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Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > Kora Shola 230 Base Layers > Test Report by Brian Hartman

KORA SHOLA 230 WOOL CREW TOP AND LEGGINGS
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN


TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 50
LOCATION: Central Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT 

November 3, 2018


PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

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Manufacturer: Kora
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kora.net/usa

Specifications for Shola 230 Crew Top and Leggings
Material: 100% Yak wool
Fabric Weight: 230 gsm (grams per square meter)

MSRP: US $145.00 ea

Listed Weight: N/A

Crew - Measured Weight: 9.5 oz (269 g)
Leggings - Measured Weight: 7.1 oz (201 g)
Available Colors: Obsidian Blue, Shale Black
Available Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, 2X-Large
Size Testing: Large - Crew; Medium - Leggings

Features:
Extra-long body length
Flat-locked seams
Low profile crew neck collar
Anti-bacterial
40+ UPF sun protection

The Shola 230 Crew and Leggings (hereafter called Shola Crew and Leggings, Shola 230, or Crew Top and Leggings) are thermal base layers made of 100% Himalayan Yak wool.  They are designed to be worn next to the skin as base layers, and Kora claims them to be warm in cold weather, yet cool and comfortable during intense activities.  Their best qualities are their warmth per weight, natural odor resistance, and their ability to draw moisture away from the skin to keep it dry.  In addition, they have built-in 40+ UPF sun protection.  Both the Shola Crew and Leggings are made of 230 gsm fabric that is purported to be 40% warmer than Merino wool, 66% more breathable, and 17% faster at transporting water vapor away from the skin.  The details of a study by Sheffield Hallam University, comparing Yak wool base layers to Merino wool and polyester, are presented on Kora’s website as proof of Yak wool’s ability to reduce heat loss in cold temperatures.

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The Crew Top has a high neck collar and long body length to keep air out, while the Leggings are cut high at the back of the waist which should help keep my lower back covered when bending over.  Both have flat-locked seams to help prevent chaffing and pressure spots against the skin.  The Leggings also have an elastic waistband to help keep them in place.

Regarding the manufacturer, Kora is a British company that started making wool base layers in 2013.  The company’s founder is passionate about sourcing his wool from local nomadic herders in Himalaya to help sustain their livelihood.  Today Kora has many clothing styles as well as new fabrics in their product line.  Their fabrics are made in house and their products are tested by ambassadors around the world to ensure Kora’s quality and performance standards.  Kora's product line includes men’s and women’s zip tops, long and short sleeve crews, polo shirts, leggings, shorts, vests, sweaters and jackets. 

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Shola 230 Crew Top and Leggings arrived in an oversized DHL envelope.  As soon as I saw the envelope on my doorstep, I knew what it was and hurried inside to open it.  The Crew and Leggings were in excellent condition with no snags, holes or loose stitching.  Both are solid black in color.  The Crew has yellow stitching that runs across the shoulders and down each arm, as well as on both sides of the torso, while the Leggings have yellow stitching that runs down the outside of both legs.  Kora’s name and logo are neatly stitched on the upper left shoulder of the Crew and completely around the waistband.  I really like the subdued look, which helps keep them from looking like a technical garments. 

I found the fabric to be soft and smooth with some natural stretch to it.  The seams were described as flat on Kora’s website, but they do, in fact, have some height to them.  The upper seams on the Crew appear to be located just off the top of the shoulders for more comfort.  Two large product tags are sewn into the back neck line of the shirt as well as the back of the Leggings.  Hopefully they won’t cause any problems.

The shirt is 31 in (78.8 cm) in length from top to bottom and 34.75 in (88.1 cm) across the chest.  The shoulders are 16 in (40.6 cm) from seam to seam and the neck is 6 in (15.3 cm) in diameter.  Finally, the sleeves are 28 in (71.1 cm) in length from shoulder to cuff.  I should mention here that I originally ordered this shirt in size Medium but ended up exchanging it for a Large, because it was too tight to put on.  Kora customer service was excellent to work with and I had the new shirt in a few days.  For reference, my chest is 37.5 in (95.3 cm) in circumference and the sizing chart recommends Medium for chests up to 38.6 in (98 cm) and Large for chests to 40.9 in (103.9 cm).  The Leggings are 40 in (101.6 cm) from top to bottom and 25 in (63.5 cm) around the waist.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Two hang tags were included with the Crew and Leggings.  The first gave a brief description of the item, simply saying that it was made from 100% Yak wool and that Kora buys its wool directly from the Himalayan community in support of the local people who live there.  It also provided Kora's website and mentioned that lab tests comparing Yak wool to Merino wool purported it to be 40% warmer and 66% more breathable. 

The second hang tag provided instructions for caring for the garment.  The instructions are as follows:  wash in a laundry bag on wool cycle at 30 C (86 F).  Do not dry clean.  Do not bleach.  Do not use fabric softeners.  Wash with similar colors.  Line dry in shade.  Do not tumble dry.  Ironing is not recommended.  Expect 5% shrinkage.  Author comment: No, please don’t shrink any smaller!


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TRYING THEM OUT

Even in size large, the Shola 230 Crew fit tight in the chest, upper arms, and arm pits.  The sleeves are 3.5 in (8.9 cm) too long, but it’s easy enough to roll them up.  Beyond that, the top was lightweight and felt smooth against my skin.  I wore it around the block in 46 F (7.8 C) weather this morning, underneath a mid weight jacket, and I was cool when I started out but quickly warmed up.  The Leggings fit much better and were easy to slip on and off, and comfortable to wear.  I look forward to colder weather and the opportunity to test the warmth of these items and their ability to keep me dry and comfortable in tough conditions. 

SUMMARY

The Shola 230 Crew and Leggings are light weight and appears to be well made and durable.  However, the sizing, for me, was off, and I’m concerned about the 5% shrinkage Kora says will happen once it is washed. 

This concludes my Initial Report for the Shola 230 Crew and Leggings.  



FIELD REPORT

February 3, 2018


FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

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I wore the Kora base layers for 28 days during Field Testing.  I wore them on the three backpacking trips below, as well as on day hikes, and whenever I was outdoors for extended periods of time.  The weather conditions in November and early December were mild, with above average temperatures and below average precipitation.  During that time, I only wore the Crew top and not the Leggings.  However, once temperatures dropped and winter kicked in, I started wearing both items, with multiple layers of clothing over the Crew.   

 
The first significant snowfall of the year brought 6 in (15.2 cm) of heavy, wet stuff, which I was very happy to see.  A week later, four more inches (10 cm) of snow fell and temperatures dropped to 0 F (-18 C).  A few days ago, when I started writing this report, my outside thermometer read -8 F (-22 C) and windchill was a blissful -14 F (-26 C). 

 Most of my time was spent in Indiana (IN), Ohio (OH), and Wisconsin (WI) in various local, state, and national parks, as noted below in my trip logs:

Trip One: 6 days, 5 nights

Location: Cuyahoga National Park, OH
Weather: 26 to 35 F (-3 to 1.6 C) with moderate winds to 14 mph (22.5 kph)
Elevation: 1170 ft (357 m)
Comments: I wore the crew top on this trip, but wished I’d brought the Leggings as well when temperatures dropped at night.

 

Trip Two: 3 days, 2 nights
Location: Manitowoc County, WI
Weather: 22 to 34 F (-5.5 C to 1 C); conditions were clear and sunny the first day and cloudy with snow flurries afterwards
Elevation: 732 ft (223 m)
Comments: I spent most of my time on the Devil’s River State Trail, and surrounding areas.  Having learned a lesson from my previous outing, I wore both the Crew top and Leggings and was glad I did.

 

Trip Three: 3 days, 2 nights
Location: Franklin County, IN
Weather:  12 to 22 F (-11 to -5.5 C)
Comments: It was cold and windy on this trip so I donned both base layers and wore them the entire trip, which included the drive down, while hiking, at my campsite, in my sleeping bag, and on the return trip home.  This was not something I'd normally do, but I wanted to see how good they were, and if they’d retain moisture and body odors.   

 
In addition to the trips above, I wore the Kora base layers whenever I got the chance, including walks around our neighborhood, and when shoveling my driveway.  I also took several day hikes at local parks, averaging 4 to 5 mi (6.4 to 8 km) in length with temperatures ranging from 0 to 24 F (-17.8 to -4.4 C).


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I had high expectations for the Shola base layers at the start of Field Testing, given Kora's claim that their garments were warmer, more breathable, and better wicking than merino wool.  Three months later, I'm happy to report that the Shola Crew and Leggings lived up to their hype and performed flawlessly throughout testing.  They met my expectations for warmth and breathability, and they wicked moisture so well that I never felt clammy, even after working up a sweat.  I wore them directly against my skin with one or two additional layers of clothing overtop of them, depending on the weather conditions.  As seen in the photos above and below, I usually wore my Polartec Fleece or Thinsulate jacket over the Crew, but when it got cold and windy, I added a Shell on top of everything.  I wore softshell pants or heavy weight nylon pants over the Leggings, depending if I was hiking on-trail, or if I was going off-trail through brush.  

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Warmth / Wicking:  The Shola Crew and Leggings kept me plenty warm in temperatures down to 12 F (-11 C), which was the coldest I experienced while backpacking.  However, towards the end of the test period, temperatures dipped to 0 F (-17.8 C) and so I took the opportunity to do some day hiking and see how well the Shola base layers handled those temperatures.  Result: they were impressively warm, handling the cold weather with no problems.  Getting back to backpacking, I won't say that I wasn't ever cold while wearing the thermals, as I'm typically cold after first waking up and getting out of my sleeping bag, simply because my body doesn't generate much internal warmth when sitting or lying around.  Once I got moving though, I was fine.  When temperatures were warmer, say in the mid 30s F (1.7 C) or higher, I found the Shola base layers adapted well and were quite breathable.  In general, they did a wonderful job of keeping me dry in variable temperatures.  I was also genuinely impressed with their ability to wick moisture, when I was hiking aggressively with a heavy load and felt like I was starting to overheat or sweat.  Regarding warmth and breathability, I would rate the Shola Crew and Leggings as top notch, if not the best base layers I've ever worn.

IMAGE 4Comfort / Fit: In terms of comfort, the Shola Crew and Leggings were top notch again.  I found them to be soft and itch free, with the ability to easily stretch, so as not to impede motion.  I had complete freedom of movement while wearing these items and felt no restrictions when I twisted or extended my arms or legs beyond regular movements.  Regarding fit, I found the Crew stretched out as I continued wearing it, to the point where I was no longer bothered by its snugness.  The Leggings fit great and I had no problems with them from the day they arrived.  To reiterate what I think is an important point, I experienced no scratching or itchiness whatsoever from the fabric, seams, or tags of either item.  In fact, I wore the Crew and Leggings for five straight days on my trip to the Cuyahoga National Park, and they were as comfortable to wear on the fifth day as they were on the first.  Now, normally I wouldn't wear the same base layers for multiple days, while hiking and in my sleeping bag at night, but in this case, I felt it was important to push these items to their limits and see what they could handle.  Knowing I could wear them for extended periods of time, and they'd maintain their performance, makes them that much more valuable to me as multi-purpose clothing.  

This topic wouldn't be complete without talking about the anti-microbial properties of wool and how well the Shola Crew and Leggings performed in that category.  They held no odors whatsoever, despite me wearing them 24x7 for multiple days in a row.  I believe personal hygiene is important on the trail and know I feel better when my teeth are clean, my hair is brushed and I don't stink, even when hiking solo in a big forest with no one else around.  Just to make sure my senses weren't dulled after being alone with myself for multiple days, I asked my wife to smell the Crew and Leggings when I got home.  She was hesitant at first, but when I told her they were made of wool, she agreed, and said they smelled fine.

Durability:  The Crew and Leggings were both durable.  After three months of testing, they showed no signs of pilling, and had no rips, tears, or snags in them.  During this period, I treated them like any other article of clothing, in other words I didn't baby them or treat them any differently than I would have otherwise.  When I wasn't wearing them, they were stuffed in my backpack or sitting on a shelf in my gear closet.  At first, I was concerned about washing them, because I was concerned about shrinkage.  But after a while I gave in and put them through a spin cycle.  After washing both items for the first time, I put the Crew on over a long sleeve top, while it was still wet, and wore it around my house until it dried.  I was hoping it would retain its stretched size, and it seemed to do so.  On subsequent washings I didn't bother to repeat my experiment and haven't had the need to do so since.  

SUMMARY

The Kora base layers kept me warm and dry in cold, wet conditions during the past three months of testing.  I had no issues with scratchiness as is sometimes a complaint with wool clothing.  In fact, the Shola fabric was soft and smooth to the touch and completely odor resistant which allowed me to wear these base layers for multiple days with no issues.

This concludes my Field Report for the Shola Crew and Leggings.  Thanks to Kora and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.  Please come back in two months to read my Final review.  





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