Full Review: When I reviewed the HCG-02 for Meerkatsu last year, there were two major flaws that needed to be resolved with the next edition: poor stitching and an overly baggy cut. I was therefore keeping a close eye on those two potential problems after receiving the HCG-03 while I was in Texas. Georgette kindly let me have the gi sent to her home, in addition to all her awesome hospitality while I was there in November. Incidentally, she also has an HCG-03 to review: I'll update this with a link when it's up.
previously that the price was already being kept artificially low while they ironed out any errors. That cost barrier could cause problems, as with the even more unique (and even more expensive) Gimono.
Chris Odell's explanation is reasonable, but most people will still baulk at the price. If the claim that hemp is so much stronger and more durable than cotton is true, then as with the Gimono, the expense can be justified to an extent:
On the pricing once again guys hemp is so much better than cotton, but you kind of have to use it to really understand. All I can tell you for sure is we pay 4X what other guys pay for just about any gi on the market so as you can see our markup is actually very low considering.
HCG-02 review, there are many claims regarding hemp. The relevant advantages touted for a hemp gi are:
- Four times stronger than cotton
- Anti-microbial, so allegedly bacteria, mold and fungi can't live in the gi
- Green: readily renewable and the cultivation process uses limited water
- Porous: breathes well and dries faster
- Wears in rather than wears out
I can't vouch for it being anti-microbial without access to a laboratory and a science degree, but the HCG-03 still has the wonderful softness of the HCG-02 (and thanks to Georgette's washing protocol smells fantastic, but that only applies if you've washed your clothes in Georgette's house ;D). It also dries relatively fast, taking about a day, though that is still much longer than either my Gimono or my Gorilla ripstop, both of which dry in a few hours.
Houston tends to bounce from hot to cold. When I took the black trousers out, they looked like they had been rolled in flour due to all the shedding from my HCG-03. Similarly, in the shower after training it felt like I was using one of those exfoliating shower gels due to all the lint from inside the gi. The HCG-02 stopped shedding after a few washes, so I would assume the same is true with the HCG-03 (other reviews I've read mentioned it stopped after four or five washes).
CG-01 hemp/cotton blend. I am used to much thinner jackets, especially as I was testing my Gimono alongside the Datsusara in Texas, but the breathability of the hemp means that it doesn't feel as heavy as the gsm might indicate. The weave isn't typical either, as it is a 'basket weave' rather than the more common pearl, single and double weaves. It will get creased, unlike the Gimono, but not to the extent of something like the Gorilla. That's a very minor point though, which I only noticed because the Gimono has such a ridiculously crease-proof drape.
Behind your neck, the inner label of the HCG-03 has increased considerably in size and was slightly itchy at first, though it seems to have lessened with repeated washes. Unlike the HCG-02, the trousers do not come with the option of both a rope and drawstring (or at least mine didn't). You're stuck with the flat drawstring, which is fine with me as that's what I prefer anyway, but I'm aware that many BJJers favour a rope. The thread in the gi is made of nylon, as Odell stated here.
Predator and Basico). That improvement in terms of fit is due to the help from Scotty Nelson at OnTheMat, who was a groundbreaking figure in both US BJJ and US-based gi design (he mentions his involvement with Datsusara briefly during his Open Mat Radio interview from a few months ago). The cut of the HCG-03 was taken directly from the OTM 420, though Odell noted in his email to me that the HCG-04 would be changing its cut slightly. Nelson also helped in locating a different manufacturer for the HCG-03. I can't think of any other pair of gi companies who have been willing to work that closely, so its another refreshing development from Datsusara (and indeed OnTheMat).
The Datsusara HCG-03 is apparently IBJJF legal, as people have mentioned they have won IBJJF competitions while wearing a Datsusara HCG-03. According to the Datsusara website, that is true for both the unbleached white and the midnight blue. Like last time, Odell has been engaging with his customers on various forums, perhaps most notably Sherdog, which is among the largest. For example, he immediately resolved customer complaints regarding defects on this thread, which as a result turned into positive feedback.
The Datsusara HCG-03 is available to buy here for $199.95, in either unbleached 'natural' white or midnight blue, although many sizes are now sold out. It is worth noting that Odell told me yet another version of the Datsusara hemp gi is due for release, with the HCG-04 expected to land around March 2013. I'll be interested to see if there are many further changes for the HCG-04. It would appear that most of the criticisms of the HCG-02 have been addressed in the HCG-03 without creating new problems, so aside from the lint shedding there is less obvious room for improvement (unless Odell can somehow reduce the cost, but I imagine that would be difficult without compromising on quality).
Update Dec 2012: Shortly after I posted up this review, Odell suggested that machine washing and drying at least once should prevent the shedding issue (I always hang dry). So, give that a try if you're having problems on that front.
As per usual, Datsusara owner Chris Odell has done a video describing the gi (interestingly, he says the shedding problem has been fixed: perhaps that's true for the midnight blue gi, but it is demonstrably still an issue with the gi I have). As I now know he is a dedicated nogi guy, it makes sense that the belt he is wearing is still white several years since I first saw him wear a gi. ;)