Gear Closet: Kora Holocene Yak Wool Vest Review

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Over the years, the vest has gone in and out of style on a number of occasions. Currently, it is enjoying a comeback, serving as a mid-layer as part of a larger layering system or as a stand-alone piece designed to keep the core warm on active days. For the most part, I’ve never been a huge fan of vests in general, but have to admit that I’ve reluctantly come around to their value, particularly as designs have improved and the materials used to make them have gotten better as well. But now, I’ve become a full-blown convert, thanks to the Holocene vest from Kora.

If Kora sounds familiar, its because I reviewed the company’s baselayers awhile back. What I loved about their products is that instead of using merino wool like the rest of the industry, Kora instead used wool from Tibetan yaks. The result is a very similar level of performance when compared to merino in terms of breathability and comfort, but with more warmth. That’s because yaks have adapted to living in higher altitudes and in more demanding environments when compared to sheep, and the wool harvested from those animals reflect that.

The Holocene vest uses the company’s proprietary Hima-Layer Stratam 350 fabrics, which are also made using yak wool. In theory, this makes it just as comfortable as a mid-layer that uses merino, but with more warmth as well. Those fabrics are soft to the touch, easy to clean, and share the same anti-microbial properties of sheep’s wool, which means they don’t absorb odors – something that certainly comes in handy on longer trips.

One of the things that has often turned me off to wearing a vest in the past is that I never quite cared for the fit. A lot of vests can be oversized, bulky, and oddly shaped. But that isn’t the case with Kora’s offering, which features a more athletic cut that fits the body nicely. Not only does it move with you when things start to get active, it doesn’t impede your actions in any way either. I’ve worn the Holocene while running, mountain biking, hiking, and just running errands around town, and it has always felt great on. The fact that happens to look sporty and attractive doesn’t hurt either.

Designed to work over a baselayer, the Holocene does a fine job of keeping your core nice and warm. On a recent trip I managed to get knocked out of a whitewater river raft and found myself not only soaked, but quite cold. Once the trip was over however, I was able to throw on this vest, and it helped immensely. The idea is to keep your core warm at all times, and the rest of you will stay comfortable too. That has proven to be the case with this vest, which also serves as a nice replacement for a full jacket on those days where it is cool, but not quite cold enough to require something heavier.

As with most vests, the Holocene is a bit of a minimalist product. It doesn’t have a lot of features, although it does include two hand pockets, and two rear stash pocket. I found the rear pockets to be a nice place to store extra things that you want to carry with you on an outing, such as a hat or some gloves, or even a water bottle, although the standard pockets offer ample storage as well.

All of the components that make up the vest are of top notch quality. The fabrics are durable and built to survive in the outdoors, while the zippers flow smoothly and are easy to open and close, even with one hand. The bottom of the vest is also lined with a no-slip strip to help keep the mid-layer from rising up. This came in handy while running or riding in particular.

Warm, comfortable, easy to pack, and durable enough to survive your outdoor adventures. What more could you ask for from any article of clothing? That’s what you ket from the Kora Holocene, which is an addition to my gear closet that will see a lot of use in the future. In fact, it is likely to become mandatory gear when traveling to climates that are cool or even cold. I think you’ll find that it is fantastic as well, and want to take it with you everywhere too.

One word on sizing. Typically I would wear a large jacket or mid-layer, but on Kora’s recommendation I went to an XL, and it fits perfectly. You may want to keep that in mind when ordering one for yourself.

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