View Full Version : Origin of Cuben Fiber in Backpacking Gear

10-28-2017, 20:40
I am doing some coursework and have an essay I would like to center around the adaptation of Cuben Fiber into backpacking gear. I am looking for any knowledge or resources on how it came to be. Who was the first to market it? What sort of gear? Was it initially successful, and what got it to the level it is at now? Any insight, even if just your recollection, would be very helpful. Thanks!

10-28-2017, 20:52
Cuben suddenly became "a thing" maybe 5-6 years ago? If you search the gear forum, you can find out when it first became a topic of discussion.

I think tents were the first product to go cuben since there has always been an on going search for better tent materials. The same thing which made it good for sails (for which it was developed) -- light weight, waterproof, nonabsorbent, and wear resistant, Cuben has all the characteristics one wants for things like packs and tents. Unfortunately, the material is expensive, so it hasn't become all pervasive.

10-29-2017, 02:36
I bought my first piece of cuben fiber gear in early 2008 from Mountain Laurel Designs (their grace solo tarp which they still sell though it's been updated). Cuben fiber was pretty new then. I think it had been in the UL cottage industry about a year by then. At least I didn't hear of it prior to 2007. I first saw it show up in UL tarps and stuff sacks. Seemed to start with rectangular and catenary cut tarps. Then shaped tarps. Single Wall shelters showed up latter and then backpacks.

MLD was one of the early adopters. I can't say they were the first as I don't know; they certainly the most well known company at the time. Oware also was making CF tarps by the time I bought my first tarp from MLD.

The first generation stuff was pretty much a niche market for the UL crowd. If you didn't know about the few cottage makers that used it who weren't as widely known back then you probably never heard of the material. I learned about it from a online form dedicated to UL gear and backpacking (backpacking light); Basically a bunch of fanatical gram weanies. Unlike the first generation stuff, the 2nd generation came in two fabric weights. Most stuff is now made using the heavier fabric weight, though some UL gear is offered in the lighter weight while sacrificing durability.

It's successful in that it's use spread. But several companies who tried making tents with it stopped as the production cost was high. The ones with the most success sell direct online with no middle man. Mainstream companies haven't been as successful as the traditional way of marketing would have a shelter cost over $1k which few would buy. Zpacks current direct pricing already has many rethinking buying CF in tents. It would only be worse when a retailer has to add their markup.

10-29-2017, 06:28
I am not sure if he was first or not but I recall seeing somewhere that Joe Valesko from zpacks noticed people using lighter dyneema cord on packs and he found that racing sails used the same material and he got some and built some packs. He formed zpacks in 2005.

10-29-2017, 08:37
why not reach out and try to contact Joe at ZPacks for an interview?
The folks at these other companies too.....

10-29-2017, 09:36
This will be interesting to hear more details about when you finish your research, MacGyver.

2005-2006 sounds about right, I have a hiking buddy (double crowner) who used a zpacks solo on his PCT thru in 2006, and talked me into buying one, I now have two.

10-29-2017, 10:57
Thank you all for the wonderful help so far! Off the top of my head I remembered 2007, with Hyperlite Mountain Gear and then soon after MLD coming in with shelters. I completely overlooked ZPacks, I will absolutely pursue that avenue. As always, you guys rock.

10-29-2017, 11:44
sierra designs used to make a cuben tent before any of the cottage manufacturers started using it.

10-29-2017, 15:25
OP: head over to HikeLighter(dot)com and ask John Abela. He’s got s really good knowledge base on the history of cuben (he may even have an article on it).

sierra designs used to make a cuben tent before any of the cottage manufacturers started using it.

If you’re referring to the SD Mojo UFO, that came quite a few years after the cottage companies began using cuben.

10-29-2017, 17:56
The SD Mojo came out in 2012.
The first use of CF for backpacking that I know of was from Bill Fornshell in 2006.

10-29-2017, 18:08
go to advanced search use the keyword cuben sort results by date ascending click search now and poof all references to cuben on white blaze from the earliest to the latest...

earliest mention of cuben on the wb forum

10-29-2017, 18:18
good find.
Note that the stuff sacks were made with CF , the packs were in silnylon at the time.

11-03-2017, 08:18
i remember it started as diy tarps with the ultralight gearheads back when silny was all the rage. then some diy stuff bags n packs started to emerge before it became comercially available.

check the diy section?