Mall of us go hiking because we love nature, so we can reduce our impact on the planet is very well received by the community. Normally, being more environmentally conscious means a compromise somewhere down the line. Synthetic jackets historically haven’t been as well insulated as their down counterparts, vegan materials can wear out faster, and plant-based meat substitutes don’t tend to be as good as their meatier originals. . (if you don’t agree you can enlighten me in the comments).
What if you could do your part for the planet in the choices of equipment you buy without having to make the same compromises? It is or the new EcoPak fabrics can help. These mathe materials have was quickly adopted by the industry, boAsting of better specifications than the fabrics they replace – with a much smaller environmental footprint.
What is EcoPak?
EcoPak is a new line of fabrics made by Challenge Sailcloth, a Connecticut-based supplier of boat and kitesurf sails. For 2021, the of the company emphasis has been placed on the development of sustainable materials. To do this, they designed a line of fabrics solvent free glue, water-repellent CFC-free coatings and 100% recycled yarns. Hale Walcoff, the chief designer of the new fabrics, was previously the brains behind the X-Pac fabrics that are popular in many backpacking bags today.
The are 17 different materials / thicknesses in the EcoPak range, all with different qualitiess, bBut in general, they absorb 80% less moisture, last longer, and have better UV resistance and color retention than traditional laminated nylon. There are two main fabrics currently in use by hiking manufacturers: EPLUltra200 and EPX200. The two are ultralight, waterproof, durable and made from recycled polyester.
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EcoPak is arguably the most environmentally friendly packaging fabric in the world.
All EcoPak materials are either 100% recycled or use recycled components as well as low energy production methods. Each meter of Ecopak fabric uses at least 20 recycled plastic bottles in the process and emits 50% less CO2 than nylon, saving more than one pound of CO2 per meter. In addition, the production does not use any solvents, fluorocarbons, or ovens, and does not create wastewater.
What’s even more impressive is that by reducing energy consumption, reducing waste and improving the manufacturing process, the material costs suppliers around 20% less per yard than traditional fabrics like X-Pac: truly a win-win.
What is the EPX200?
Made from 100% recycled polyester and recyclable after use, this fabric does everything possible to minimize its ecological footprint. It is very similar to the very popular Xpac VX21 fabric. The EPX 200 is 100% waterproof, weighs about 20% less than its traditional nylon counterpart, and with 70d ripstop backing, it enjoys point holding and superior tear resistance. It comes in a huge range of colors which means you can wear some awesome cute backpacks.
What is EPL ULTRA 200?
If you’re looking for the best tech specs in a material with the lightest benchmark, this is it. At 3.5 ounces per square meter, this material is very light. For reference, that is the same weight as the Dyneema composite material (DCH50) used by Hyperlite in its Pack range. Where the Ultra 200 outperforms DCF is this it benefits from a much better longevity.
With three times the tear resistance and seven times the abrasion resistance of DCH, EcoPak claims that “it far exceeds the technical properties of any fabric of similar weight available on planet Earth.” Available in black or white and fully waterproof, the seams can also be sealed for complete waterproofing.
What do cabin makers have to say about EcoPak?
I contacted some bag manufacturers as part of the writing of this story and all of them have received rave reviews.
Tom Gale, Founder of Atoms Packs, said:
There is significant environmental waste and damage in the world of textiles, and while these Challenge materials are not completely harmless, they are an important step in the right direction. They’ve also improved on some of the x-pac issues while creating a product that’s lighter, cheaper, and at least as durable..
In a nutshell: better fabric at a better price that hurts less overall and cuts and sews as well if not better than its closest competitor while looking utterly awesome … what’s not to like !?
August, the founder of Blind Banana Bags, said:
Tests have shown that the new Ultraweave fabrics eliminate the disadvantages of other woven and non-woven UHMWPE fabrics. Namely the properties of abrasion, lamination and seam retention. In fact, they fare better than virtually any other waterproof fabric I’ve tested in this regard. While they work well from a technical standpoint, there is still heavy testing to be done in the real world. It’s promising though, and I don’t think I can name a more optimal fabric for ultralight bags.
Mark Benson, Founder of Waymark Gear, said:
So far we’ve released the EPX200 in red in our THRU, LITE, and MILE packs, but we plan to expand it to different colors and models over time. The environmental aspect was a big part of the decision, and finding that the fabric is essentially equivalent in performance to Xpac, slightly lighter and at a lower cost, it was a given.
Finally, Pa’Lante Packs wrote a great article explaining why they upgraded to their V2 pack hardware.
What is available on the market today?
The Atom packs seem to have adopted these new fabrics faster than the rest, as far as we can tell. True to their desire to reduce their carbon footprint, all Atom Packs hiking packs now come standard with EPX200. Ultra 200 is also available on their custom backpacks. If you decide to go for a custom pack, every minor detail of the bag can be adjusted. Pack sizes range from 30L for the Atom (14.3oz), up to 60L (33oz) with the framed Mo pack.
See our reviews of the Mo here and the Atom + here. Note: These have been tested with Robic Extreema fabric.
MSRP: Packs start from $ 220 for the Atom 30L.
Buy AtomPacks here
Blind waist bags
Blind Banana Bags, based in Denmark, is a relatively young company, established only three years ago. The new Plantain Ultra pack uses Ultra 200 and Ultra 400 fabric to create an incredibly low 12 oz frameless pack weight. The packages range from 30 to 40 liters.
MSRP: Starting at $ 300.
Buy blind fanny packs here
LiteAF’s popular Curve Packs also benefit from Ultra 200 in their lineup. The packs range from 30 to 46L and can be fully custom as you like. The only downside to using Ultra200 is that you are not longer able to use the stunning colors for which LiteAF is famous. Weights start at 11oz (this assumes the smallest torso size at 30L without customization).
MSRP: Starting at $ 225 for the 30 L pack
Buy LiteAF here
The Lite 50L and Thru 40L come with the option to replace the standard VX21 with EPX200. TO at the moment this is only available in red, but i imagine over time more colors will come if EPX proves popular. This should happen, given that it has superior properties than the VX21.
MSRP: Starting at $ 240 for the 40L pack.
Buy your Waymark equipment here
The Palante V2 is a 31 or 37 liter pack available as an Ultra 200. This pack starts at an impressive 16.8 oz but is limited to two relatively small and frameless models.
MSRP: Packs start from $ 240.
Buy Pa’Lante here
As EcoPak made some serious inroads into the cabin pack industry, I was curious to see what the future held for more durable tents. So I reached out to Hale, the lead EcoPak designer at Challenge Sailcloth to find out:
We have new styles of Ultra Lighter Fabrics in development, which should be ready by the end of 2021: 1. Ultra 100: 100d Ultra Weave Pack Fabric with a target weight of 2.9 oz / sqyd 2. UltraTarp: 0.95 oz / sqyd laminated with Ultra wire inserted for stretch resistance and tear resistance.
The UltraTarp material appears to compare well to nylon materials like the one used in our TarpTent Double Rainbow, although a bit heavier than DCF fabrics used in tents like Zpacks’ Duplex (0.55 oz / sqyd for fabric canopy). That said, while the UltraTarp’s weight seems a bit heavier, we’ll have to see if it comes with superior durability.
Having heard of EcoPak fabrics, I’m having a hard time to be convinced to use something else on the market. The fabrics have better durability than the beloved X-Pac and DCF counterparts at the same weight and have the best environmental qualities of anything available today. I’m really excited to see EcoPak being adopted so quickly by the industry, which is only possible because the material is cheaper, more durable and better for the planet at the same time. Hopefully we’ll see the same happen in the tent department once this material becomes available to equipment companies.
Have you used EcoPak fabrics? Is there a missing equipment company using EcoPak? Do you think there is a superior material? Let us know in the comments.
Note: Some quotes have been shortened for brevity.
Featured Image: Graphic Design by Chris Helm (@ chris.helm).