Move over, merino: Yak wool is here

Kora yak wool

The high neck keeps out the wind and cold, but the deep zipper prevents overheating. Photo: Kora

Used to be you’d want to make a bonfire at the end of every ski season — not to mark the end of winter or anything, but to torch all of your gag-inducing base layers. Despite semi-regular laundering (let’s get real here), polypropylene long johns have a special way of retaining every molecule of stink possible.

Merino wool, however, is naturally antimicrobial, which keeps the funk at bay. For better or for worse, once I switched to sheep, I’ve gone embarrassing stretches of time without washing my gear — with no one the wiser.

Merino’s become pretty standard, but other mammals have begun entering the mainstream market — American bison, for one, and now yak. Long used in the Himalaya for protection against the extreme cold, yak’s wool is the foundation for Kora’s line of base layers.

The Shola 230 Zip is stitched from Hima-Layer™ Original 230, their proprietary yak-wool fabric, which is sourced from nomad families on the Qinghai Tibet plateau. Besides being warm and soft, it’s also moisture wicking, which keeps you from going all cold-sweats when you stop for a breather on the hill or trail.

Kora claims that yak’s wool is superior to merino — “66 percent more breathable and 40 percent warmer, weight for weight,” they say. While those percentages might not be immediately discernible to the wearer, a couple of other details are appealing enough to warrant a run at this piece — namely the UPF 40+ sun protection incorporated into the fabric and the flat-locked seams, which they moved off the shoulder so they don’t get all chafe-y under pack straps.

The fit is extra-long, keeping you covered up when in motion or simply standing and stretching, but it is also borderline compressive, so if you like a looser fit, order a size up.

Kora Women’s Shola 230 Zip ($160)

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