This review has been a long time coming!
Earlier this year; myself, headchange4u, and ncpatrick were discussing a small personal group buy of cuben material to use for tarp making. After quite a bit of back and forth chat about sources, material, and techniques...and after picking the brains of a few folks with cuben working experience, we contacted Brian from OES to get his thoughts. In the conversation that followed, Brian agreed to make some prototypes! While that process took a while (ordering and receiving the material, material and method testing and sample mailing, fitting the build into Brian's schedule, etc) we finally got the tarps in early May. And, for the last 3 months or so have been using and testing them in our spare time. Specs and thoughts are as follows -
Cuben Fabric - Cubic Tech 1K.08 Olive Drab
Dimensions - 130"×104" (MacCat Deluxe)
Methods - Taped ridgeline, fully sewn perimeter, taped and sewn corner reinforcements.
Weight - 4.7oz!!
Corner Sample Brian mailed to each of us -
And some pics of the finished product -
Note the variant shading of the olive color in the different photos. While olive cuben does have a distinctive shade, it very much picks up the hue of the surrounding light. This translucent property is simply the nature of cuben fabric in this thickness. The visibility isn't without merit, though, since it is interesting to be able to see the night sky through the tarp on a clear night, although it might make sleeping difficult under a full moon.
The tarp itself is made in the usual bomber-tough fashion that we've all come to expect from OES. The stitching is all extremely tight, evenly spaced, and impeccably straight. Brian's choice to sew the tie-outs and perimeter as opposed to taping it is indeed a departure from the normal cuben construction methods, but his detailed tailoring skills allows this method to work nicely. After placing a lot of intentional stress on both the corner panels and along the edging, I find no weakness or apparent stress points. The ridgeline is fully taped, however, so that no seam-holes exist above the area that would cover a hammock.
I personally have had the above pictured tarp in a thunderstorm with excessively high winds, such that force of wind on the tarp pulled my stakes from the ground on one side, and the tarp flapped wildly. But after securing the stakes again, I could find no damage to any part of the tarp.
As opposed to other OES tarps, it is recommended that a full-length ridgeline cord be used with the cuben version. That helps protect the taped seam from undue tensioning stress, as well as allowing even-tension to be placed on the panels of this no-stretch material.
We're glad to have gotten the chance to use these prototypes! This was my first experience with a cuben tarp, and I have come away impressed that it is more durable in-use that I expected it to be. The folks that attended the last Red River Gorge hang got to see two of these in person, so they also can comment on the construction details.
At the end of his part of the project, Brian sent us the following comments that sum up these tarps nicely -
For those of you that are interested, Brian is still tweaking his prototype details but hopes to make them available on a limited custom order basis by fall. Keep an eye on his site for info.Originally Posted by Brian
It's an exciting time for new lightweight tarp materials! I'm pleased to have gotten a chance to see the development first hand.