As any backpacker, trekker or thru-hiker will tell you, when you are carrying several days’ worth of food and gear up steep mountain paths, every ounce counts.
Serious backpackers and thru-hikers have been known to saw off the ends of toothbrushes, just to save a couple of grams of weight.
Durston Gear, an outdoor gear company based in Golden, B.C. that was founded by a backpacker known for setting the record for the Stein Traverse in B.C. (19 hours), has a new ultra-light backpack that will appeal to the weight and environmentally conscientious.
And it is another B.C. company -- Victoria’s Aluula Composites (TSX-V:AUUA) – that is providing the composite material that makes it so special.
Durston’s new Wapta 30 backpack weighs just 12.8 ounces (365 grams), but the fabric is super-tough. The secret ingredient in the pack is Graflyte – a Dacron-type of material made by Aluula Composites that is not only light, but waterproof, tougher than steel (by weight) and recyclable.
Aluula’s Graflyte is one of four different types of patented materials that the composite materials science company makes. Most of the applications for Aluula fabrics and materials are in outdoor recreation and aerospace.
Graflyte is an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), which is a type of polymer that is said to be stronger than steel, by weight.
Aluula’s breakthrough was developing a special heat bonding technique that eliminates the needs for glues and resins in making polymer-based composite materials. This makes the material recyclable.
Additional features of Graflyte that will appeal to backpack makers is that the material is super light, waterproof, UV resistant, and resistant to tearing and puncturing.
“The Graflyte family of products was specifically developed with packs in mind,” said Aluula’s director of partner innovation and design, David Westwood.
The Graflyte fabric weighs in at 98 grams per square metre.
“If you were to use a ‘typical’ pack fabric, it’s probably closer to 200 gram per square metre,” Westwood said. “If you’ve got a metre and a half of fabric in the back, you’re saving 100 to 150 grams of weight.”
The Durston Gear pack is the first backpack to hit the market that uses Graflyte, but there will be more. Arc’teryx also plans to make a backpack and a climbing harness using Graflyte.
Rockgeist – a bikepacking company in the U.S. – is also using Aluula fabrics for some of its bikepacking bags.
Aluula is based in Victoria and currently employs two dozen employees.