Wool has been an important fiber used in the production of clothing for centuries. In fact, historians believe that the first garments made from the material date back as far back as 3000 BC. Today, the most popular type of wool is merino, which comes mainly from Australia and New Zealand. What separates merino from other types of wool is its ability to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, while also managing to wick moisture away from the body without collecting any foul odors. This pretty much makes it the ultimate material for creating outdoor performance apparel, which is why it is so popular with companies like Icebreaker and Smartwool.
But as good as merino is, what if there was another type of wool that performed even better? A company called Peak to Plateau believes that it has found just such an alternative that is even warmer, softer, and more breathable than merino in the form of Yak wool from Tibet. And to prove it, it’s creating a line of high performance base layers designed for use in cold environments.
The idea of using yak wool to create outdoor clothing was born when Peak to Plateau founder Stefan Warnaar spent three months living and traveling through Mongolia and other parts of Asia. While there, he found himself living with local nomads and herders, many of whom owned yaks. It was then that he was struck with the thought of using this unique type of wool to create products for outdoor athletes and adventure travelers.
So what makes yak wool so much better than wool that is produced by sheep? For starters, it comes from animals that have evolved to live at high altitudes, where temperatures can drop as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to survive the long winters on the Tibetan Plateau, the yaks that are found there have developed natural fibers that are believed to be 40 percent warmer and 65 percent more breathable than merino. Yak wool still retains all of the other positive features of merino, including the ability to regulate body temperature and provide UV protection from the sun. Its antimicrobial properties also prevent the fibers from collecting odors, even after days of use.
Last week, Peak to Plateau launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund its new line of yak wool base layers. The goal is to raise $50,000 to get its outdoor apparel into production, with the hope of shipping as early as February of next year. Initially, the company intends to offer three different products, a long-sleeved 1/4 zip called the Kailash, the long-sleeved Nomad Crew, and the Namtso T-shirt. Those three shirts will sell for $145, $135, and $90 New Zealand dollars, respectively. (Using current exchange rates, that equates to approximately $103, $96, and $64 U.S. dollars, respectively.) The garments – which are blended with another natural fiber known as tencel – feature raglan sleeves, thumb holes, off-set seams to avoid irritation when wearing a backpack, and an extended torso to prevent the shirts from rising up too far.
This isn’t the first time a company has used yak wool in creating warmer base layers. A company called Kora has been doing it for a few years now. What separates Peak to Plateau’s offering from the competition is that it looks like its products will be considerably less expensive. That’s something we can all appreciate.