Whats the future of gear tech amidst changes due to environmental concerns?

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by Keithturkjr, Sep 26, 2018.

  1. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    As my knowledge about top-end gear has grown a couple of things have come to my attention that can have major impacts on the outdoor gear world as a whole in the future.

    1. DWR issues

    2. Polymers in the water supply

    1. A couple years ago the latest and greatest durable water repellent (DWR) known as "C8 DWR" got banned from production due to negative effects on the ozone layer.

    C8 DWR has been replaced by C6 DWR. C6 DWR does not have as favorable feedback. I've read that these DWRs have a "radioactive half life" and that C6 DWR's "half life" is significantly shorter than C8 DWR's "half life". Reduction in "half life" causes it to loose effectiveness faster and get caught at reduced effectiveness more often.

    DWRs are incredibly important to the relative goodness of pretty much any coated waterproof coated or membraned fabric like tarps, tents, raincoats, backpacks, softshells.

    Its also important to synthetic hiking clothes. Hiking pants, wind shirts etc.


    2. Polymers appearing in the worlds water supply.

    Some of the can surely be attributed to deteriorating plastics in the form of trash, but I did read an environmentalist article where widespread use of synthetic fabrics was to blame.
    The article claimed that garments made from things like polyester were washed in the washing machine and that over the course of the garments life that it would shed up to 60% of its bulk.

    As much as I would enjoy telling you all that these environmentalists are full of crap I know that mechanically what they are saying about the polymer fiber fragments going into the water has to be mechanically true.

    How people choose to deal with synthetic fibers remains to be addressed. I could see a appliance specific septic filter cartridge working, but as mentioned it remains to be addressed, so how people choose to deal with it is in the air.

    In any event disruptions in synthetic fabrics would really shake the dynamic.

    So, these are some of the things I have had some thoughts about how about ya'll,.....any thoughts?
     
  2. Youcantreadinthedark

    Youcantreadinthedark Amphibian. Supporter Bushclass I

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    I think most people's plan is to stick their head in the sand.
     
  3. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    This kind of aside from the central thread but when looking at the limited shelf life on DWRs I started looking for alternatives that could maintain their "goodness" over a longer period of time.

    Silnylon seems to have long term water repellancy. That is really a pretty great thing (although I'm unsure of its own environmental effects). One problem with silnylon though is that thus far the standard demand for silnylon is for very lightweight fabrics in a select few weaves that don't appeal to the entire outdoor gear market.

    Epic fabric by Nextec where the individual fibers are silicone encapsulated also has long term water repellancy, but Epic fabric doesn't seem to be widely available. There are some Army PCU components that use it, but in my search for Epic fabric I found there to be many subcontractors using several different DWR experiments and very few civilian sources of clothes using the fabric. So the the story about why its not more available is kind of a mystery to me.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
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  4. Pablo

    Pablo Guide

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    That's really interesting... I'd never thought about where the lost fibers from synthetics washed in my machine ended up... as micro particles in the water supply.
     
  5. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    "DWRs are incredibly important to the relative goodness of pretty much any coated waterproof coated or membraned fabric like tarps, tents, raincoats, backpacks, softshells."

    "Waterproof breathable" and "water -resistant" (e.g. softshells") aside, how so?
     
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  6. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    I believe these concerns have the potential to focus the fabric side of the equation (mainly clothing) back towards natural materials. Wool (as merino or loden) has made a remarkable comeback in the past decade and we could see the same thing with other natural fibers. This in an open door for folks to walk through and explore.
     
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  7. GKiT

    GKiT Supporter Supporter

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    I’ll let y’all ponder that while I’m sleeping under canvas :D
     
  8. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    Almost all cordura nylon back packs, and many different type of rip-stop nylons and polyester tarps and tent fabrics have polyurethane or PVC coatings to give them their "waterproofness" then the side that is not coated has a DWR coating that prevents the outside of the fabric from getting saturated.

    So in the worst case scenario if DWR becomes worthless They'd be offering a bunch of stuff that gets sopping wet that says "waterproof".

    The C6 DWR vs. C8 DWR thing isn't the worst case scenario by far, but it will be interesting to see how to best deal with the C6 gear once the DWRs have deteriorated.

    I don't know about everyone else. but I can wear out a set of running shoes pretty quick if I wear them everyday, but something like an expensive tent I would expect the product as a whole to outlive these DWRs.
     
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  9. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    I think the major concern will be with clothing since it gets the roughest and most use and wears out long before tents, tarps, bags, etc.
     
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  10. Pablo

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    Of course, no fabric or material is without "sin"... water and pesticide use for cotton, all the resources used for wool raising and production, etc... "natural" isn't always "environmentally-friendly". You have to look at the entire lifecycle of the product to make an informed judgement, and that is an incredibly convoluted, complex type of assessment. Patagonia clothing has done some great work along those lines, as have others.
     
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  11. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    Me neither...

    For me they’re falling apart 3-6 mo, but I keep wearing them until I literally wear through the upper or sole - maybe a year. Kinda frustrating.

    Do you know if production of natural fibers also occurs where they’re converted into products? Or where they’re consumed? Global supply chains are killer and a huge impact on the (global) environment. But st the same time most natural resources are renewable. I know canister stoves are produced from various strip mining operations, but I’m not sure how the material is derived for synthetics.
     
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  12. Pablo

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    That's the thing about any product nowadays... the parts are sourced/produced/sold all over the place. The cotton may be grown in Arizona, but the fertilizer, fuel and other materials come from all over the world. It's then shipped somewhere else-possibly overseas- for processing, shipped again for other stages of processing, and yet again for production into a tent/shirt/pack... So while the fiber itself might be renewable, the system and inputs that support that fiber and its journey to finished product are not sustainable. The only way to assure more sustainability is to grown the materials yourself and do all of the processing with items and tools you make or produce. Many synthetics are actually made from recycled plastics, but there's still all the energy and other inputs needed to go from a soda bottle to a finished product. Both synthetics and natural fiber product production use energy, water and raw materials, and leave pollution, mines, and other detriments in their wake (to one degree or another).

    We humans can't live without some impact, but if a given impact builds to the point of being a problem, or if a resource eventually runs out, then it's not a sustainable process. Some folks often politicize the issue, or dismiss concerns for sustainability as a "tree hugger" attitude, but we really should be asking a simple question: Can this process be continued indefinitely without running out of materials or degrading the environment beyond its ability to recover? If the answer is no, then we need to find alternatives.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
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  13. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    To me, the outdoor industry is a pretty small portion of overall human impact on the environment.

    As an individual my curiosity was about the direction of the technology of the gear itself, rather than the environmental friendliness of its production, but all the answers coming from other angles do point to the other ways that it will be approached.

    Natural materials:
    I'm wondering now if there are clean green ways to wax/oil canvas? For gear where weight is OK.

    I actually thought there was some merit in this and wonder how those impacts can be intelligently quantified?

    This has a pretty big carbon footprint. Here in the US items that require large amounts of labor wind up costing a lot more than the fuel to ship them though. I love buying american if I can afford to.
     
  14. Gruxxx

    Gruxxx Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I hadn't heard about the DWR issue, but that makes me glad I bought several DWR treated down hammock quilts a couple of years before the ban, otherwise they might wear out sooner and I'd want to buy all new gear and kill more geese a lot sooner than necessary.
     
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  15. GKiT

    GKiT Supporter Supporter

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    “I'm wondering now if there are clean green ways to wax/oil canvas? For gear where weight is OK”

    Sorry but I really haven’t a clue what this even means.
     
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  16. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    A breakdown in DWRs would affect consumers in the clothing area the most sharply because its what gets the most use.

    The DWR problem is actually the worst in the gear like tarps, tents, and backpacks though because the items last long enough for the DWR's "radioactive halflives" to rollover.

    "A radioactive halflife is the amount of time that has to pass before a half of a substance like DWR in this example has the opportunity to breakdown and degrade into simple substance/ substances."

    So, if you buy a 600.00 sleeping bag with down that has a DWR treatment,....

    Say its a really nice sleeping bag and its going to take you 30 years to wear it out, but the DWR wears out in 10 years,....that's 20 years of sleeping bag usage where you need to reapply DWR to keep it operating as you bought it.

    Thermarest did tell customers how they made this particular product of theirs DWR
    https://www.backcountrygear.com/obe...Sh8tORQ66pWWVqHJn9ETtZAE-nSnMRakaAi9bEALw_wcB

    But oftentimes gear producers have propriety DWRs and/or unnamed DWRs that make it more difficult to source them easily to keep their items serviced to original state. Assuming their wonder repellent is even for sale.


    Fabrics that don't require DWR:
    Silnylon
    Dyneema composites
    Hypalon
    closed cell foam
    polyethylene
    Kydex
    Epic
    Waxed cotton
    wool
    wicking non water repellent fabrics

    Have I missed any?
     
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  17. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    Items can be retreated, I'm just looking around to see what kind of materials are out there that may be able to circumvent the entire issue.
     
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  18. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    As far as the larger environmental friendiness of outdoor gear is concerned. There is a slew of issues that larger technology will need to address.
    Here is a a couple of paragrapghs that begin to address it.

    http://vinyl.org.au/coated-fabric

    Some of this materials science stuff quickly leaves the interests of outdoorsman sort of curiosity and enters the realm of science, but it will definitely impact the stuff available to us.

    Basically most plastics come in the form of powders and oils that are mixed, then heated to become the plastics we see.

    Trying to mix, melt, solvent down, remix, and remelt different kinds of powders and oils and receive similar products at the other end of the processes can get pretty difficult to impossible quickly in the recycling process.

    The engineers that design the materials that people use to manufacture outdoor gear are going to have to design materials that can be recycled into the same products they came from in order to extend the supply of the materials they design.

    The link I put up earlier shows them trying to re purpose coated fabrics, but I don't think they are turning them into new coated fabrics....yet.

    It will be nerdy and neat o to see the things they come up with to do it.
    Trucktarp006 (1).jpg
    Like if they come up with a fabric kinda like this where the fibers of the underlying fabric are the exact same plastic powder as the powder in the fabric coating, just with different amounts of the same kind of oil.
    That kind of fabric/substance could be reduced to liquid with a single solvent then recycled.

    ...Mmm if the polymer powders were plasticized in a identical solvent it is likely that the reinforcing fabric would break down inside the matrix of the softer coating....but if the fabric,...or the coating were a cold plastic process in an aqueous solution versus an oil plasticized solution in the opposing substance.....then it is quite possible that the two likely similar substances could be recycled in a single solvent after its life cycle is complete with a small chemical buildup the could take several recycling generations to require additional action.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
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  19. Greebe

    Greebe Non ducor, duco. Supporter

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    You could go old school. I have one of these Outback Trading Oil Skin Jackets and it has been great.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    Nothing wrong with old school stuff most of the time, I'm wearing denim jeans right now.

    Not the greatest stuff for backpacking though. Its is kinda why I put the thread about the future of gear technology in the backpacking section. With cars and horses and stuff people can have a lot of fun period camping with old stuff, but old stuff is already invented too, so the material questions for the future are already answered.

    If you look at old school gear closely, you'll see that they usually carried very few items that were very heavy and durable.
    A lot of what people carried long ago were items that they had to craft themselves in the woods. It's really the essence of bushcraft, but having to craft things in the field to get from point a to point b isn't what makes getting there easier.
    Modern gear is generally better for backpacking. my canvas army pup tent is great but it weighs about 5-7 pounds,...10 if it gets wet. Honestly if it was my only shelter backpacking and it started raining.....I would seriously consider packing up to keep it dry and just let myself get wet. Not saying I don't like it, its just not my go-to for solutions with the latest backpacking gear.
     
  21. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    The fleece I like is made from repurposed beverage bottles and, not being an outer layer, does not use DWR.

    Wool is long past its role as a first-line outer lawyer, although I like my "boiled wool" German and Swedish Winter trousers when its dry cold.

    Once, Cholera, Typhus, Dysentery, hypothermia and frostbite were traditional. I was talking to an old gent who was with the First Marine Div in the Chosin Reservoir campaign in NE Korea in 1950-51. Sounds like he would have been up for polyester and nylon instead of traditional wool and cotton (1st MarDiv reported 7338 non-combat casualties due to cold and exposure - over 25% of its strength at the beginning of the roughly six-week Chosin Reservoir campaign)
     
  22. Ninety0ne

    Ninety0ne Tracker

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    A portion of wools resurgence is the result of blending treated merino wool with synthetics
     
  23. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    So, I've thought about this more as the thread has progressed and heard some replies and while the following are not conclusive thoughts I've arrived at some conclusions at this point.

    DWRs:

    DWRs will get better and more durable or not depending on available technologies. But it is generally understood that fresh DWRs are better than old ones.
    So as the need to increase sustainability increases, the industry will need to create DWRs with a much smaller environmental footprint, then sell DWR "retreatments" that give results that give the gear like new like performance in a way that is simpler than the current method.
    Nikwax and the like has been well regarded for a long time, but the learning curve exist and the re treatment rate of gear is pretty low,....so if the industry were to introduce "green DWR" that isn't as durable, retreatment has to get easier for consumers to continue having the quality of gear we currently enjoy.
    Aside from the highly scientific processes of making cleaner DWRs, improving their presentation to the market for them is really pretty simple sales and retailing stuff.

    Polymers in the water supply:

    The best was I can think of to deal with the portion that comes from washing synthetic garments is to add a pump and large cheap disposable (possibly cleanable) filter cartridge to the drain pipes on new models of washing machines.
    I normally wear a 50/50 poly/cotton t-shirt at work and I had to wear a different shirt to work last week.
    It happened to be 100% cotton and I was surprised (I dont look at tags when Im getting dressed) after sweating buckets at just how wet it got and stayed. It was dripping crap lol.
    Trying to make the entire world go back to 100% natural fibers is a lot to ask of the world to do to save the trees.
    Wool is nice stuff but its also expensive. The USA is one of the richest countries in the world so coming up with super expensive solutions to environmental problems would leave huge parts of the world's environmental problems unaddressed.

    Recycle ability:

    A lot of people voiced interest in this area and it got my wheels turning. Figuring out how increase recycle ability technologically neato if you know about working wet plastics.

    The recycled drink bottle fleece jacket is a good example of things making headway in this direction.

    To make thing more recyclable, recycling at every corner of the design of an item

    -To make the actual fleece jacket itself into another fleece jacket. It has to become a brown or black jacket as the coloring agent can't be removed.

    - The thread its stitched with, the pocket liners, and the zippers have to be made of the same kind to plastic. this so the entire thing can go into the fiery cauldron without being disassembled. (that labor is costly and the item would be discarded instead) Metal zipper heads are actually pretty heavy and would sink to the bottom and separate from the molten mixture.

    As far as more recyclable lightweight waterproofs g,o I think Dyneema might have the material technologies that show the most promise.

    I'm not entirely sure exactly how cuben fiber is made, but I do know that the kind of processes that company is capable of are about the worlds best shot at a lightweight recyclable waterproof material. They have some pretty phenomenal plastic processing infrastructure and the base technology is there.

    Cuben fiber and dyneema type products may not be recyclable int there current forms, but I do have a feeling that they are the guys that will produce a product when consumers apply the economic demand for it.

    A lot of things currently fabricated from cuben fiber use nylon threads nylon webs and stuff like that,...which my not melt well into a post-consumer product,...but this assuming that these fabrics are already recyclable.

    Nice stuff of today may have ways of becoming even better.

    Also the people that make Hypalon might have a basic material that could lead them to material science discoveries

    So,
    There are definitely things for people of the future to figure out.

    Lots of questions marks?????

    Anybody have thoughts? A long, long time ago we were the people of the future,....

    Bushcraft USA threads are visible to industry leaders so,....if you write something awesome,...uh....
     

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