Yak wool is one of the lesser known base layer fabrics. It’s warmer, lighter, and more breathable than merino wool, but still provides odor resistance, durability and softness. Kora has brought to market the Shola 230 Yak Wool Crew, and this is my review.
Starting with the basics, the Shola 230 Crew is indeed produced from yak wool. Yak wool is similar to merino, but it provides advantages in heat retention and breathability. The 230 is a form fitting long sleeve design that’s made to stay close to the body to avoid bulk, while still providing excellent insulation. It has a low cut neck to avoid sticking out from under other layers, and durable flat-locked seams that provide extra strength without creating friction points or bulges. It has an inherent 40+ UPF rating too. They run true to size, matching bottoms are available, and the model tested here retails for $145.
What I liked
I did find that the Shola 230 kept me warmer than most of my merino wool base layers. Despite the material being thin and breathable, it managed to trap heat right at the skin’s surface, insulating even when directly exposed to the wind with no other layers on. It’s proven warm enough for hiking through deep winter freezes and even biking when the temps drop down into the thirties. It also dries very quickly, rarely leaving me with a damp spot behind my backpack or on my chest after working up a sweat. It’s an overall great performer.
The fit is great. The Shola really hugs the curves of the body and it’s obviously been designed to do so. Underneath other layers, it adds practically no bulk and stays in place without bunching or getting twisted up, making it excellent for aerobic activities like jogging, hiking or biking. I’ve found that it can be paired underneath a short sleeve shirt to provide an excellent balance of heat retention and breathability.
The fabric is indeed quite soft. Holding it in the hands, there really is no indication that it’s any type of wool at all. The carefully chosen knit produces a feel that’s soft and smooth in a way that reminds me more of polyester. It feels quite nice.
Odor control seems to be on par with merino wool, making it excellent for extended camping trips or long day hikes. Even after vigorous activities like running or biking up long climbs, it remained fresh and scent free the entire day, a definite plus for those long distance hikers and backpackers out there.
What I didn’t like
While the material feels softer to the touch than merino wool, I personally found it to be, initially, a bit itchier. It takes a bit of time to get used to the fabric, but once you do it’s great to wear for extended periods of time. It will take some acclimation though.
Caring for yak wool takes a little effort than most base layers. You’ll need to wash it on your wool setting (or delicate if you don’t have one) and line dry it instead of tossing it in the drier. Thankfully, it dries very, very quickly, so this isn’t really an issue. It’s worth noting, however.
The Shola 230 crew from Kora provides an excellent alternative to merino wool and synthetic base layers. It’s soft, fits great, and and outperforms both when it comes to drying time and warmth, and competes handily with wool when it comes to odor resistance. It’s a bit itchy at first, and you’ll pay a premium for the more exotic material, but a solid base layer is worth investing in if it keeps you warm, dry and comfortable in depths of winter.
For more information on Kora and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, http://www.kora.net/usa/
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I want to extend a huge thanks Kora for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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