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Anyone used the same piece of cuben gear for more than one thru-hike?
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Matthew Stenger
(MatthewStenger) - F

Locale: its flat but its home
Anyone used the same piece of cuben gear for more than one thru-hike? on 02/01/2014 21:18:38 MST Print View

I don't mind spending money on gear but I want it to last.

I am thinking of investing in the Hammock Gear Standard Cuben Fiber Tarp with doors for my upcoming AT hike, but I'd like to know that I will still be able to use it for adventures after I finish the trail.

So I am curious if anyone has been able to use one piece of cuben gear (say a tarp) for more than one through hike?

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
"Anyone used the same piece of cuben gear for more than one thru-hike?" on 02/01/2014 21:52:07 MST Print View

I have used my hexamid for over a year now, about 500 miles and it still looks new, wrinkled but in great shape. I also use a zPacks tarp. You have to take care of lightweight gear and make absolutely sure there is nothing near it that can puncture holes in it. And I live in cat claw, white thorn and mesquite country so I REALLY go over my camp spots well before even getting my cuben tarp or tent out of the pack. And I keep my tent stakes in an outside pocket and all pointy objects like spoon handles completely away from the cuben while in my pack. I also pick clean the floor netting as much as I can before packing up the hexamid.
I also have several cuben ground cloths, a rain skirt, and they are more the black substantial cuben material and they are also still going strong after many miles, as are my ditty bags and the bear bag, (that one is really tough), but I have not used any cuben back packs, although I see other people have had to repair them at the stress points if overloaded beyond capacity.
And yes I am a cuben fiber addict...:-)

Edited by Drusilla on 02/01/2014 21:53:28 MST.

Trace Richardson
(tracedef) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
CF on 02/01/2014 22:27:35 MST Print View

Heard lots of tales of lots of patches on holes during through hikes. :) I've put a hole in a pack when my pot moved on me and rubbed against the frame in an Exo (forerunner to arc blast). This also might help:

Matthew Stenger
(MatthewStenger) - F

Locale: its flat but its home
Re: CF on 02/01/2014 22:40:39 MST Print View

Thank you, that's the sort of reports I was looking for.

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
Hexamid twin on 02/02/2014 07:39:50 MST Print View

I used a hexamid twin for an AT thru. Used it most every night for shelter. I had to patch one tiny pin hole at the end. If I were not going solo I would take it on the PCT this year too. It certainly has plenty of life left.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Tarps on 02/02/2014 08:38:00 MST Print View

Tarps are a really good application for cuben. They're perhaps the only application where cuben can fully shine because a responsible owner can pretty much eliminate abrasion. If you're not twisting/torquing it, it'll last a long time.

In a lot of other applications (packs, raingear etc) the lifespan tends to be more limited.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Cuben on 02/02/2014 10:26:17 MST Print View

I haven't been impressed with cuben in any application other than for shelters.

I have a 0.51 oz cuben stuff sack that I use for toiletries that I am pretty careful with to not put it directly on the ground, etc. After two years of use, it is covered in repair tape and still has many holes showing through. The same is true for a 0.51 oz stuff sack that I put my tarp in - it's seen less abrasion from stuff inside it, but the seams began to separate and I had to repair them with tape.

I have seen cuben backpacks made of the hybrid material have seams rip, tie outs pull off, and other significant damage after a few rounds of bushwhacking and talus hopping that left my ULA Circuit entirely unscathed.

In poorly designed shelters, I've seen zippers and other seams that were pulling the material apart since they were not reinforced with tape. Even in a 1.0 oz pack liner I got from ZPacks, after a year of use one of the sewn seams started to separate, so it is a problem even with heavier cuben. (They now tape this seam, as did I to repair mine.)

I still think it's a great material for shelters, since the seam issues can be eliminated by good design (e.g. fully taped or bonded) and careful use can basically eliminate all abrasion. However, there are only a few manufacturers out there who are doing it properly in my opinion. Buyer beware.

In my opinion, for people who use their gear a lot and want it to last many years, I'd stick to cuben shelters and use proven materials for packs and other items.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
"Anyone used the same piece of cuben gear for more than one thru-hike?" on 02/02/2014 11:47:39 MST Print View

My MLD Grace Solo tarp in cuben fiber that I bought in early 2008 is still in excellent shape. I've carried it for the length of a PCT thru-hike and a large portion of the AT. I would have no issues taking it on another thru-hike.

Many of my Zpacks cuben fiber stuff sacks have lasted the same length of time though the one I used for my clothing and pillow at night started to fray on my PCT hike. Probably due to the zipper on my down jacket from stuffing it inside every night for my pillow.

Cuben Fiber's biggest weakness is abrasion so you don't want things constantly rubbing it, particularly something with a bit of an edge.

(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Re: Anyone used the same piece of cuben gear for more than one thru-hike? on 02/02/2014 18:25:29 MST Print View

My experience with a cuben pack is that near abrasive rock such as Granite it requires too much attention and care. After about 15 days ( about half off trail) in the Sierras my HMG pack was very beat up with one very long cut in the bottom. I was not impressed with the fabric's durability for a pack of that price.

For shelters you really need to be careful, a stray pole from a stick is all it takes once the fabric is under tension. Although it is quite easy to patch with repair tape.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Anyone used the same piece of cuben gear for more than one thru-hike? on 02/02/2014 18:30:23 MST Print View

I can easily understand how the thin cuben fiber backpacks could get sliced up from granite edges. How about the thicker cuben fiber backpacks like Zpacks is currently selling? Lots of these packs weigh 13-18 ounces and use (what feels to me) like pretty thick cuben fiber. It is possible that they are so new that there is little long-range experience with them.


Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Taking care of gear on 02/02/2014 18:49:05 MST Print View

I think a lot of it may also depend on what you're asking for out of the gear. If you're reasonably careful with the tarp/backpack/etc. and it is made by a reputable manufacturer, It should last. As an example, If I knew I was going to be scraping through granite canyons or sandstone slots, a cuben-hybrid pack wouldn't be my first choice. But for a thru hike? It should be fine.

(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Re: Taking care of gear on 02/02/2014 19:19:44 MST Print View

A $300 pack described by the manufacturer as designed for "climbing" should be able to withstand moderate abrasion with granite regardless of the care. It comes with the territory. Otherwise it is pure marketing hype that I would not expect from a cottage gear manufacturer. .Although in the case of this particular manufacturer (HMG) I am very surprised that the long term test results published here on BPL did not indicate durability issues. My experience has not replicated those results.

My guess is the OP does not intend to climb granite on a thru hike. Nevertheless my experience over a short trip tells me cuben packs need more care than I would want to give on a thru hike.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Cuben should last well beyond one thru-hike for shelters but... on 02/02/2014 20:18:36 MST Print View

What Andrew F said.

My cuben stuff sacks, for example, took a serious beating after one thru-hike, whereas nylon stuff sacks have gone for years with nary a blemish.

My Hexamid has lasted for a thru-hike and weeks more of additional hiking and paddling so far and seems to be as good as new.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Anyone used the same piece of cuben gear for more than one thru-hike? on 02/02/2014 21:11:21 MST Print View

Bob, the example of a backpack that got shredded that I gave earlier was a Zpacks one using the 2.92 oz per square yard polyester reinforced cuben. I just don't see the place for a cuben backpack when Dyneema X weighs 4 oz per square yard and will last a lifetime at half the cost, instead of a year or two of moderate use like I've seen with cuben backpacks.

Buck, I'm curious, is your Hexamid made with 0.51 or 0.74 cuben?

Matthew Stenger
(MatthewStenger) - F

Locale: its flat but its home
ULA's take on 02/03/2014 03:55:16 MST Print View

A few months ago I messaged Chris at ULA about the durability of his cuben packs and here is how he responded:

"As to the Cuben, [...] it's much different than the cuben packs of years past where people used the lightest cuben possible and it self destructed after 500 miles. We only started using Cuben when then came out with the new, poly faced fabric, a little over a year ago. It's incredibly tough, we can't rip it with our hands and I can't puncture using our standard puncture tests (it takes too much pressure, once it gets over 50 # I fear for my knuckles if it does puncture) We had several people use the Cuben packs for the PCT last season, several did the JMT and a bunch were used on Andrew Skurka's Alaska trips, and we've had great reviews on all of them. We have no axe to grind with the Cuben, if it works, great, if not we wouldn't use it, but all the reports so far are extremely positive. I think if you can afford it I'd do it, if not, you can't go wrong with our Robic fabric. I for sure will be carrying a Cuben pack from now on, but I do like to have the top of the line toys.// Chris"

His testimony was one of the reasons why I trusted the cuben enough to buy a backpack (ironically though I bought one from HMG).

Still I am now considering ditching the cuben pack for a normal ULA one since it seems it may last me longer.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Cuben shelter on 02/03/2014 08:02:23 MST Print View

Buck, I'm curious, is your Hexamid made with 0.51 or 0.74 cuben?

I'm pretty sure it's the 0.51. It was the standard model which I bought 2 years ago.

As far as packs go, maybe the new types of cuben fiber do better withstand abrasion. Field testing is the real way to know and that ULA quote should mean something. The kind of cuben I currently own would not hold up well for a thru-hike if used for a pack.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: ULA's take on 02/03/2014 08:19:04 MST Print View

"...the new, poly faced fabric, ... It's incredibly tough..."

Well, that would make a huge improvement to durability.

"...and a bunch were used on Andrew Skurka's Alaska trips..."

Yet Skurka still burned through a couple? Or did a number of packs go to a number of people?


Edited by greg23 on 02/03/2014 08:19:39 MST.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: ULA's take on 02/03/2014 11:08:41 MST Print View

I think a lot of these cuben abrasion issues could be easily solved if they used UHMWPE film instead of the mylar/polyesters. Hard to say for sure, but they might also not have to plasma treat the dyneema/spectra fibers since these ARE a type/form of UHMWPE to begin with. Some heat and pressure might be enough to bond these e.g. a typical calendering type process. (if this is feasible, should also dramatically lower the cost of same)

Could you imagine how strong and durable something like this would be! (next best thing to all, tightly woven dyneema fabric). Course, it would present it's own problems/issues, like sewing or bonding. I think sewing through UHMWPE film would dull needles fast (even the titanium coated ones perhaps). Bonding would be much more difficult. Keep regular cuben (mylar-dyneema blends) for shelters, etc and do the other for packs etc.

(as an aside, i've thought of doing a DIY version of the above proposal. Take some UHMWPE film, laying some thin spectra fishing line and sandwiching it between the films, warming up both a marble rolling pin to a certain temp and the overlayed film and line, and see if i could bond them that way. Having previously used an iron on some UHMWPE film didn't work so well, because i don't know what temps i was using--melted it too fast.)

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
No, but ... on 02/03/2014 22:30:55 MST Print View

I didn't own any cuben gear until my last thru-hike. But I had a Lightheart Solo with cuben upper, a cuben rain skirt and cuben pack cover for my CDT thru, and they all held up well. I'd take any of those on a long trip again, with the caveat that the zippers got a bit wonky on the tent towards the end. But the cuben material all held up fine.

Now, the pack cover and rain skirt were in my pack a lot more than deployed, but the tent I used every night.