The team at Kora have introduced a new top for men and women that brings the benefits of their unique yak wool blend into the world of technical wear. They reached out to us after we put their Xenolith sweater on our holiday gift guide last year to see if we wanted to try out their new shirt. The sent a few pieces of their gear* along with it for us to try out.
The Shola Shirt
At the top of the list was their new Shola short sleeve crew. This technical shirt is made with 100% yak wool and comes in a body fit that leaves the thicker than average shirt hugging the body. Much like on the Xenolith, the yak wool Shola is soft to the touch and is much less scratchy than most wool products. The tighter fit also minimizes the rubbing that comes with loose shirts.
Kora bills the shirt as a technical shirt for spring and fall, so we took it out on a few trail hikes in the foothills behind Ojai, California. I found the body fit to be very comfortable in the cool spring air with a light overshirt on top for protection from the sun. It breathed nicely and never made me feel like I was overheating, like many wool tops can. Testing its versatility, I used it as an undershirt and found that the body fit was a great way to give myself a nearly invisible layer of extra warmth on chilly days while not feeling bogged down by a thick insulating layer.
The Shola comes in an obsidian blue with visible yellow stitching for the men and the same obsidian blue fabric for women, but with a maroon stitching. At $125, it is not a cheap product, but from our testing, it appears to be well made and shows no signs of wear after a few weeks of wear and several washes along the way.
The Holocene Vest
For cooler days or early mornings out on the bike I found Kora’s Holocene vest to be a great insulating layer that provided just enough warmth for my core for longer sprints across town. Much like the Kora’s other products, the Holocene has an active cut and runs tighter than many other vests. That makes it a nice addition for bike rides, hikes or other active applications, where extra bulk can get in the way of whatever you’re doing.
The Holocene also surprised me a few times with hidden bits of functionality that made it great for my active lifestyle. First, it has two large pockets on the back. These are common on bike jerseys, but not so much on insulating gear like this vest, but they are perfect for stashing a water bottle, keys or a credit card to avoid having to throw a pack on for a short hike or bike ride.
The vest also has a tacky layer stitched into the elastic around the bottom that helps it to stay in place. This is especially helpful when crouched down on a bike powering out the last few miles, or even just casually taking in the sunset at the park. The $190 vest is cut for men and comes in black with a brown stitching for a nice pop of contrast. The black itself is a bit lighter than the midnight black found in many synthetics, but you can see that in the pics on the Kora site.
The Shola Neck Gaiter
In the early days of our relationship, my wife and I used to head up to the mountains to snowboard as often as we could. We have slowed down a bit since having kids, but still make time to get up to the mountains and one of our clutch pieces of kit when we get into the snow is a neck gaiter. For warmer days, we pull them up over our heads like a beanie and on cooler days, they are the best way to keep the core warm around the neck on active days.
Kora’s gaiter came in after years of traditional fleece gaiters and it did not disappoint. I found its thin but stretchy build to be a great balance for mountain wear as it was able to provide the same warmth with a more snug fit. Fleece edges it out when it comes to providing a softer, more comfortable insulating layer, but the thinner but stretchier Kora gaiter is a great option for the technically minded. However, at $50, it is certainly a larger investment than most fleece alternatives.
Kora Upside Down Socks
Finally, Kora rounded out the spring kit with a pair of their uber warm Upside Down socks. These active socks were warmer than most of my other wool hiking socks and would be something I would use for winter wear. They have great padding, but like most wool socks, they started pilling after a few weeks of off and on wear and washing. Kora’s unique fabric blend in these socks made them much softer on my skin than any other wool sock I have worn, while still maintaining their durability in the footbed.
Kora notes that the socks are a blend of wool and synthetic fibers which has been tactfully woven into the tube of the sock for better insulation. Down at the base of the sock, Kora ditched the terry weave for a more durable, technical pattern that ensures a comfortable fit for long hours on the trail. The Upside Down Socks are $22 on Kora’s site, which is right around the price point for many of the popular wool hiking socks like Smart Wool, Darn Tough, Patagonia, or my personal favorite, Bridgedale.
*Kora provided these products to CleanTechnica for the purposes of this review.
Article Images courtesy: Kora | Lead image by Eric Sanman from Pexels