Echo Point

Bamboo Forest

Green everywhere; rich and deep, pale and shimmering, reflecting light. All I see is green. All but a trampled brown path below, a narrow strip of sky above.  I hear a gentle rustle like a trickling stream; the sway of tall, now thin-now thick stalks, their leaves dancing, whispering. A sense of calm. The air is moist, earthy and fresh; it even smells green. A touch of breeze feels thick, heavy and warm. But the forever forest creates a cool sanctuary.  

Rain begins. All senses are invigorated, exaggerated...greener, wetter, cooler, fresher. The steady sound of pattering drops against the sturdy stalks and softly bending leaves, almost hypnotic, completes the isolation. You feel you’re in another world as the green envelopes and empties you; alive and wet!

The Bamboo Forest hike on Maui’s east coast is a worthy end to the scenic coastal drive from Paia to Hana and Haleakala National Park. After gazing at spectacular beaches and waterfalls, and navigating along the winding road aside steep green covered slopes, a hike in the bamboo forest is a fitting place to find oneself; to reflect and recharge.

Bamboo is amazing and exotic.  Not only is it beautiful, but it gives us a wide array of products created from this abundant resource.  From furniture and flooring to bike frames, food, and flowing fabrics, we find more bamboo items in the market than ever.


When travelling through more remote areas of Asia I remember seeing bamboo used throughout the villages in many ways: for homes, irrigation, tools. Tourists bring home carvings, wind chimes, and musical instruments. Bamboo is prolific, like shells in a seaside curio shop.

So, why was I having such trouble finding out about fabrics made from this abundant material? Searching the net, I was lost in a confusing dialogue between fans and foes.  How does fabric from bamboo fit into the many other choices we have as designers and consumers? Why do some folks hate it while others love it?  

I dug in, determined to find a path through the opposing views, to find my way through this interlocking knot of often contradictory information. I found myself back in the forest, having lost my sense of direction entirely, when it came to getting solid info.  Such beautiful fabric; soft and comfortable, breathable and easy care. It’s excellent for hiking as it wicks moisture from the skin and reduces odor.  Rayon from Bamboo is a delight to wear.  What is there not to like?

Eventually I’ve come to a basic understanding of this fabric. Like most things, there is both the exciting and the ugly.  Here is a simple break out of what I have learned:

The bad stuff:

- bamboo needs to be processed into viscose when it becomes a fabric

- the processing is much like that of pulp and paper and is often accomplished with the use of  

   toxic ingredients.  

- with these toxins used in processing, it can result in water and air pollution

- harvesting bamboo can be done well or very poorly

The good stuff:  

- bamboo is a super fast growing plant and can grow several crops per year

- doesn’t need all those horrible pesticides and herbicides so is easy to grow organically

- biodegrades fast

- doesn’t use much water at all to grow - this rates as a 5 star quality for me

- the plant is a sustainable resource

The Really Good stuff:

- the processing of bamboo into rayon viscose can be done in a much cleaner way

- this involves making the process a “closed loop” where the water is recaptured and reused  

   and air pollution is minimized to a very low level

- there are regulatory bodies that are helping to monitor harvesting methods

- much the same as the processing of eucalyptus trees into Lyocell fabric and beechwood

  trees into Modal fabric, there is a realistically possible future for recycling all 3 of these  

  cellulosic fabrics - research is presently in the works

So, when you next find yourself in a forest of swaying green bamboo, take a moment to look around; remember how amazing this beautiful grass truly is.  Whether in Hawaii, SE Asia, or South America, get out into the forest, surround yourself in bamboo. Wrap up in it too. I can’t promise it will keep you from getting wet, but what you will get - from both the hike and the hoodie - is a lasting smile. 


Check out Kaikuna’s Bamboo Women’s Hoodie at:

Kaikuna Bamboo French Terry Jacket

by Julie MacDonald
photography by Allan Weston
All Rights Reserved 2015 Kaikuna Clothing, LLC