What is ECOPAK and why Waymark Gear Co. is using it!
One thing you can count on in the outdoor industry is the evolution of technical fabrics, and how they are applied to outdoor gear. Over the past several years, there’s been a massive development in fabric technology and specialized fabrics that have made it possible to reduce weight on outdoor products like shelters and backpacks significantly. While this sounds like a win win to save weight, it has also come at a cost with durability issues, decreased comfort and high price tags. The most common fabric known in this category being Dyneema Composite Fabric or DCF. As DCF has grown in popularity, other lightweight fabrics have been introduced and adapted to outdoor products that function very well when applied to backpack construction. The most common being XPac, which was for a long time an alternative to DCF that added a little more weight, but added durability and reduced cost when the two are compared side by side.
In 2017 when Waymark Gear Co. was started, we chose XPac as our primary fabric given the options it presented. XPac is heavy duty and offers various color options, while still achieving an overall lightweight backpack compared to other big name brands.
Fast forward to 2021 when Challenge Sailcloth introduced a new line of recycled polyester fabrics that have quickly become a go-to fabric choice for many cottage pack makers. The most common of these fabrics being used comes from a line called ECOPAK, which includes EPX and EPL Ultra. It’s possible that you’ve heard about these fabrics, you may be a little confused on what the differences are between them. Here is a breakdown of the differences between EPX and EPL Ultra fabrics.
ECOPAK EPX Fabrics:
ECOPAK EPX Fabrics are a 100% recycled polyester fabric that’s multi-layered and laminated. These layers include a face fabric of either a 70D, 200D, 400D, or 600D, then have a 45º cross ply polyester thread and a 70D ripstop polyester backing. These layers combined create a strong and durable fabric that also has a high stitch holding strength. EPX fabrics also feature a no fluorocarbons CO DWR treatment on the face fabric that aids in the waterproof aspect of these fabrics.
While these fabrics are waterproof, the seams of a Waymark Gear Co. backpack are not, and we recommend using a pack liner to provide protection against gear you’d be concerned about getting wet.
EPX fabrics used on Waymark Gear Co. backpacks include EPX70, EPX200, and EPX400. For example, the EVLV 35 liter frameless backpack is primarily made from EPX70 and EPX200. High abrasion areas of the pack feature EPX200 that provide better protection and longevity of the pack. Our LITE 50 liter framed backpack, which is our largest pack utilizes EPX200 and EPX400 to create the strongest and most durable pack possible, while still achieving a really low weight.
ECOPAK EPX fabrics most closely resemble Xpac nylon fabrics such as VX21 and VX07.
ECOPAK EPL Ultra Fabrics:
ECOPAK EPL Ultra variations are different from EPX in that they are a woven fabric that has a recycled, waterproof RUV film laminated to the back side of it. EPL Ultra comes in 4 main variations of EPL100, EPL200, EPL400, and EPL800 and utilizes some recycled components, but is not 100% recycled like EPX fabrics are. The increase in number refers to the denier of the woven PE or the top layer. EPL Ultra is known to have a high weight to strength ratio, and has a much higher abrasion resistance than DCF fabrics that it most commonly gets compared to.
EPL Ultra is waterproof and with the right construction processes, can be seam taped, but even seam taping a backpack doesn’t deem it 100% waterproof and a pack liner would still be recommended to protect gear from getting wet.
In March 2022 we introduced EPL Ultra fabrics to our line up by offering the EVLV 35L ultralight backpack in EPL Ultra 200, making the EVLV the lightest pack in the Waymark lineup.
Why is Waymark Gear Co. using ECOPAK EPX fabrics?
Providing the best quality product possible while keeping prices down is an important part of who we are at Waymark Gear Co. With the introduction of ECOPAK and specifically EPX fabrics, we feel we are able to produce backpacks with the highest quality fabrics available, that are also eco friendly. Utilizing a 100% recycled polyester fabric that allows us to reduce waste from the purchase of the fabric to production processes is an important part of our mission.
These fabrics have been proven to withstand the heavy abuse that a backpack should be able to take from the trail. With extensive field testing of these fabrics, we are confident that ECOPAK EPX fabrics provide the highest quality product that will last a Thru Hiker thousands of miles of use, and a weekend warrior backpacker years and years of use in the backcountry.
Other Fabrics used on Waymark Gear Co. Packs:
In addition to using ECOPAK EPX fabrics , we utilize other recycled materials from Challenge Sailcloth in the production of our packs. These include Recycled Bag Cloth (RBC) in the construction of interior liners, pockets, and shoulder straps. RBC fabrics feature high durability, and allow us to keep costs down by not using the most expensive fabrics in 100% of our packs. In some cases these RBC fabrics are more durable than some of the fancy ultralight fabrics on the market. They also function better in certain areas like a shoulder strap that allows the shoulder strap to move and stretch under load while hiking. You’ll find RBC450 ripstop used on all Waymark Gear Co. shoulder straps, and RBC200 used as interior liners for foam core back panels and interior pockets on the MILE backpack.
How ECOPAK fabrics reduce waste:
ECOPAK fabrics are made from recycled plastic bottles in a Repreve Bottle Processing Center, where plastic bottles are made into plastic fibers. These fibers are then produced into the various fabrics mentioned above. Each yard of ECOPAK fabric contains over 20 plastic bottles, and saves over 1 pound of carbon emissions. This means that straight from the source we are able to reduce our waste and carbon footprint by supporting suppliers who focus on reducing their own carbon footprint.
Waymark Gear Co. is able to reduce overall waste in production processes in pack construction due to the nature of how ECOPAK fabrics are made. The 45º cross ply polyester thread embedded between the face and backing fabrics allows for pack templates to be used for cutting in multiple directions. This allows us to maximize the coverage of a template on each yard of fabric. Something that wasn’t possible with the construction of XPac fabrics.
What does this all mean and why is it important?
It’s easy to get into a lot of nerdy detail of what each type of fabric does and how it best applies to a backpack. But what’s more important than having a detailed understanding of fabrics specs, is whether or not a product is going to last, and be comfortable on the trail. A smart and well executed design on a backpack is far more important than the fabric used. Using the proper fabrics aids in the overall performance of a pack. When you’re looking for a new pack for your backcountry adventures, we suggest looking at the features and design of the pack first, rather than basing your purchase decision solely on which fabric is used to create the pack.
Investing in a cottage brand pack like a Waymark Gear Co. pack means we’ve done the homework for you, and are offering the highest quality product possible without sacrificing comfort, or emptying your wallet.