Earlier this year I wrote about the Kora ‘Shola 230 Leggings’ and mentioned that I wanted to order the upper body base layer (top garment) of the same product line, called the Kora ‘Shola 230 Zip’ which like the leggings is also made from 100% Yak wool.
Statements such as this from Kora are enough to get the attention of most folks, myself included.
It’s 40% warmer weight for weight, 66% more breathable and is 17% better at transporting water vapour away from the skin. Just like merino, it’s soft and naturally odour-resistant.
Well after falling in love with the leggings, I decided to spend the money on the Kora ‘Shola 230 Zip’ top and have, at time of this writing, 100+ days of use wearing the top.
My medium sized Kora Shola 230 Zip is 268 grams (9.45 oz)
So how has the Kora Shola 230 Zip Top performed?
I want to take on this topic from these four perspectives:
- Warmth – For a 230g thermal the Shola 230 Zip has a very good warmth factor. Not too hot that it cooks me out of it just standing around, and not too light/cold that I find little value in wearing it. In full sun, it can cook me out of it rather quickly. Outside of the full sun beating down on me, the Shola 230 Zip can be an all-day-wear garment for me. I sleep in it, hike in it, wear it around camp, wear it at home, wear it around town (does not have a hike trash look to it) and overall just really find it to be a highly versatile piece of clothing.
- Breathability – Acceptable breathability for a 230g garment. I am not sure I could confirm the “66% more breathable than merino” that Kora claims, but that is not to say it is not, just that I think if something was 66% better, I would really notice it, and I do not notice it that much compared to my top end Icebreaker garments I have used in the past (for 1,500+ days, so yeah, I have some experience wearing Icebreaker)
- MVTR — Heck yeah, I have noticed the MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate – aka: how does it handle sweating) of this garment to be very good. I will also say that this garment dries out surprising fast compared to top end Icebreaker garments. I have worn it while hiking/trail running in the rain, and have river washed it more times than I can remember, and it has always dried out quicker than I expected it too.
- Thermoregulation — my readers/followers know that I place a huge value on thermoregulation. If you are new to my articles, meander over here for more on this topic/issue, so when a company starts talking thermal qualities of garments, it tends to get my attention. Here is a graph that shows how the Kora garments, made from Yak wool, performed in one thermal study. The Shola 230 Zip has done an excellent job when it comes to thermoregulation in my day to day use.
- Excellent warmth to weight ratio.
- Excellent warmth for the given fabric weight (230g) category of top garments.
- Felled seams.
- Internal zipper guard fabric to prevent zipper from rubbing directly on skin, and for those times when the zipper gets cold.
- Extra long length is really nice.
- Yak wool seems to offer significantly less issue for those who are hypersensitive to even the smallest/finest micron of sheep wool.
- Less stink-factor than even the finest of sheep wool garments I have worn.
- Seems to clean easier than sheep wool when doing a river cleaning.
- Seems to dry faster than sheep wool, even faster than the finest Icebreaker wool tops.
- Product branding has caused major issues with skin rubbing due to location and shoulder strap rubbing. This photo shows the underside/inside of the garment and the product branding. Every time I have worn it while backpack I have had to apply tape to my front shoulder to prevent skin rubbing and blistering. Even if I am wearing a tshirt under the Shola 230 Zip I have this problem. It is especially bad while trail running with a pack. Hella painful. Because of the lighter weight of this garment I was really looking forward to carrying/wearing the Shola 230 Zip while trail running and using it as a L2 over my Mountain Hardwear WickedCool Tank and using the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0, but because of the logo placement it rubbed my skin raw in under a mile of trail running. Kora resolving this issue would place the Shola 230 Zip within the highest rated top garments I have ever used out on the trail.
- Too short of arm lengths. My medium size, which athletically fits me very well, has arms so short that they end up close to half-way up to my elbow after wearing them for just a short period of time when trail running.
- Like the top end Icebreakers garments, the pricing of both Icebreaker and Kora tends to put them out of the price range of many people. That said, the quality is worth the price, if your pocketbook can afford them.
- Relocating the branding away from the front shoulder region of the garment – an absolutely must before I will buy another top garment from Kora.
- Longer arm lengths.
- Thumb loops would be really nice!
- Lower offset (even further) shoulder felled seams to reduce shoulder strap rubbing.
My thoughts on the Kora ‘Shola 230 Zip’ are very clear and simple:
I think the performance aspects of the Kora ‘Shola 230 Zip’ are the best of any garment I have put to the test over the last 2,000+ days.
I think I would be absolutely in love with this garment IF it did not have the branding/patch issue that has caused my shoulder skin to be rubbed raw to a point where I just no longer wear it while on-trail if I do not have on two or three layers or decide to tape up my shoulder – something that does not bring me great joy, just for the sake of wearing a thermal top.
I would love to someday try out the Kora ‘Azog Hooded Jacket’ which has a heavier weight fabric, thumb loops, product branding on the side of the sleeve and not chest shoulder, looks really good, and also looks super comfy. Could be an awesome winter season thermal, maybe as a L3 or L4 garment.
For those on facebook you can check out this post on my facebook page for further discussion on this product.
Where To Buy:
You can buy the Kora ‘Shola 230 Zip’ top garment directly from the Kora website:
Disclaimer: As of the time of this being published I am not a sponsored hiker of Kora. I typically buy almost all of the gear that I use, even when I am sponsored by a company.