From Olympic Champion to Successful Sports Brand, Kari Traa has become more than just a leader in baselayers and activewear for women. Their motivation is clear, embrace the spirit of the outdoors while promoting women empowerment and inclusivity. Here's a look into the history and our review.
Kari Traa was born in Voss, a small town between the Norwegian fjords and mountains. Skiing came almost natural to her and in 2002 she won gold in the Olympics for moguls. It wasn't uncommon to see Kari knitting beanies between training and competition, she also had a knack for customizing her own ski outfits with inspiration from her Nordic heritage and eventually her friends and fellow skiers caught on and wanted her designs as well. And the Kari Traa brand was born.
To us, playfulness in sports is much more than moving around and being active.
Since 2015, Kari Traa has been available in the North American market, bringing usability and style to girls internationally. The design philosophy is simple; Sportswear designed to perfectly fit the female body, but still fulfill the needs of an active, sporty and adventurous lifestyle. For Kari there are no contradictions between style and performance.
One of the biggest questions skiers often face is whether to go with synthetic or wool baselayers, luckily Kari Traa carries both. We took both to Blue Mountain for a test run to see how they would perform.
When first putting on the technical baselayer, the feel of the fabric is really smooth and not clingy. A great feature of all Kari Traa baselayers is the no slip waist band that doesn't roll down and provides a sturdy hold without squeezing too hard. The thin fabric will tend to look like it's slightly translucent when stretched however it maintains its shape and performs just the same.
The top benefits of technical baselayers are that they quickly transport sweat away from your body, are super durable and also feel really comfortable when working out. So its great on those warmer sunny days or when its super wet out and you need to push moisture out. Our tester took this for a spin in wet snow, " It was super moisture wicking, everytime I went into the chalet I would immediately start to dry off and within 15 mins was dry."
The downside to synthetic materials is it does not hold warmth as well as wool, sitting on the ski lift can get a bit cold and requires wearing a secondary midlayer for colder days.
This is a great alternative to those with sensitive skin or overheat easily. We would suggest this for milder temperatures or if you are planning to wear a midlayer as it is quite thin. "If you are looking for a piece that can easily transition to apres, this one is purely performance and I found it didn't keep me warm on its own."
The 100% merino wool layer was a bit thicker than expected and there is a bit of texture on the exterior however the inside is super smooth and soft. The flat lock seams eliminate any chaffing while the cuffing on the sleeves and leggings made it easy tuck into your outerwear without having the arms roll up. There is definitely less stretch so size up if you have bigger calves or arms.
In addition to being a sustainable, natural material, wool has plenty of benefits. It regulates body temperature, so you stay cool on hot days – and warm on cold ones. One reason to love wool when hiking is that it also keeps you warm even when it gets moist. In other words, if there is a chance of rain – or you sweating – wool is your best bet because it absorbs moisture better and still insulates well when damp. Wool baselayers are also perfect for longer outdoor activities and cabin trips because they’re self-cleaning. Just hang the baselayer outside and it will clean itself.
If your non negotiable is to stay as warm as possible, the wool options are for you! These wool layers make great apres outfits and come in all sorts of iconic and fun Nordic patterns like Rose. If you overheat easily or prefer wearing multiple layers this might not be the right fit, trying this on indoors it became quite apparent what a warmth powerhouse these wool layers are. Out of all the materials, 100% merino is great for multi day trips where you may not have access to a washer/dryer.
Blend - Merino & Modal
Why not have the best of both worlds? This hybrid of merino and modal makes a very smooth baselayer with the performance factor of merino. "I typically have problems with wool materials making me itchy, however the blend of both materials alleviated any reactions to the wool while still getting the benefits." The fit is similar to the 100% merino, however there is more stretch and give to the fabric so be prepared to have it stretch out after your first high intensity workout.
Kari Traa has developed several different baselayers that combine wool with synthetic fabric or Modal. The combination of the quick-drying properties of the technical material and the breathable and insulating properties of the wool, gives you the best of both worlds during high intensity activities in the cold. By adding the Modal or synthetics to the wool, you also get a baselayer that is more durable and will hold its shape longer. Our tester wore the Kink baselayers in -19C powder snow conditions at Blue Mountain without a midlayer and found it kept the warmth in and the moisture out.
This is a must have for any weekend warrior who needs that go to baselayer for any conditions. It really utilizes the body regulating properties of merino while taking full advantage of the modal and its smooth feel and moisture wicking capabilities. A mixed material baselayer will give you the best value for your money in the long run and is just as easy to take care of as wool on its own. It is thinner than 100% merino so keep that in mind if you plan on wearing it on its own around town. Overall it was our tester's top pick.