Every now and then, we like to introduce — or expand upon — a new product or material that outdoor educators might be interested in. By keeping our ear to the ground and paying attention to what’s impacting the outdoor industry, our peers in the adventure-based, outdoor education community can continue to be informed about what’s next.
Today, we’re pleased to shed some light on an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fiber named Dyneema.
What is Dyneema and why should I care?
Dyneema is a new age fiber that stops bullets in law enforcement gear, provides lighter weight jibs and thus faster speeds on sailboats, and gives tents and backpacks incredible strength while dramatically reducing weight. Oh, and it floats in water.
Dyneema is solely manufactured by Royal DSM, a Netherlands-based firm that’s recognized as one of the oldest players in the European chemical industry. Dyneema itself is a superlight fiber that’s up to 15 times stronger than steel by weight. Its base — the ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene — makes it the strongest of any thermoplastic.
And while it’s been used in climbing gear for quite some time — often referred to as Spectra or Dynex — you would have been hard pressed to find Dyneema products like tents and backpacks until just a few years ago. But today, there are entire companies that use only Dyneema, building their product lines around this highly touted, lightweight fabric.
What are the benefits of Dyneema in the backcountry?
In the outdoor adventure segment, manufacturers using Dyneema have made great strides in several product areas, including tents and tarps. Due to its strength-to-weight ratio, it offers the lightest weight in the industry with the added bonus of being completely waterproof with no water absorption.
In active apparel and footwear, the ultralight category is coming up with a variety of strength-added offerings, including hiking boots. Other advantages include: