Fashion and the delams

Challenge’s Ultraweave fabrics have seen impressively broad acceptance this winter, with companies as diverse as Pa’lante and Stone Glacier using it, and companies like MLD and Seek Outside moving to make it a core part of their pack line ups.  As I found out this past summer, the specs are impressive, and the marketing equally so (the gent who was responsible for much of Dimension-Polyants growth in the pack sector ran the Ultraweave rollout), which explains the remarkably fast market penetration.  I’ve built packs out of Ultra 400 and 800 for myself and for clients, including a 20 liter bag I’ve used almost daily sine August, and thus far everyone has been nothing but happy.

And yet, I wonder if later this year a number of us will end up regretting being early adopters, due to fabric delamination.

This post has been kicking around 3 months, with no good answer so far as I am aware.  Of most concern for me is the 3rd photo, where it seems that delamination along the stitch line is allowing the weft to slide on the warp.  Ultra is a different fabric, 66% spectra and 34% poly, with spectra being notoriously slick and difficult to laminate.  DX40 is another woven which blended spectra and poly, though in a very different proportion, and while DX40 suffered very asymmetrical abrasion as a result, I think the concerns are broadly similar.  More acutely with Ultraweave, the unanswered question is how much dimensional stability the fabric would maintain under consistent load without the non-stretch film on the back.

Film delamination has always been a concern with pack fabrics.  Every two layer laminate (i.e. no interior scrim like the VX line) I’ve put heavy use into has delaminated, at least a tiny bit, generally along seam lines.  Heavy stitch penetration, especially where something is bartacked through the fabric not on a seam line, exacerbates delamination significantly.  Overall this has never bothered me; even something like X33 maintains plenty of dimensional stability even without the film, and the performance gains of laminate fabrics are valuable enough for me, and my lifespan expectations for any pack modest enough.  I do think the “forever waterproof” marketing claims are overwrought, if not outright disingenuous, but at the same time having exaggerated hopes for your 4-600 dollar pack is quite forgiveable.  My concern is the structural concerns, something even deliberate abuse to my daypack has yet to bring to light.

It seems certain that, with the number and range of Ultraweave packs going out into the world these days, we will find out soon.


6 responses to “Fashion and the delams”

  1. I saw that post when I was looking into Ultraweave for the pack I had made. It was a bit concerning, but sometimes you have to take the risk I figure. Hopefully with time the concern will be proven to be an anomaly.

    1. Hopefully! Your pack having everything sewn into the seams should mitigate any chance of that.

      1. That’s why it’s helpful to have someone that knows what they are doing sewing your pack…much more than just fabric selection and shape.

  2. Now that more time has passed, any more thoughts on Ultra fabrics – based on how your packs have faired, or what you’ve heard regarding other packs? Challenge recommends seam taping, or at the least top stitching. Have you used any special seam constructions in your designs?

    1. A bit late here, have been doing other things.

      I didn’t do anything special with any seams on the packs I’ve made from Ultra, generally just a 1/2″ seam allowance and double stitched seams. No binding or anything. On the ~40 liter pack I’ve been using for the past year I stitched the shoulder straps straight in to a single layer of Ultra 400 with a couple layers of cordura behind the bartacks.

      No delaming thus far, and entirely satisfactory performance. On my daypack (which has gotten near daily use for ~18 months) the fabric just looks janky, with lots of set creases, stains, etc. The slick dyneema yarns just don’t have that much dimensionsal cohesion. It is far from clear that this is a huge problem long term, but will I imagine prevent broader commerical acceptance.

      1. Thanks for the update Dave. Good to hear it’s been holding up, structurally at least. I wish Ultra TX was available to MYOGers, maybe it will be at some point. With the internal lining (like xpac VX series) the delam possibility should be lessened and maybe it will help with the wrinkly appearance over time.

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