Apparel Review: Kari Traa Women’s Clothing
Kari Traa is a European sportswear brand growing in popularity across the US. As of the past few seasons, a wide selection of the brand’s items can be found at major retailers, including REI and Backcountry. I discovered Kari Traa a few years ago when a rep pretty much threw this midlayer at me at an industry event, and it’s since became one of my favorite layers. This season, I took the opportunity to test and review some newer items.
I’m a pretty standard size medium across the board, and I will say that I found a wide variance in the fit of the clothes, somewhat surprising for women-designed apparel. The size medium Ness Bra was so tight that I ended up passing it to a narrower tester, while the Tikse Singlet had a loose enough fit that a small fit perfectly, with room to spare. Lesson: try these items on before committing.
This is as inoffensive a shirt as you can find. Made from soft, lightweight merino wool, it doesn’t rub, chafe, or really feel like anything at all. I usually wear synthetic shirts for my active tops (anything next-to-skin during activity), and this is my first foray into a hiking shirt made from natural fibers. I was worried that hiking in merino would feel hot, but it wicks sweat while maintaining some core insulation, making it a good option for hikes where the temperature might vary and extra core warmth is appreciated. The shirt does feel like it traps heat more than some of my lighter synethic hiking tops, which means I’ve been opting for the synethic choices on blazing hot days.
The merino does a great job staying stink-free, and I’ve hiked / slept / hiked /slept in this shirt on extended trips and haven’t offended any of my hiking partners. The topline is reinforced with doubled-over stitching that adds detail to the shirt as well as increased durability. Because this is a knit, it can look pilled after rubbing from a pack, so don’t expect it to stay looking fresh-to-death. That said, I haven’t experienced any stitching or fabric failures during testing this season. It also doesn’t bunch or rub under various models of backpacking packs.
Fit: I like my hiking shirts to fit more snug, and a medium would have been too big. I’d call the fit “neutral,” so people who like a more athletic fit should size down. The racerback style is my favorite back for hiking tops, allowing more freedom of movement and not creating any pinch points or constricting.
Tikse Base Layer Top | Base Layer Bottom
MSRP: $75 per piece (select colorways currently on sale)
I have been looking for a lightweight set of base layers to carry as camp clothes (layers that live in a stuff sack until I’m in the tent, and are the source of ridicule from my ultralight friends) and these fit the bill. The Tikse top and bottom are lightweight, have a neutral fit, and wick moisture. They aren’t itchy in the slightest, and are made from a four-way stretch merino. The top is somewhat see-through, at least in the colorway pictured above, so going braless might give your hiking partners more than they bargained for. For women looking for a neutral base layer system, these are a safe bet. The contrasting stitching and color-blocking is fun, and brings to mind the Norwegian inspiration where the company originated. If you’re looking for a heftier base layer for winter outings, go with the Rose Hoodie.
Bottom Fit: The pants have a neutral fit and the standard inseam will work for most people. They don’t feel too tight or constricting when sleeping, and they breathe well. Ideally they would rise a little higher, as I find myself tugging them up over my butt when I move too much. I use this system for sleeping and camp, but I’ll likely use it as a skiing base layer this winter.
Top Fit: The fit of the top is what I’ve come to expect from base layers, which is moderate without feeling loose, though it is somewhat tight around the upper arms and shoulders. Like with the Ness Bra, I found myself a bit too broad in the upper back for a completely comfortable fit. These items seem to be designed for women with more narrow shoulders and backs, so women with a broader back or bust should be aware of that when ordering online.
Ness Sports Bra
MSRP: $40 (select colorways currently on sale)
The dream is to have a bra that features a snug fit without suffocation, no chafing zones or bunched fabric, stays in place, is breathable and cool, straps that don’t dig, and, of course, looks cute as heck. Maybe that’s a lot to ask for in one bra, but I’ll settle for checking most of these off. The Ness sports bra by Kari Traa is a medium-support sports bra with a moisture wicking blend of polyamide, polyester, and elastane that keeps you relatively cool and dry. The design has classic straps on the back with a lengthy bit of fabric under the bust. For those of us with nonexistent torsos, it ends up looking more like a crop top. Crop bra? It’ll work. I always remove cups in bras (who needs em?) and with the size up, I just barely have enough boobage to fill out the fabric. Bustier women may be better suited to wear this bra, and with the added fabric below the chest, it would provide extra support, but be sure to get the band size right.
Fit: The Ness runs small compared to most brands, and the fit feels somewhat off. As a climber and runner, this bra seems to be made for someone with a more narrow upper body. I’m usually a size small, but a small in this bra would have been too constricting around the upper body. I would recommend sizing up from your norm. Overall, just be aware that the fit of this bra is tricky, with a band that feels tight for how much space the cups provide. It would be best for women with a small frame, and if you aren’t sure, definitely size up.
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