn't do so well with abrasion and sharp objects poking it. I personally wouldn't buy a shelter with 0.51 or 0.74oz cuben as a floor.

However, the mid-weight versions of cuben (1.2oz and 1.5oz) are far more durable and they're really amazing materials. A 1.5oz cuben floors weighs basically the same as silnylon, but it's far more waterproof and much stronger. I've got a 1.5oz cuben floor in my HMG Echo I and I think it's great. If you've never seen cuben with the heavier .18 mylar (as opposed to 0.08 mylar used in the .74 and lighter cuben variants) then it's a big difference. This stuff is bomber.


Shelter Canopys:
0.33 and 0.48 - Don't do it unless you're having fun pushing XUL
0.51 - Fine if it's well designed and you're comfortable taking good care of your gear. About as durable as 30D nylon in this application.
0.74 - My favorite for shelter canopies, nothing to worry about at all if you take care of your stuff, and it'll probably still be fine if you trip over a guyline. I much prefer this over silnyon.

Shelter Floors:
0.33, 0.48 and 0.51oz - Just don't do it.
0.74 - Only if you're very gentle on your floors and pushing SUL
1.2oz - Good, durable choice. About as solid as 30D nylon in a floor application.
1.5oz - Solid bomber floor. More durable than a 30D nylon in a floor application.

Edited by dandydan on 11/30/2011 23:25:56 MST.

Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
Sil v Cuben on 12/12/2011 09:42:16 MST Print View

It can also depend on the type of shelter you're looking at. When I was looking at solo tarps, Sil was the way to go. But now that I've gotten into hammocks, I'm sold on cuben since it gives me a much bigger tarp for so much less weight and is the only practical way to hammock and keep under my self imposed 1 lb shelter limit. For me in this situation it's double the price for more than half the weight cut. Tottaly worth it. If I were to go to ground, I don't think cuben would still hold that value for me.

Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Re: re: Cuben durability on 12/16/2011 22:32:05 MST Print View

"my personal opinion is that for most people, cuben is too expensive to justify the cost."


While I want my gear to be as reliable and durable as the next person, as a grad student, I just can't justify the cost when the wight savings aren't all that amazing. That money will be better spent on a tank of gas or a plane ticket where I can use my silnylon tent.

And while this may sound silly, I just absolutely hate the way cuben looks, aesthetically speaking. To each their own, of course.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Cuben durability on 12/17/2011 04:03:57 MST Print View

Back in the early days of cuben there were a LOT of seam failures. Most people were stitching the material like silnylon, putting on seam sealer and going for it. Durability was thought to be poor because seams didn't hold up well. Later taped and glued seams became more the norm. Mostly, these have good durability, but they are not like the older silnylon. They do not stretch much and do not have that forgiving nature that made working with silnylon easy. And, the cuben material itself has evolved. Mylar, extra reinforcements, improved lamination all mean the material is better.

During the same time, silnylon has actually degraded. Prior to 2006, the coatings were a bit thicker, tended to be a more forgiving and were better bonded to to fabric. A fine hole often repaired itself. This means that the new stuff no longer resists weathering that well. The cheaper substrate material is lighter (from about 1.5oz/yd in 2006 to about 1.3/oz per yard today, total weight change.) It is not quite as waterproof and can develope "spray" issues after several uses in heavy downpours.

For today, the issue of cuben vs silnylon means generally going with products of about equivalent durability. (Older silnylon, if you can find it, has a significantly better overall life span and works about the same as cuben, albeit heavier. Weight per Days of Use was better with silnylon.)

The techniques for using the two materials differ. You do not NEED a sewing machine with cuben. Tape & glue. The cuts need to be much closer, there is little room for error. Kevlar reinforcment means cutting with shears/scisors is not really good; hot cutting or a disposable razor/X-acto knife works well. Engineering a tent can be difficult because the pieces need to line up exactly for tape & glue to work. Allowances need to be made for slightly greater seam widths. Generally, you avoid seam stress, and do not count on the rolled seam as reinforcement for a ridge line. Broken loops can be painfull to replace, or, simply not possible. Adding a new one next door may be the only option. Maintenence is poor. Once taped & glued, it is permanent. You cannot use a seam ripper to repair or modify it. In the field, duct tape works well for repairs, though, with up to 6mo's, to a year out of a patch.

Silnylon requires a sewing machine. The material stretches, so, carfull tension is required. It is slipery, but, this is both a boon and a detriment. Layouts don't need quite the same accuracy since it will stretch a little. Cutting with shears is easy and it does not dull them. Engineering within an inch or so is all that is needed. The material will sag or tighten depending on humidity. After a few uses it is easy to "train" a tent. Seams can be narrower, or wider within a fairly large tollerence. A rolled seam *can* be used for reinforcement on a ridge line for example. A broken loop?? Sew it back on after removing the old one. A seam ripper can allow fixes and mods as needed. Sealing a few small needle holes is easy. Repairing in the field is not quite as easy with duct tape. It should be considered temperary at best.

Of course, the same issues with reinforcements on guy line, corners, any pole mounts, and high stress areas still apply to both. Only the methode of attachment will vary a bit.

Cuben is fairly transparent. If you are body modest, not the best to use. Silnylon is generally more opaque. Other people may object if they can see into your tent, soo, use some caution in public camp sites if you use cuben.

Overall water resistance of cuben is very high. Despite tested results of low hydrostatic head. It is more than enough to turn rain. Sylnylon is OK, but not qute as good, despite tested results of higher hydrostatic head. Generally speaking, condensation is *terrible* with cuben. It needs well engineered vents!! Sylnylon is much more forgiving, but still traps condensation. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would put cuben about 9.5 being close to the worst. Silnylon would get about a 7. This is from personal observation, soo, YMMV.

So, comparing cuben to silnylon, is kind'a like comparing apples and oranges. There is a LOT more to it than simply cost. Yes, it costs about $30/yd(USD.) My last batch of silnylon cost about $7/yd(USD.) For the few yards in a solo shelter, this means about $150 for cuben. For silnylon this means about $42 for silnylon. $300 for a full 2 person tent from cuben is about right. $85 for a silnylon version. Weight of a two person tent will be about 12oz for cuben. Silnylon will weigh about 20oz. The materials are simply greatly different, though. I would suggest too different to compare on a simple cost basis.

A pretty fair example would be a simple 4 night camping trip to the ADK's. We need to drive ~5 hours, soo, we end up staying at a state campsite. We hike the next two nights, getting back to the state site late the fourth day and get a shower. We pack up, and leave the next morning, cleaning gear, sorting laundry, etc...2 nights in a state campsite, people may object if we use cuben, soo, we use an older tent. Out in the woods we use cuben. Or, 1/2 of the time we have, we cannot use our brand new cuben tent. And we still use silnylon. Car camping means we don't care about weight, silnylon is fine. Our cost per Day of Use doubled. And we need two tents with us, not one. More packing and unpacking. More storage in the car, and, in the gear room. I really don't care about the extra half pound at this point. The complexity has just risen to beyond tolerable. One tent works. Why carry two? Extra effort in loading, extra effort in unloading, ... a logistical problem I CAN avoid.

If I am going solo, things are much different. I will not stop at a state site, rather, simply hike out for several hours to some starting campsite. I don't usually stink that bad, well...I can't smell it (ha hey...) When I get back, I will sort gear and do whatever...I don't have to duplicate anything. My gear is simpler. Cuben makes MUCH more sense. I get all the use out of it per day that is possible. It generally works better in rain. And, I can be a bit more carefull with it. My choice?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Question for Dan on 12/17/2011 17:23:59 MST Print View

How much does Cuben CT2K.08 weigh? I'm having trouble finding an answer in ounces/yd2.