The Best Fabric for Hikers: Dyneema Composite Fabric

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Dyneema Composite Fabric, or DCF, is a fabric that has been used by outdoor enthusiasts for years. It was originally designed to be waterproof and strong enough to hold up against the elements while still being lightweight.

What many people don’t know is what makes it so effective as a hiking material: Dyneema fibers are what make this type of fabric so great. These fibers are incredibly light and durable at the same time which means hikers can use them without adding too much weight to their pack!

What is Dyneema Fabric? Why is Cuben Fiber now called Dyneema?

When looking at gear I wanted to know where Dyneema came from and its use before becoming big in outdoor gears. I found that the name Cuben Fiber was created in the press in reference to America³ (pronounced America Cubed), who was the winner of the 1992 America’s Cup.

It is told that in the 1992 Cup their yacht used sails made from the precursor fiber which was the first step to the currently available commercial product. 

Dyneema is a super lightweight, strong, and waterproof material that lends itself well to the environments hikers tend to travel in, namely very wet, long distance carries. Hikers need fabric to be durable enough for many of their gear to give the best performance to weight ratio.

Dropping weight through the use of DCF has launched ultralight backpacking into the stratosphere, allowing you to drop HUGE weight on your big three gear, your backpack, shelter, and to get warmer gear in your sleep system.

What is Dyneema Fabric Made Of?

Dyneema is a synthetic fiber made of polyethylene that is very strong and durable. It is also lightweight which makes it popular for outdoor enthusiasts. The blend is what makes it the best fabric for hikers and backpackers alike.

Dyneema is unique in that one of its most remarkable quality is how easily it can be woven into a thin, strong thread while remaining incredibly lightweight. It also has very high tensile strength which means both weight and durability are not compromised when using Dyneema Composite Fabric as your hiking material.

It all comes down to what you need from your outdoor equipment: do you want something light or durable? If so, DCF will fit those needs perfectly!

How Is Dyneema Fabric Made?

DCF is a fabric that was previously known as Cuben Fiber. It is constructed out of a grid of white Dyneema threads, which are then laminated to a thin transparent polyester membrane.

The Dyneema fiber is used as it is up to 15 times stronger than steel on a weight for weight basis. The fabric also can float on water and is extremely durable and resistant to moisture, UV light, and chemicals.

Dyneema has a very high tensile strength while also having a very low stretch amount. This makes it exceedingly ideal for hiking purposes like tents, tarps, and backpacks.

Does Dyneema Shrink?

Dyneema doesn’t shrink and it is still very light! It is a synthetic fiber that is made of polyethylene. Polyethylene is a polymer, which is what gives it the durability and high strength-to-weight ratio.

You can expect to lose about one percent of its weight when wet but this makes Dyneema an excellent choice for hikers who need something lightweight that holds up well in inclement weather conditions without adding too much bulk or weight.

How Long does Dyneema Last?

Dyneema can last a long time, but it does need to be cared for properly. As with any fabric, it is important to clean the fibers after use and avoid direct contact of Dyneema with sharp objects or abrasive particles.

In general Dyneema has a lifespan and many sites show needing replaced by 5 years even when rarely or unused! The brutal use of us hikers will drastically shorten the overall lifetime of the materials, treat it with care and Dyneema gear can last you years!

You should also be careful not to expose Dyneema to ultraviolet light; otherwise, you risk decreasing its lifespan. If you want it to last longer, we recommend storing DCF in a dry place which is away from UV light or heat sources.

Is Dyneema Fabric Waterproof?

Well we know that it is strong and incredibly light in weight but is Dyneema Composite Fabric waterproof?

Yes! DCF is not only durable and lightweight, but it is also waterproof! This allows you to typically use the gear in much more wet and moisture rich areas without worry to leaking.

At its core, the Dyneema fibers and how it is woven are what make this type of fabric so effective for outdoor use for activities like hiking and backpacking.

Be aware though that water can enter through breaks and seams unless you properly take the time to seal them. When brand new the Dyneema fabric will seem very water-resistant, take care of this material and it will take care of you, on a thru-hike you may want to reapply.

The fabric body will eventually grow less and less water-resistant after abrasion and wear. Over time the fabric will begin to absorb water and essentially “wet-out”.

It all comes down to what you need from your outdoor equipment: Do you want something light or something that is durable? If so, DCF will fit those needs perfectly!

What Backpacking Gear Is Typically Made With DCF?

The use of DCF in higher end hiking and backpacking gear has exploded in recent years as it is able to help lower the weight on some of the traditionally heaviest gear, the hikers big three.

Since no big manufacturers are creating tents this allows you to find and select the best small shop and support them instead. Some of my favorites would include ZPacks and Hyperlite Mountain Gear.


The most lightweight tents for hiking are all built on Dyneema and this allows them to take up very little space. There are many tents made that use Dyneema to tremendously drop their weight and compress small, one of the biggest by far is the Zpacks Duplex.

Your main trade-off is going to be in cost and sometimes the overall life of the tent, Cuben Fiber is very durable but is easily punctured.


There is no way to beat the backpacks, like the HMG SouthWest 3400, produced from Dyneema or Cuben Fiber as they are able to carry a significant load while being incredibly comfortable on your back.

Like tents though you will pay for the benefit of lesser overall weight.


These can server a dual purpose as a windbreak, rain defense and as a pillow in many cases. The material is breathable and comfortable and well worth the little extra cost just for the ability to have this perform multiple roles in your pack.

Is Dyneema Flammable?

The durable nature of the fiber allows it to be used in many different environments. Dyneema is also difficult to ignite and does not tend to melt or drip. That being said, the material will still melt if it is heated continuously up to a certain temperature. In reality, there are few conditions that would lead the fabric to reaching this kind of temperature.

The main thing you need worry about is if you happen to be using a camp stove with Dyneema cookware, since this could lead to accidental fire. When cooking on your stove top, it’s important you avoid high heat so that the surface doesn’t reach temperatures near or above 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 Celsius).

Is Dyneema environmentally friendly?

Dyneema is not only durable and lightweight, but it is also environmentally friendly! It is synthetic polyethylene that doesn’t require C02 or water to produce. This makes it a great choice for those who are environmentally conscious and want to avoid using products that harm the environment.

Dyneema also doesn’t emit any noxious fumes or off-gassing, which is what makes it such an eco-friendly option when looking for materials in your outdoor equipment.

Tips For Cleaning Dyneema Gear

Cleaning your Dyneema backpacking gear is very important, but there are a few important tips to follow to be sure you’re doing it correctly.

  • The most important thing is to make sure you thoroughly clean the gear after every use and store it in a dry place. If your gear becomes wet from rain or sweat, it’s going to start smelling bad and might let some dirt and salt into the material. This can cause damage and weaken the integrity of your pack or tent.
  • Use soap for tough stains and dirt that won’t come off after washing with water alone. You should also make sure not to scrub too hard on the fabric since this can damage some of the fibers over time, which will weaken your equipment.
  • You should also avoid washing your Dyneema gear with any other fabrics, especially denim or cotton. These will cause lint to accumulate and eventually lead to holes in the material.

Final Thoughts on Dyneema Fabrics

I hope you all found this article informative and helpful, as always! In the event that you are interested in using DCF for your next hike or backpacking trip, feel free to share this information with anyone who might be on the fence about making the switch to an environmentally friendly material.

DCF is not cheap but the gear it produces are perfect for those who are looking for something lightweight that holds up well in inclement weather conditions without adding too much bulk or weight.

Dyneema is an amazing fabric that has been used for years in many different ways. I am still amazed at the lack of support from larger companies as I feel it could help move the price point down.

I also am a very pro-small business person and love the fact that they are the only ones really providing this type of gear and to me, it is worth the extra bit to support someone who sinks love into what they do.

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