It seems Merino sheep all over the world are baa’ing a sigh of relief because for once it’s not them getting sheared with sharp objects. Yak wool is the new natural fiber in town and the Kora Shola 230 leggings ($145) are a technical baselayer that is made entirely of yak wool.
Yak wool is “40% warmer weight for weight, 66% more breathable and is 17% better at transporting water vapour away from the skin” than Merino wool.
I couldn’t really validate that yak wool is 40% warmer than Merino during the test without wearing Merino wool leggings on one leg and the Kora Shola’s on the other and then spending a day outside in the cold running, skiing, cycling, whatever. So I resorted to what little bit of common sense I have and a visit to Wikipedia to learn about yaks.
Yaks live at high elevation (up to 19,000 feet above sea level). Snow, wind, sleet, hail, rain, yaks are unfazed by Mother Nature’s wrath. They’ve adapted to their surroundings by growing a soft wool under their shaggy outer coats to keep them warm and comfortable all year. Merino sheep, on the other hand, generally live at 3,200 feet above sea level.
It makes sense that the animal that lives high in the Himalayas is going to produce warmer wool than the Merino sheep that gets to enjoy the temperate climates at a reasonable elevation.
Anyway, enough about long-haired bovids and ruminant mammals.
What I like
- Very warm and breathable.
- My size small sample was relaxed enough to wear over a chamois for cycling on days in the mid-20’s but form-fitting enough to wear under ski pants and (non) skinny jeans.
- No matter how much vigorous exercise I did outside, they never felt wet from my perspiration.
- Oh-my-gods soft against my skin, no rubbing, chafing or itching. I saw a lot of yak pictures while researching these leggings. Yaks have long, scraggly, dread-lock’ish fur. It doesn’t seem possible that the Shora leggings would feel as silky and soft as they actually did.
- The amount of wearing I can get between washing. In 6 weeks of testing (though not consecutively every day for 6 weeks) I have yet to wash them.
- The humane harvesting of the wool. Yak wool is collected only during their natural bi-annual shed when the yak farmer (almost literally) walks around the pasture picking up the shedded undercoat from the ground and giving the yak a nice brushing (which they probably love because it feels good). Merino sheep are still sheared.
- Price tag of $145 is like taking a bullet.
I highly recommend the Kora Shola 230 leggings. Yes, they’re pricey but if you’re looking to treat yourself to a quality piece of outdoor gear to keep you comfortable outside for years to come, give them some consideration.