It’s interesting to learn how different clothing companies choose different materials, because it really shows just how many options exist. We’ve all heard of merino wool tops and socks, but yak wool? That’s something new entirely, and it’s a material that only a company called Kora is using. I had a chance to try the Kora Shola Crew, one of the handful of products the company makes, to test its warmth, wicking and comfort. And after about a month of testing, you can count me as a yak fan.
The Kora Shola crew was originally intended to go to Jonas, but the company’s clothing runs quite small. What arrived was a Men’s large, which might have been a bit tight for him, but tightness is sometimes appropriate with a baselayer. Well, long story short, I’m a women’s size 7, and the crew fit me. A Men’s large fitting a women’s size 7 ought to tell you something about the sizing for Kora’s tops, though to be fair, a medium would’ve been a bit more snug for me.
At any rate, the Kora Shola crew holds its shape incredibly well through a variety of activities. I wore the top as a baselayer while snowshoeing, hiking and even just hanging out around the house. Not once did it exhibit the sag or frumpiness that can come with some high-content merino wool baselayers. Also, although there’s a little bit of itchiness around the neckline occasionally, I never noticed any areas of discomfort along the seams, even when really moving my arms on a hike. Part of that could be due to the seams’ spiral pattern, which curves naturally down the length of the arm and avoids all the common scratch locations.
In addition to the Shola crew’s comfort, the baselayer’s also quite warm. I tested it on several snowshoeing excursions with nothing but a fleece and lightweight jacket over the top and never got cold. It’s tempting to think some of that could have been attributed to the moderate activity, but I also wore the Kora Shola crew a few days to pickup the kids from school, and where I would’ve normally been chattering my teeth standing outside talking with other moms, I never even got a chill. The extended length helped with this, as there’s enough material to tuck the top into your pants and avoid getting cold drafts up your back. Still, it’s definitely best with a second/mid layer.
Interestingly, in spite of its warmth during high-energy activities, I never felt sweaty wearing the Kora Shola crew. The yak wool seemed a bit more breathable and had slightly better wicking properties than even merino-wool tops, so you’ll want to pay attention to what you use for a mid-layer above it. If you choose something that’s not particularly breathable, you’ll just end up leaving that moisture with nowhere to go.
The Shola crew is also quite soft and thin, so you feel cozy and never overly bundled with this as a baselayer. Kora claims to design its products for super-elite alpine athletes, so I’m sure that softness, wicking and thinness are quite important for those athletes’ performance. But even this definitely-not-elite athlete appreciated those features when enjoying a day in the snow or even just around town.
If you can navigate the sizing and don’t mind paying higher prices, the Kora Shola crew is a great baselayer addition. Though it seems high, its $145 price tag isn’t out of line compared with some of the nicer merino baselayers and mid-layers out there, and the performance actually seems a bit better in a few areas. Once you wear it a few times, you may just become a yak believer too.
The Kora Shola crew was provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and the article contains no affiliate links.
Kora Shola Crew
- Nice insulation without a lot of bulk
- Impressive wicking
- Unique seam pattern avoids normal scratch patterns
- Pretty delicate when it comes to washing/drying
- Sizes run much smaller than expected, even with size guide
- Occasional itch around the neckline