Many of us hike because we love nature, so being able to reduce our impact on the planet is very welcomed by the community. Normally, being more eco-conscious means a tradeoff somewhere down the line. Synthetic jackets historically haven’t insulated as well as their down counterparts, vegan materials can wear faster, and plant-based meat replacements don’t tend to taste as good as their meatier originals (if you disagree you can enlighten me in the comments).
What if you could do your bit for the planet in the choices of gear you purchase, without having to make the same tradeoffs? That’s where the new EcoPak fabrics can help. These cutting edge materials have been rapidly adopted by the thru-hiking gear industry, boasting better specs than the fabrics they replace – with a much smaller environmental footprint.
EcoPak is a new lineup of fabrics made by Connecticut-based Challenge Sailcloth, a supplier for boat sails and kiteboarding. For 2021, the company’s focus has been to develop sustainable materials. To do this, they’ve designed a line of fabrics using solvent-free glue, CFC-free water repellent coatings, and 100% recycled yarns. Hale Walcoff, the chief designer of the new fabrics, was previously the brains behind the X-Pac fabrics that are popular in many hiking packs today.
There are 17 different materials/thicknesses in the EcoPak lineup, all with different qualities, but in general, they absorb 80% less moisture, last longer, and have better UV resistance and color retention than traditional laminated nylon. There are two main fabrics that are currently being used by thru-hiking manufacturers: EPLUltra200 and EPX200. Both are ultralight, waterproof, durable, and made of recycled polyester.
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