In constructing and ordering supplies for my latest pack, I stumbled across a fabric I hadn’t seen before. It’s not groundbreaking, but I thought it warranted a spotlight nonetheless. After buying and handling samples, it looks good and feels easy to work with, and should be plenty burly for everything outside of the most demanding rocky terrain.
The fabric in question is this “500D Hybrid Coated Cordura Mil-Spec” from Rockywoods. I really like the look of it, which for me is a significant consideration when selecting materials for a project. I just can’t make myself use things I don’t like looking at. It’s also fairly competitive in the weight department compared to other fabrics with a similar-durability face. And it’s incredibly competitive in the price department—another factor that I consider strongly when deciding which fabrics to go with.
Below, I’ve compiled a table of the some of the more prominent pack fabric options in the 400D to 800D range for the sake of comparison. The list isn’t exhaustive and doesn’t include any Dyneema products.
You can see from the table above that to get a lighter pack fabric, you have to sacrifice the low price, the ripstop attribute, or the durability—though admittedly the durability difference between the 420D Robic and the 500D Hybrid Coated Cordura is probably negligible, and the 420D Robic saves both weight and money compared to the highlighted fabric. The main advantage (if you see it as one) that the Hybrid Coated Cordura can claim is that it is made in America.
If the marketing language on RBTR is true, then the Robic may be better in every way. They claim increased abrasion resistance and a “proprietary backside coating called UTS” which allegedly increases tear strength. I have not been able to find definitive data on either, but if anybody knows where to find it, please post it in the comments or shoot me an email. The Robic also comes in a few more colors, but the spectrum isn’t any more exciting than the Hybrid Cordura. I’d love to see something a bit further from the earth tones.
One nice outcome of this post and this process is discovering the benefits of the Robic, which wasn’t really on my radar to begin with. As a result, I will probably pick up some 420D Robic and some 500D Hybrid Coated Cordura for use and testing in my next pack project.
I don’t think this new 500D hybrid coated cordura is the next Jesus fabric. Likely, that’s Challenge Ultra 400 or 800 (which has fully eclipsed the X-Pac UVX-40, being both cheaper and higher in UPE content and thus more durable, and with high end pack makers like John Campbell from Alpine Luddites making the switch over), but I think the Hybrid Cordura is a fabric that people might consider when building bags going forward, assuming low cost is a priority. It offers a slight performance improvement over the original Cordura with a negligible price increase and a major looks upgrade (in my opinion). It’s affordable and probably strong, though I have no data to back up the latter, aside from Cordura’s reputation.
The final two points to consider are abrasion resistance and waterproofness. The 500D Corduras will have about the same abrasion resistance as the X50 tactical, but maybe slightly higher thanks to the lack of a reinforcing x-ply which can speed up abrasion. Where they differ is in the waterproofing. The Corduras have a PU coating on the back side as opposed to a PET or similar film. The PU coatings tend to break down over a much shorter period of time and delaminate much more quickly, in addition to not being anywhere near as waterproof. (2 or 3 psi for the Cordura, 200 psi for the Challenge Ultra fabrics). Again, each designer is going to have to decide whether the increased abrasion resistance and waterproofing is worth $30+ per yard.
Another fabric to look forward to: John Campbell mentions a 500D Cordura with a Spectra grid on his materials page, something I have not been able to find information on outside of his site. I’d guess it’s similar to this Hybrid Cordura if a smidge more expensive.
As a bit of a footnote, I remembered reading a while ago that Dave Chenault was testing some of the 420D Robic in his Tamarisk pack. His official page for the Tamarisk states 330D Cordura with a PET film (X-Pac X33?) for the main body and 500D Cordura for the bottom and pockets.