One of my fondest memories in hoop class was when Teeba, Chief Hoop Fairy, Founder of Flowground, hooping instructor, spiritual guru, hoop sensation, epic fashionista and psytrance aficionado, said in her teacher voice, “These hoops are HDPE”. I then asked, “High Density Polyethylene??” She looked at me with the sweetest smile and mmhmmm-ed.

I looked at her intensely, and she looked back at me (probably confused and slightly worried for her life). My heart skipped a beat while The Partridge Family’s “I think I love you” played in my head in the background. I approached Teeba slowly, slightly out of breath, and whispered gently in a coarse voice…”You’re…you’re….you’re an engineer???”

Teeba burst out laughing and confirmed that she was. I hugged her, a bone-crushing hug (which isn’t something special really, I pretty much hug anything that’s in a one metre radius of me), trembling, with tears in my eyes, and whispered into her ear, “me too.”

….and we never spoke of it again.

Where was I? Right, HDPE. As a chemical engineer in the Oil and Gas industry, I know that material all too well. It’s one of the various plastics used in manufacturing oil and natural gas pipes, irrigation pipes, and, of course, hula hoops.

So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter what type of plastic, or any other material, that the hoop is made of?

It matters quite a bit! The material of the hoop will dictate the hoop’s reactivity to your movement, how fast it spins, how heavy it is and how it reacts to certain elements (such as the weather, temperature, moisture in air, etc).

The two most commonly used materials are: 1) HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) and 2) Polypro (Polypropylene). The former is the heavier, slower, less responsive one while the latter is the faster, lighter more responsive one. Which one to go for is completely based on one’s preference and flow (and even mood sometimes!). However, usually, just to be on the safe side, HDPE is the one to go for. Not only is HDPE easier to manage, but it is also more flexible and less brittle than Polypro, hence if you drop it, it is less likely to get damaged, unlike a Polypro hoop.

But as always, you can only know which one you prefer after some playtime with both. Your preference may change with size as well! So go ahead, experiment, and see which material suits you best.

The Spinsterz sum it up very well in their blog and explain the core differences between some of the materials used in making hula hoops. Here is a detailed breakdown that they have posted on their blog:

Polyethylene:

  • Also known as PE tubing or black irrigation tubing
  • Can be purchased at most hardware stores; can also be purchased online
  • Hoops made from PE tubing are what most hoopers start with
  • This tubing is great for beginners
  • PE tubing is thicker and heavier than the other tubing types; moves rigidly
  • PE hoops move slowly (because of their heavier weight), which gives the hooper more control over the hoop (which is also why this tubing is great for beginners)
  • Measured by ID (inside diameter) and PSI (pounds per square inch)

 

Polyvinyl Chloride:

 

  • Also known as PVC tubing
  • PVC tubing can be red, black, or white in color
  • Very similar to PE tubing; however, PVC is a bit lighter
  • Great for beginners
  • Can be purchased at most hardware stores
  • Measured by ID (inside diameter) and PSI (pounds per square inch)

 High Density Polyethylene:

  • Also known as HDPE tubing
  • Natural HDPE tubing is white in color; however, HDPE tubing can also come in a variety of colors (including pastels, metallics, and neon/UV reactive colors)
  • HDPE is one of the two tubing types used to make LED hoops
  • HDPE tubing is fairly stiff and rigid (similar to PE tubing; however, HDPE is thinner and lighter than regular PE tubing)
  • HDPE is lighter than PE tubing, but heavier than polypro
  • Good for off-body tricks or intermediate/advanced on-body moves
  • Measured by OD (outside diameter) and ounces

 Polypropylene:

  • Also known as PP tubing, PPE tubing, or polypro tubing
  • Natural polypro tubing is a milky-clear color; however, polypro tubing also comes in a variety of colors (including pastels, metallics, and neon/UV reactive colors)
  • PPE tubing is thin and very light, which makes PPE hoops move faster
  • PPE tubing is more flexible and more resilient than other types of hoop tubing (which makes PP excellent for breaks and reversals)
  • Polypro tubing is resilient and very responsive
  • Polypro tubing is commonly used for LED hoops
  • Good for off-body tricks or intermediate/advanced on-body moves
  • Measured by OD (outside diameter) and ounces

Polycarbonate:

  • Also known as polycarb tubing
  • Can be purchased online
  • Polycarb tubing can be found in a variety of colors including UV reactive
  • Polycarb tubing is hard, but very bouncy/springy
  • Good for off-body tricks or intermediate/advanced on-body moves
  • Measured by OD (outside diameter) and ounces

Cross-linked Polyethylene:

  • Also known as PEX tubing
  • Can be purchased in most hardware stores or online
  • Very similar to Polycarb tubing (in that PEX tubing is hard but lightweight; PEX tubing is also bouncy/springy)
  • Good for off-body tricks or intermediate/advanced on-body moves

Wood:

  • Can be purchased online
  • Made from cedar
  • Lighter/hollow wooden hoops weigh 6-10oz (about the same as a polypro); heavier wooden hoops weigh 11-17oz
  • Wooden hoops can be engraved with words or phrases
  • Wooden hoops are rather stiff compared to plastic hoops

 Aluminum:

  • Can be purchased online
  • Aluminum hoops do not warp or crack like plastic hoops
  • Lightweight (typically just over 6 ounces)

If you have any questions on what material of hoop to go for, you can always drop us an email at: hoop@flowground.com. Alternatively, you can also pass by our Flowjams on Mondays, and Teeba, or any of the other hoopers, will be there to answer any questions you may have.

Hoops of love,

Farah