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Dhamma

Western Mountaineering Durability/Stitching

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I recently picked up an Alpinlite and a Flash jacket with the standard fabric on fleabay. The bag was new and the jacket used. I took the bag out and got in it and heard a popping sound and saw to my horror that somehow the stitching had blown. It is at WM getting fixed as we speak.

The Flash jacket is great, but it has quite a few loose thread ends and especially on the belly of the jacket. I am a bit concerned about the durability. I am not particularly hard on down gear, but I've not had to baby it either. I've worn the jacket daily for a few weeks and am noticing some wear already.

I've had a FF Volant for 6 years with 0 issues and a Marmot bag I've beaten the piss out of and I've never blown a seam. Did I just have some bad luck buying someone else's problem or is this ultralight stuff just not meant to last long? I'm considering selling both and going to FF for all my down gear. Thoughts?

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Dhamma,

 

Ironically I am in the market for a new 20deg bag and am between a FF Swift UL and a WM Alpinlite. Your durability issues now concern me…would like to hear what the community has to say. I'm switching from a Marmot bag as well…it's ok just heavier and not as compressible as the 850/900 bags these days. But has withheld some substantial abuse over the last 9 years without a hitch.

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If you go FF I would be very disinclined to get the UL. I would stick with the nano fabric. What good is super light if it gets ruined in a year or 2

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What good is super light if it gets ruined in a year or 2

 

Cuuzzz its super light? Is this a trick question?

 

One man's ruined is another man's Tenacious Tape job. I get about 4 years out of my Montbell UL down jackets, and I kick the living shit out of them. That UL stuff is SO DAMN COMFY. And its way cheaper than midweight stuff of comparable quality, so there's that. I always carry TT and apply it right away when there's a core breach, however. And I've learned not to wear it around a campfire.

 

FF does last (4 bags in my lifetime quiver) - and its heavier and more expensive than UL gear from WM, Montbell, etc. Having a situation specific quiver of bags, jackets, etc will greatly increase the life of your more delicate items.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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FWIW - I've had an Alpinlite for 4 seasons now and it's doing fine. My Lynx has endured 5 Alaska expeditions plus multiple overnight ski trips and my wife has used her Ion and Flight Pants on 2 multi-week Alaska Range trips and bivied at 23K on Aconcogua in them. That said... I'm super careful with packing, unpacking and storage. The bags will never be as bomb proof as my ancient North Face bags... but they weigh a fraction of them.

 

As for the Volant vs Flash jacket -- you're looking at a Pertex Sheild shell vs a light Nylon fabric. Weight difference is 10.25 oz (for the Flash) vs 1lb 12oz for the Volant. Apples to Oranges.

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The flash fabric is lighter than the standard microfiber that WM uses on the meltdown. I think the microfiber is a nice weight/durability compromise, but that's me.

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For a long time one of the defining design differences between WM and FF bags was construction: WM uses a top stitch on their bags where FF used a tuck-stitch on most of their bags. In a top stitch the threads are exposed on the outside of the fabric, which over time can catch on objects, abrade, or otherwise get damaged. The tradeoff is that this is the lightest way to sew a bag. The tuck stitch solves the thread exposure issue by concealing it inside the bag, but the disadvantage is that this method involves (slightly) more material making FF bags (slightly) heavier. The tuck stitch is not ideally suited to extremely lightweight fabrics. FF used the tuck stitch on Epic (1.6oz/yd) and eVent (2.2oz/yd) bags and top stitches anything lighter. Not sure which fabric gets which construction in the current lineup.

 

I have two FF bags with the Schoeller Nanosphere fabric and I've been happy with them. I think they are both top stitched, at least one of them is (Vireo). My Volant is tuck-stitched and it's held up great through years of guiding and extended expeditions.

 

If you want durability, weight will be the compromise. Some people can afford to replace their gear frequently and the nth degree of weight savings is worth it to them. I'm not climbing hard enough for a couple ounces to matter and I figure for every ounce I save on a piece of gear I have at least that much I can lose from my body. I could probably spend a thousand bucks on gear that would shave 3 pounds off my pack's weight or I could train better and lose 8 pounds off my body for free.

 

Call up FF and ask what bag/fabric combos they are making with tuck stitched construction these days. That would be a good place to start for durable gear.

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