Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
While carbon fiber and titanium are today’s much-hyped materials of choice for everything from sunglasses to F1 race cars, bamboo is emerging as nature’s own sustainable performance material. The supergrass is nearly as strong as steel and can be woven as soft as silk for one-twentieth the cost. It also grows pesticide-free, self-regenerates when cut down, and can reach 100-foot maturity in three years. In the mid-nineties, flooring manufacturers became the first modern companies to take advantage of bamboo—Asians have used it in construction for centuries—but, as these products demonstrate, you can now find it in everything from bikes to underwear.
1.) There’s a five-year wait for the handcrafted split-cane fly rods made by Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts–based Per Brandin. But in return, patient anglers get unequaled feel and aesthetics. $3,500; 413-625-6259, www.brandin-splitcane.com
2.) Bamboo’s dense cellular structure makes this 48-inch skateboard, from Bambusa, strong yet responsive. $209; 858-350-8103, www.bambusa.com
3.) Active-wear designers now weave antimicrobial bamboo into fabrics that mimic silk, cashmere, fleece, and cotton, like this T-shirt from Bamboo Textiles. $10; 714-469-1483, www.bambooclothes.com
4.) Custom bike builder Craig Calfee has created a 3.5-pound, vibration-damping bamboo road frame that can withstand the toughest pedal masher. $2,500 (frame only); 800-965-2171, www.calfeedesign.com