Bamboo and Hemp: In search of a better GI !!
For the longest time, all Jiu-Jitsu gis were cotton. Your choices were limited to single or double weave. Now there are a plethora of options in the gi world, and two different material choices caught my eye. Both bamboo and hemp are claimed by their manufacturers to be superior to cotton in several ways, and both make similar claims. These are:
Stronger than cotton
Better temperature control than cotton
Anti-microbial, which prevents bacterial growth in the material and keeps the gi from smelling bad
More comfortable than cotton
Better for the environment
The Hemp Gi: Datsusara HGC-02
There are several manufacturers that claim to make hemp gis, (Datsusara, the Green Gi, Submission Fight Co) but actually finding one to test proved extremely difficult. The Green Gi never actually got off the ground as far as I can tell, and both Datsusara and Submission Fight Co have been out of stock for as long as I’ve been hunting for one. But here’s a piece of free advice: follow your favorite companies on Facebook. Because I ‘liked’ Datsusara on FB, I was in the loop when he found two black, second generation hemp gi tops in the stock pile as he was preparing to move and offered them for 30 dollars each on FB to the first person who called them. Being on FB all day finally paid of for me because I called the A2 first! And there was stiff competition, the demand for these gis is obvious! And I feel especially lucky as the new third generation Hemp Combat Gi, or HCG-03, will be offered in white and a dark blue, but not black. So I might very well own the last black hemp gi ever sold by Datsusara, unless they come out with black again in the fourth generation models.
One of the things that stands out to me about Datsusara is the incredible customer service offered by its owner, Chris Odell. After I claimed his awesome deal, he was very prompt in replying to emails and he was very willing to answer any questions I had about his products or care for them. And high marks for integrity, which is a must for any company I deal with. He made a simple mistake and overcharged me a bit, but he found his mistake and gave me a refund without me having to say anything. Now that’s how an honest person runs his business. And I ordered the gi on Friday and received it on Monday. That’s insane! I’ve had companies take twice as long just to process my order, then as long again to ship it. I ordered a pair of Fuji single weave pants from martailartssupply.com to go with the top the same day, but it’s been three weeks and counting. A week after it was due to arrive and after three emails over the course that week they finally responded and said that the product that they said was in stock and even told me had already shipped, was in fact out of stock! I’m never dealing with THEM again.
When the gi top arrived it was a bit big on me, but I washed it in hot water and it shrunk down to fit me perfectly. Because better bloggers than me have already reviewed the HCG-02 (like Georgette’s review here), and its been unavailable for awhile, and the superior HCG-03 will be out soon, there isn’t a lot of point fort me to review the HCG-02 in depth. Instead I’ll focus on my own personal experience with the material itself and compare it to a cotton gi.
The material is interesting; it was stiff when it arrived but, as advertised, got softer with each wash. No, you can’t smoke it. Stop asking. You can see through it if you hold it up to the light, and that speaks volumes about it’s breathability! I have gotten used to not wearing a rashguard beneath my gi because my Gameness Elite had one built in and the Lucky is soft enough not to need it, but because of the porous nature of the hemp, I found it more comfortable to wear a rashguard underneath. Once I started to wear a rashguard, the HCG-02 came into it’s element! It’s comfortable, sturdy, and keeps me cool even after extended periods of rolling! And you can tell immediately when you touch it that the hemp will last. I can easily see myself using this gi in five years, and that far exceeds the life expectancy of a regular gi IMO.
The Bamboo Gi: Rafael Lovato Jr Signature Lucky Gi
As far as I know, Lucky Gi is the only company that makes Jiu Jitsu Gis from bamboo. All of their latest line of Gis are Bamboo and I chose the black and red Rafael Lovato Jr model. This is by FAR the coolest looking gi I’ve ever owned, perhaps ever seen. It’s red accents and flashy patches make it stand out, and the bamboo material is silky soft. It’s the most comfortable gi I have ever worn, hands down. I’m 5’8 and 155 lbs and the A2 fits like a dream!
If gis were cars, this one would be a Ferrari! Top of the line quality mixed with elegant yet flashy lines and peak of the industry innovation. The pants are just as flashy as the top, and with just as many bells and whistles. I was confused as to why the top would be made from such an outstanding material like the bamboo while the pants remained cotton. I emailed Lucky to find out, and quickly got a reply. Here it is, strait from the horse’s mouth.
The pants are cotton because we first made the pants from bamboo. I had had done a lot of test on the bamboo fabric. We got 9 samples from the factory. Sent the gis out out top guys like Lovato and Glover and not one pair ripped. Thinking we had a winner we went in to production. Unfortunately the bamboo production pants did not last like the samples did and they all ripped! Some didn’t even last one roll. So we are testing some new bamboo but for now we remade the pants in 10.5 oz cotton to get people back on the mat and using their gis. One of the bad things about bamboo is that no one
Else uses it for gis so we have to pay to have the fabric woven us special for us. This takes a long time and really slows the production down.
Let me know if you have any other questions,
Thanks, Scott “
I guess that’s the problem with being the first producers of anything, you have to find out what works and what doesn’t. But despite a few production hiccups, the innovation is wildly successful IMO. These gis are selling like crazy; EVERYONE in our gym has been lusting over them as soon as we got our first shipment. And once someone buys a Lucky, they usually swear off all other gis. I can name at least two people at my gym that have 3 or more bamboo Luckys already! Some have all three styles of the bamboo line: the Lovato, the Fleur de Lis and the Rude Boy.
The attention to detail on this gi is what really amazes me. Like the triple row stitching on everything and the motivational quotes in various places on the gi. And I can’t get over how soft and comfortable it is! It’s so comfortable you don’t need a rashguard when wearing it, and the bamboo fibers do a great job of wicking your sweat away.
So in summation, I’ll review the claims of the materials and see if my own personal experience supports the manufacturer’s claims or not.
Stronger than cotton: Probably In my mind the only way to validate this claim objectively would be to:
Apply strain to a regular cotton gi in a controlled environment and record the amount of force required to reach failure
Test both a bamboo and hemp gi in the same manner to failure
Check the data to see if the materials are up to four times stronger, as claimed.
Well I had to pay for these gis so if you think I’m going to rip them apart for science you’re crazy! Subjectively they DO seem stronger than cotton, they haven’t ripped during intense rolls or anything. But I’ve never had a cotton gi rip either, so that’s not very indicative.
Better temperature control than cotton: CONFIRMED This is obvious with both materials, especially the hemp. I can roll hard all night with upper belts and really get a good sweat going, the kind of rolls where you’re drenched in sweat afterwards and flapping your gi for air, and the gis do a noticeable job in keeping me cooler. And on the other hand, have you ever gotten your cotton gi really sweaty, then sat around for thirty minutes or so? You know how you cool down and then the sweat soaked gi starts getting you cold and starts feeling nasty? That doesn’t happen at all with either material, they keep you warmer than cotton. Warmer and cooler, depending on the situation. A big, big plus in a gi.
Anti-Microbial: CONFIRMED This is another one that is hard to test objectively, as I don’t have a microscope capable of detecting microbes or bacteria. And I wouldn’t know what they looked like if i did! But I can test these claims subjectively. Other bloggers have done various disgusting things to their bamboo and hemp gis in and attempt to make them stink, but again: if you think I am going to treat such high quality pieces of gear that I paid hard earned money for so poorly, think again. They claim their gis still don’t smell after days sitting sweaty in the trunk and whatnot, and I’ll believe them. In my experience I have been smelling my gis regularly, before and after practice, and they DO seem to be working as claimed. Neither gi has ever smelled even the least bit funky, even a few days after practise without washing. Or when left in the gear bag overnight by mistake.
More comfortable than cotton: CONFIRMED No contest here. I rate the bamboo as the most comfortable, then hemp, and finally cotton. Hemp has it’s virtues, but the bamboo is silky, soft and feels like a dream on your skin.
Better for the environment: Probably This isn’t something that I can personally test. There are numerous claims of their superiority to other materials from an ecological standpoint, but environmental issues are never simple. There are many factors like manufacturing processes and transportation costs that come into play. Because it’s such a complex issue and I know nothing about it, I’ll refrain from venturing an opinion. But I know for a fact that both plants are extremely useful and are EXTREMELY under-utilized, especially hemp. The fact that hemp is illegal to produce in the United States is itself a crime. More information on WHY HEMP IS ILLEGAL.
In summation: cotton had better look out! These materials are gaining popularity, and have marked advantages. Other gi companies are taking notice as well, and I think we are on the cusp of a gi industry revolution! One I welcome. Some people always do the same thing because that’s the way it’s always been. I’m glad there are innovators out there that constantly challenge the norms with new and better ways of doing things. Hopefully the change is accepted by all, people can be set in their ways, even in the face of indisputable evidence.
I know what you’re thinking now: Which is better? Well, each material and each gi has it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. But the best thing about having both is I don’t have to choose!
Posted by Cyrus the Virus