Most hula hoops are made from either polyethylene (PE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polypropylene (PPE). PE and HDPE are made from petroleum while polypropylene is a harder, denser plastic (polymer). Many people wonder which type of material is best, but the answer is that there are pros and cons to each type of material.
Polyethylene (PE) is a great material for a beginners hoop. It is the black tubing that you can purchase from the plumbing section of a hardware store. It comes in various psi ratings which stands for ‘pounds per inch’ and refers to how much water pressure the tubing is designed to withstand. A higher psi number means that the tubing is thicker. In terms of hula hoops a higher psi number means that the hula hoop is heavier because the tubing is thicker. Weighted fitness hula hoops are normally made from 160psi tubing, whereas regular or dance hoops are normally made out of 100psi tubing.
PE is a great material for all types of hula hoops and makes a versatile hoop that can be used for basic hooping or trick or dance moves. One possible downside of PE is that it is a little more flexible than HDPE and PPE which means that it can kink if you are doing fast reverse moves. It can also feel a little a little heavy for faster, more complex tricks and can soften in strong sunlight.
High-density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE has the same chemical makeup as PE, but it’s white rather than black. It is also a little lighter, stiffer and harder than PE and is usually considered the best middle weight hoop material. HDPE is often used to make light-up LED hoops or coloured hoops. More durable than polypropylene hoops, HDPE hoops are lightweight, responsive, silky smooth to touch and are great for basic hooping or dance and trick moves. They are also more heat resistant than PE hoops.
PPE or polypro as it is commonly referred to is even lighter and harder than HDPE. Hula hoops made from polypro are very responsive for fast and complex hoop moves. They flick and flow with little drag. However, because polypro hoops are so light that it feels almost like they do not exist they are not good to learn tricks with. PE and HDPE hoops are better for attaining the muscle memory required to anticipate the hoops movement. It is generally a good idea to learn and practice with a PE or HDPE hoop until you gain substantial confidence before beginning to use a polypro hoop. Polypro hoops are more suitable for ‘pros’, but when you do reach an advanced level they are fun and lovely to play with. Do note though, that because polypro is such a hard rigid material it is more sensitive to extreme temperatures and temperature changes and may crack and break. Keep your polypro hoop away from extremely hot or cold conditions and transition it from cool to hot/hot to cool environments gradually to avoid this.
The best type of hula hoop is one that suits your needs and budget. PE and HDPE hoops are easier to learn with and so are generally better for beginners, but they are also good to use when your hoops skills become more advanced. Polypro hoops are easier to create flow with, but are very light and fast so generally unsuitable for beginners or to learn tricks with. Most dedicated hoopers amass a collection of hoops of different sizes and materials and select hoops to fit their current need.