Is Bamboo a Better Fabric for Walking?

Tasc Performance Shirt
Tasc Performance Shirt. Courtesy of

Move over, polyester, bamboo is coming on strong as a good choice for a fitness fabric. I've already switched to bamboo sheets and a bamboo nightgown to sleep cooler at night, but I hadn't thought about bamboo shirts for my walking workouts. Bamboo has excellent sweat-wicking ability and further advantages that many of the high-tech polyester fabrics may lack.

Bamboo Keeps You Dry

Bamboo fabric has the moisture-management features I get from polyester tech fabrics such as CoolMax.

It absorbs sweat from the body and quickly releases it the air, cooling you and keeping you dry. In the olden days, cotton was touted as breathable, yet it hangs onto moisture much longer, so soon you are strutting in a soggy shirt.

Soft Feel

Bamboo fabric feels simply fantastic. That's what led me to bamboo sheets, to begin with. I have a gaggle of polyester race shirts that feel closer to burlap than to silk. You never know what you're going to get with polyester, you have to feel it before you buy. The smooth finish of bamboo fiber glides over the skin. You may have less risk of chafing.

Bamboo Keeps You Both Cool and Warm

Like polyester tech fabric, bamboo is a good choice both summer and winter. A bamboo fabric shirt is a good base layer for winter activities to wick away moisture yet still keep you warm. In summer, it's breathable and keeps you cool and dry.

No Polyester Odor Problem - Possible Anti-Microbial Quality

Many polyester fabrics retain odor even after laundering.

I've had to toss many a great workout shirt because I couldn't get the funk out. Bamboo doesn't hang onto the odor like polyester does. It wrinkles less than cotton. It is also easy to launder.
How to Launder Bamboo Clothing

Many manufacturers claim that their bamboo fabric has anti-microbial properties that will prevent odors.

This may or may not be true, because most bamboo manufacturing processes remove the bamboo-kun anti-microbial factor that protects the plant. The Federal Trade Commission has gone after manufacturers who made this claim when their fabric didn't actually have this quality. If making the claim, the manufacturer may be adding back in anti-microbial factors.

UV Protection

Many bamboo fabric producers claim a high UV-protection factor. This is also something that the fiber itself isn't producing, the manufacturer would be adding it back into the fabric. It is an excellent quality to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Walkers may not realize that many shirts provide no protection, yet who puts sunscreen on the parts of their body that are under their clothing?

Sustainability and Eco-Friendliness

If you prefer eco-friendly walking gear, you may shun polyester fabric made from fossil fuels. But cotton is not a great alternative for the environment -- it requires a huge amount of water and chemicals to grow and process.

Bamboo can be grown more sustainably. If you ever planted it in your garden, you know how fast it grows, how it doesn't need watering, and how you can't get rid of it no matter how much you want to. Most bamboo fabric is produced through similar processes to produce wood pulp. Living in an area with paper mills, I can tell you that it is a stinky process. But in the end, bamboo is probably a more sustainable fiber.

Taking a Walk in TASC Performance Wear

I got a review sample of the tasc Performance Streets V-Neck Shirt. The tasc company has been working for two years to perfect their fabric to provide the high-performance factors active people want. They source the bamboo from a forest in China that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association and the USDA. They blend the bamboo viscose with cotton or wool and finish the fabric to provide UPF 50+ sun protection and anti-odor qualities.
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I checked the pricing and was very pleased to find their shirts cost no more than polyester tech shirts, and I could get them at major retailers. In fact, after wearing the sample shirt through three walking days, I ordered another one from a major retailer at a very low price.

What I loved about the shirt was that it really did feel cool and dry through hot and sweaty days. I wore it for a 2-hour walk, then went off to the Street of Dreams home show without changing, or feeling the need to change. I wandered through the luxe homes without feeling like a sweaty, smelly mess, which is how I usually feel after a walk. Then my husband and I went to lunch at an outdoor patio in temps over 85F. He was sweating copiously in his cotton polo shirt. I felt cool and dry in the same tasc bamboo shirt. Checking the pits afterward, there was still almost no odor.

tasc has both men's and women's designs and styles for summer and winter. While I have a closet filled with old race t-shirts in polyester tech fabric, I will probably add a few tasc shirts into the mix. It is nice to have some without race logos to wear when I'm not doing a walking workout, such as for shopping, dining, and travel.

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.​

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