Bamboo is one of the most sustainable source of fiber made into fabrics to date. This is the one product you want to buy from China, as bamboo originates there. It grows very fast, vertically, is easy to harvest and has a immense crop yield to surface. Yields of bamboo are up to 150 ton per acre compared to only 3-5 ton per acre for cotton, cotton requires fertilizers and twenty times more water than bamboo. Cotton is so last century.
To try this ultimate sustainable solution, we bought bamboo sheets and towels for the boat. Great for humid environments, bamboo fabric is naturally antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, doesn’t mold, highly sweat absorbant and dries the body even when moist. Perfect for a boat, we thought!
After sleeping in bamboo sheets for the past two years in all kinds of climates, from temperate to hot to humid, I can report that the bamboo sheets are always cool to the touch, silky and light, but not too light, so that I cover myself with them even during the very warm summer nights in the Sea of Cortez. Radu feels easily cold and he found that the bamboo sheets adjust to the body temperature fast. I am always warm and found that I never sweat between these sheets. Fantastic. Wash them cold with light detergents without perfumes and dry them not too hot, on ‘delicates’, and they will last a long time. We have only one sheet set and it it still looks fresh and new after the wash. The pillow covers get more wear though and I might replace those soon.
Our bamboo towels are thin. Thin is good on a boat where space is at a prime. We have two sets of bath towels, face towels and washcloths. I like the softness of them, Radu thinks they are too silky and prefers his cotton shower towel and uses the bamboo towels for face and hands. How can towels ever be too silky?!
We have lots of polar fleece blankets on board. We use them use them in the cockpit during night watches and even if they get wet, they still warm you. This tip came from a TransPac racer. “Can’t ever have enough fleece on board”. Perfect. Cheap. Got ours at Target.
We use them below also: to cover the cabin cushions, as they are super moisture absorbent (in fact they are hydrophobic, holding less than 1% of its weight in water). We had a dog, Samba, who thought she needed to mark her territory and the berth cushions every so often. An extra layer helped a lot and way easier to wash than stripping all cushion covers off! Fleece blankets also help with visiting grandkids with wet, little feet, and reduce regular wear on cushion covers. We always have one fleece blankets under the sheets on sleeping berth to soak up sweat, ventilate a little and shield the mattress. When not in use, fleece blankets fold up nicely and don’t take up much room. I also love my micro fleece pants and jackets, for when there is a little chill in the air, and they also layer well under the foulies.
Polar Fleece is made a 100% from recycled plastic bottles, melted down into pelts, which are then spun out into yarns ready for creating the fleece fabric. In effect, the process prevents billions of PET products from ending up on landfill sites and the fleece can even be recycled again in the future, giving an endless cycle of reuse. But fleece is ultimately not the answer! When we wash fleece, microplastics are being shed off into the domestic waste water and into the ocean, ingested by fish the micro plastics get in our food chain. The outdoor and sports clothing company Pantagonia acknowledges and describes the problem on their website here. Wool is the sensible alternative for now.
In came ‘Icebreaker’, a New Zealand company specializing in innovative outdoor clothing made out of Merino wool, they call RealFleece (here) and effectively airing out the idea that wool is itchy, heavy and slow drying. I bought their wrap jacket several years ago, which is light, warm, but breathable and fashionable (see here), the only wool item I have the boat. I just discovered ‘SmartWool‘ (website here), founded by New England ski instructors, producing clothing made with treated Merino wool, and which I have yet to try out. And finally, there is a German clothing company called Engel (meaning angel), making organic Merino wool into 100% wool fleece (here). How divine!
Learning and writing about this, I caught myself in a complacent ‘fleece’ spiral! So easy to get stuck! Now aware, I will reconsider our polar fleece use on board and report back, how we do with fleece alternatives.