Yak Wool Is All We Want to Wear This Winter

Khunu Yak Wool Sweater
Khunu/Facebook

Like so many magazines with a penchant for outdoor adventure, we’ve written extensively about the lightweight warmth and moisture-wicking benefits of merino wool. Last year, we delved into the growing scene of alpaca wool, which provides cold-weather insulation with more social sustainability and less environmental impact. But 2019 is undeniably the year we went wild for yak wool.

Beloved by Himalayan nomads for centuries, yak wool is enjoying a renaissance as a high-performance technical fabric for outdoor adventurers. We discovered it thanks to Kora, a small European company that is leading the charge to bring yak wool to the masses. After spending three years on research and development, Kora developed perhaps the world’s first yak wool-based performance fabric that shows off the flexibility, breathability, and second-skin-style insulation of this remarkable natural fiber. As for the sustainability factor, Kora sources its yak wool from communities in Tibet, directly benefitting the farmers there and ensuring a sustainable material development system.

Kora Yak Wool
Kora/Facebook

Over the past three months, we’ve been putting yak wool to the test everywhere we can think of, from blustery bike rides to Saturday morning lounging, from long days in the office to sprints toward the parking lot in unforgiving rain. Whether at home, on the trail, or around town, we’ve been amazed by the warmth and coziness of yak wool sweaters, socks, and base layers. Yak wool has a magical ability to modulate with the temperature, offering warmth in cold conditions and airy comfort when the thermostat goes off the rails. This feature, combined with its natural stretch, makes yak wool a great choice for both athleticwear and for falling asleep on the couch. And unlike many natural wool fibers, yak wool requires no babying — our base layers and socks can go straight into the washing machine.

At first, yak wool seems like a rare find. But the more we researched, the more yak wool options popped up at every point on the apparel spectrum, from casual wear brands like COS and Vince to higher-end designers like Patrick James and Ermenegildo Zegna. The yak wool train is leaving the station and we can’t wait to see more of our favorite outdoor wear companies jump on board.

Our Favorite Yak Wool Brands

Kora

Kora Azog Jersey
Kora Azog Jersey

Proven through testing by long-term wear trials carried out by their team of ambassadors (who put yak wool through its paces on an expedition in Arctic Greenland, climbing in Chilean Patagonia, and ski touring in the Swiss Alps), Kora yak wool is true performance wear. We loved the Shola 230 Leggings and Azog Jersey, which offer warmth, breathability, and moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, itch-free insulation for all our cold-weather outdoor shenanigans.

Khunu

Khunu Wayfarer Sock
Khunu Wayfarer Sock

At the other end of the spectrum is Khunu, a boutique brand out of the U.K. that makes luxury yak wool apparel in small batches. Inspired by an afternoon sipping yak butter tea in a tent on the Mongolian plateau, Khunu’s beautiful apparel is built for enjoying the peaceful, contemplative moments that come in the midst of life’s busy pace. Snuggle up in their Hemingway sweater and a pair of Wayfarer socks, and you’ll see beauty even in the bleak midwinter.

Tengri

Tengri Varsity Jacket
Tengri Varsity Jacket

We’ve mainly talked about the function side of yak wool — now let’s mosey over to the form side. London-based design house Tengri proves that yak wool deserves a seat at the couture table. Case in point: this varsity jacket, produced in collaboration with Carlo Volpi, showcases the versatility of undyed yak wool’s four colors to produce a truly breathtaking knit with the same warmth and breathability as heavy knitwear.

Norlha

Norlha Traveler's Cape
Norlha Traveler’s Cape

A fashion design house on the Tibetan plateau? With fabric this choice, why not? Norlha Atelier is located smack in the middle of a nomad settlement that includes 230 families, 6,000 yaks, and 20,000 sheep, and employs native nomad families who have spun and woven yak wool for generations. If you’ve got a taste for the dramatic, you will totally dig this Traveler’s Cape, made from yak wool that has been hand-felted to a luscious softness and drape. (The company also makes scarves, hats, and other yak wool apparel for the less sartorially daring.)

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