As awareness of the ecological impact of the fashion and textile industries grows, both consumers and brands are increasingly turning to more eco-friendly options to reduce carbon footprints. Between organic cotton and recycled fibres like polyester and nylon, one material stands out above the rest in the outdoor clothing industry for its excellent performance qualities and environmental benefits—hemp.
Hemp cultivation for fibre is recorded as early as 2800 BCE and praised for its ability to biodegrade, flourish with little water and improve soil health—it’s a versatile material used in anything from rope and paper to shoes and textiles. Even though industrial hemp contains no more than 0.3 per cent of the psychoactive THC (read: this low concentration is unlikely to cause a high), it’s garnered a bad reputation because of its association with cannabis.
Harvested from the stem of the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp cultivation is believed to have a lower environmental impact when compared to other traditional materials used in clothing production, like cotton. Hemp requires 2.5 times less water and one third of the land mass compared to cotton, and because hemp is naturally resistant to insect pests, pesticides and herbicides are not required, using fewer resources to thrive. Plus, hemp returns up to 60 per cent of the nutrients it soaks up from the soil, naturally restoring its quality.
What To Look for When Shopping for Hemp Clothing
Hemp fibres from the stalk of the plant are converted into fabric through a series of processes that include separating the fibres from the woody core of the stalk, removing any other impurities and spinning the fibres into yarns or threads that are woven into a hemp fabric. Though this process can be done organically, many businesses have turned to chemical methods to convert hemp into fabric for a quicker turnaround at a lower cost, which increases the impact on the environment. To support a more sustainable clothing industry, consider clothing made of organic hemp and pieces that are coloured with natural dyes.
What Are the Performance Benefits of Hemp?
Lightweight and boasting a natural cooling effect and UPF properties to protect from harmful UV rays, there are plenty of benefits to wearing hemp for outdoor activities.
Hemp fibres are estimated to be three times stronger than cotton, making this plant-based material exceptionally durable and ideal for workwear and outdoor clothing. Resistant to abrasion and stretching, hemp clothing can feel rougher but softens the more it’s worn.
The porous fibres of hemp fabric make it a highly breathable material. It regulates your body temperature by wicking away moisture in wet conditions and trapping warm air in cold conditions, serving as breathable pieces in the summer to keep you dry and cool and solid layering pieces in the winter to add core warmth.
Naturally antibacterial, odour preventing and hypoallergenic, hemp fibres are resistant to mold and mildew growth, allowing for multiple wears without a wash, making this especially ideal for ultra-lightweight backpackers. This also helps to conserve water and increase the life cycle of your hemp clothing.
Here’s where to look to help support a more sustainable outdoor clothing industry.
For an ultra-breathable and functional layering system for your outdoor pursuits, start with your underwear. Specializing exclusively in undergarments, WAMA’s hemp bras and undies are strengthened by organic cotton and provide maximum next-to-skin comfort and natural odour control to get outdoor adventurers through long days of travel and high-output activities.
Blended with organic cotton for increased softness, Jungmaven’s high-quality hemp tees have become this Los Angeles-based brand’s best-selling item. These Jungmaven tees, now in a variety of cuts and colours, are lauded for their comfort, breathability and durability which makes them suitable for a range of outdoor activities from lazing by the lake to exploring the trails.
Patagonia Hampi Rock Pants
Crafted with a blend of organic hemp, recycled polyester and spandex, this lightweight and loose-fitting pant helps climbers stay cool on especially warm days. The two mesh-lined slant pockets at the front increase breathability, the articulated knees allow for unrestricted movement and the tapered legs fit comfortably snug.
Patagonia Hemp Sweatshirt
This versatile sweatshirt made of recycled polyester, industrial hemp and spandex comes in a relaxed fit for a full range of movement. The signature Snap-T pocket on the chest is large enough to fit your phone and the elastic cuffs and waist keep the cold out whether you’re at work or hanging by the campsite.
tentree Logo Hemp Thicket Hat
Keep the sun off your face and prevent from overheating with this minimalist adjustable baseball cap. The use of hemp makes this cap breathable by keeping sweat at bay. As the name suggests, tentree plants ten trees for every purchase made and uses only sustainably sourced and recycled materials for all of their products, ranging from t-shirts and shorts to sweatshirts and rain jackets.