Earlier this winter, Kora sent me one of their Azog Hooded Jackets to test out. An extremely versatile mid-layer, it has served me well for skiing, hiking and ice climbing the past few months.
The Azog Hooded Jacket is made from a dual-layer fabric called Stratam 350–a superfine yak wool in a terry loop construction lines the inside for warmth and moisture wicking, while the outside of the jacket uses Sorono (a plant-based fabric from DuPont) for durability against packs and harnesses as well as a bit of weather protection. The hood and side panels are made from a 230 weight yak wool fabric.
I found the hood fits nicely under your ski helmet to keep snow from going down your neck, while also offering enough stretch to quickly pull over your climbing helmet for a little extra warmth on an approach or climb. If you have too much hood action going on in your layers, you can roll the Azog hood away and secure it via buttons to the back of the collar. It acts as a kind of extra neck gaiter this way. Thumbs loops on the extra long arms (yay!) are a nice touch and the two interior stash pockets (in addition to two zippered hand pockets) are great for shoving in an extra pair of gloves, a camera to keep the battery warm, or even your sunglasses.
As you may recall from an earlier post about Kora, the company sources their yak wool directly from herders in the Himalayas, guaranteeing them a premium price for the season. The yak wool is all collected by hand each spring when the yaks begin to shed their soft wool under layer for the summer.
According to the company, yak wool is 40% warmer weight for weight, 66% more breathable, and 17% better at transporting water vapor away from your skin than merino wool. It’s pretty tough for me to say whether or not the Azog was warmer or more breathable than an equivalent merino wool mid-layer–you would need a less subjective test to really quantify the differences. I can say, however, that the yak wool performs as you would expect wool to perform–keeps you warm when wet and cuts down on the stink factor. The Azog also did a pretty good job of wicking away any moisture build-up instead of holding on to it like some base layers are prone to do.
In Iceland, I normally stripped down to my Azog Hooded Jacket layer for the approaches. It was breathable and wicking enough to help get rid of any perspiration build-up, while the synthetic face fabric did a pretty good job at cutting down on the bite from the harsh Icelandic wind.
You need to wash the jacket just as you would any other wool piece in your collection–on a cold, gentle cycle and let air dry. I found the jacket didn’t shrink much if at all after numerous washings over the course of the winter.
The one big downside–price. At $270 the Azog Hooded Jacket sits at the very top of the price spectrum for a mid-layer. But I guess you can think of it as a versatile piece that will be in your gear closet for years to come all while supporting families in the Himalayas in the buying process. And yaks are pretty cool.
You will find all Kora yak wool apparel pieces available on the company website.