I use quite a few different fabrics in the construction of Orb UL gear but the main ones are various types of DCF, X-Pac® and Challenge ULTRA™. These are all lightweight, laminated materials.
In this section I'll (try to) provide a brief description of these fabrics and include a few links to the relevant pages at Ripstop by the Roll if you want to know more.
Made by Dimension Polyant, the background of these fabrics is in the sailing industry. Usually featuring laminate construction(rather than a coating), X-Pac® is reasonably durable for it's weight and waterproof. X-Pac® takes a printed pattern well and is the most affordable of the fabrics I use.
X-Pac® fabrics come in a bewildering array of weights/types but the most common ones I use are the VX-07 and LS-21.
VX-07 is a four layer laminate featuring a polyester outer (70 denier), an X grid for tear resistance, a waterproof polyester film and a DWR treated scrim on the back side of the fabric. It makes great wallets, pouches and packs. It's generally not seam sealable with tape.
LS-21 (LiteSkin®) This is a different beast from the VX-07. It features a non woven polyester face fabric that's coated in resin. Behind that is a polyester film and a 210d nylon backing. It's more abrasion resistant then the VX-07, its heavier and comes in only one colour.
What to expect from X-Pac® fabrics
X-Pac® ages reasonably well maintaining it's appearance with use. Most varieties are not highly abrasion resistant but all are 100% waterproof. Most varieties cant be used with seam tape but can be seam sealed with products such as Aquaseal. Tear strength is ok but not fantastic in the lighter varieties.
More information on X-Pac® can be found here
DCF (Dyneema® Composite Fabric)
I use DCF a lot. Made in the US by DSM, this fabric also comes in many varieties. DCF has been the darling fabric of the UL hiking world for years. It is 100% waterproof, can be seam taped, is very lightweight and has high tenacity. It is used in pretty much all areas of UL gear. Whilst there are a lot of varieties of DCF they all have one thing in common, UHMWPE.
UHMWPE (ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethylene) are the super strong fibres found a the center (of most) DCF fabrics. These fibres are laminated between polyester sheets for stabalistion and waterproofness.
I commonly use two types of DCF in my products, Standard DCF and Hybrid DCF.
Standard DCF comes in many fabric weights. The weight of the fabric is determined by the amount of Dyneema® (UHMWPE) strands and thickness/layers of polyester film.
The lightest weight (0.3 oz) is only really suitable, in my opinion, for use as seam tape backing.
Weights such as the 0.5 oz, 0.69 oz and 0.8 oz are excellent for tents and tarps.
1 oz is the perfect weight for stuff sacks and tent floors/groundsheets.
1.3 oz and 1.43 oz are good for heavier duty items such as packing cubes and food bags.
Hybrid DCF is like standard DCF but with a woven polyester face fabric laminated to it. This provides some abrasion resistance to the DCF making it more suitable for pack construction.
I mainly use the lightest variant of hybrid DCF (2.92 oz) which has a 60 denier face fabric. It makes great bum bags and hip pouches.
There is a Wikipedia page on the history of DCF if you're interested.
What to expect from DCF
DCF is very hard to tear but in most varieties is not very abrasion resistant at all. DCF will retain every crease, fold and scrunch during it's lifetime. Even brand new DCF items will be creased just from the process of making them. DCF is 100% waterproof and can be seam taped, it is also easy to repair with seam tape. The hybrid versions do offer some abrasion resistance but you should avoid rubbing DCF against rocks etc.
More information on DCF fabrics can be found here
Challenge ULTRA™ fabrics
The new kid on the block, Challenge ULTRA™ is taking over rapidly as the fabric of choice for packs, bum bags etc.
There are a few reasons for this; It is very lightweight, strong, waterproof, can be seam taped and is much more abrasion resistant than DCF or X-Pac® for the weight. It also uses some recycled materials in it's construction and produces less carbon emissions in production.
Challenge ULTRA™ fabrics consist of two layers, the face and a backing film.
The face fabric consists of 67% woven UHMWPE and 33% recycled polyester. The UHMWPE provides superior abrasion resistance and strength. The recycled polyester helps stabalise the UHMWPE and assists in the bonding of the polyester backing film. The polyester backing film is also recycled.
The downside of this wonder fabric is it's expense.
Orb Ultralight uses ULTRA™ 100 and 200 in its products.
What to expect from ULTRA™
Like DCF, ULTRA™ retains folds and creases. It is much much more abrasion resistant than DCF. ULTRA is 100% waterproof and can be seam taped.
More information on Challenge ULTRA™ fabrics can be found here
For Zippers I exclusively use YKK Uretek water resistant zip and sliders. They are not waterproof but are reasonably water resistant and do a pretty decent job of keeping out rain. I mainly use the #3 size which is commonly found on rain jackets for closures.
All stitching is done with the industry standard Gutermann MARA 70 100% polyester thread. This is a good all-rounder in terms of strength and UV resistance.