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PAKA Review: Hands-On With Their Most Popular Styles

Disclosure: We received courtesy product from PAKA in exchange for our honest review only. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

Matt Gulielmi
Expertise:

Style, Jewelry, Watches, Skincare, Brand Activations

Matt is a NYC-based merchandise planner in the luxury space and moonlights as a retail documentarian through his TikTok blog @retailecology. His fashion career has waltzed through styling for Michigan State's VIM Magazine, translating brand copy into Spanish for cosmetic startups, to managing inventory for some of the biggest retailers in the US. Read full bio.


Published: Jun 6, 2024
13 min read
Model wearing PAKA sweater on brick background

Remember when it was easy to find wool and cashmere garments at a relatively affordable price? These days though, low-quality synthetic clothing is in ready supply.

Paka’s alpaca-derived line is sustainably made, works in all seasons, and delivers performance that’s usually only found from athleisure brands.

Move over wool?
The Adult Man Image/Icon Image source: PAKA
Paka

Bottom line: After reviewing Paka, I don’t get why alpaca fiber wasn’t always as revered as wool or cashmere. Both their sweaters and socks have a distinct softness exclusive to the specialty fabric. However, the Hoodie’s sizing was quite off despite ordering the same size crew neck. If you’re just looking for socks, the lifetime warranty is equally lucrative as it is unheard of.

Ratings: The Adult Man Image/Icon  Design The Adult Man Image/Icon  Quality of Materials The Adult Man Image/Icon  Value for Money The Adult Man Image/Icon  Craftsmanship The Adult Man Image/Icon  Customer Service
Pros:
  • Ethically-farmed alpaca fiber is a strong insulator without heaviness
  • Each sweater is hand-signed by the artisan that sews it
  • Paka offers a lifetime warranty on their socks
Cons:
  • The Hoodie fits too long in the hem and sleeves

I suffered from a severe case of Boiling Frog Syndrome until I began questioning why clothing sucked compared to that of my youth.

Grandma used to gift me the same 100% wool sweater every Christmas. Today, they’re going for hundreds on eBay.

Why, you might ask? The brand that makes it has gradually infused it with polyester over the years, and sweaters made of pure wool cost a fortune these days.

People have caught onto natural fabric’s superior quality. Me? The long-term effects of daily plastic exposure freaks me out.

Between food containers, shampoo bottles, and disposable utensils, do I need to dress myself head-to-toe in plastic to top it all off?

Alpaca fiber is known for being luxuriously soft, an excellent insulator, and you guessed it—natural. PAKA’s clothing is made of the stuff, so safe to say they speak to my preferences.

Whether or not a product is made from natural materials doesn’t mean it’ll become part of my rotation, so I picked up three of their top-sellers to see if PAKA herds quality, style, and comfort into their lineup.

What Is PAKA?

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After spending a year working in Peru, founder Kris Cody returned to the US with a much-loved souvenir that garnered endless compliments: an alpaca sweater.

He saw the South American keepsake as a symbol of what clothing should be: natural, authentic, and sewn together by someone who takes pride in their craft.

PAKA was born after a trip back to the southern cone where he assembled a team of women weavers who could contribute their expertise to his mission. Kris was a student to Peruvian artisans as they perfected the ideal hoodie made from alpaca fur.

Like most brands emphasizing the importance of natural materials, PAKA strives for ethics in each part of their operations. Their alpacas are raised in the same mountainous environment they evolved in, they provide free weaving education to their manufacturers, and the brand ensures their pay exceeds the local average by a wide margin.

PAKA’s weaving process is also powered by 50% solar energy in partnership with Pacoamerica, and all of their packaging is 100% biodegradable.

Things to Consider Before Buying

The Adult Man Paka Bracelets and Stickers 800

Because PAKA product is made from an animal-derived fiber, there are two main things to consider before buying from them.

If you’ve experienced the dreadful irritation from a wool sweater, alpaca doesn’t contain lanolin that triggers an allergic reaction in some people.

Lanolin is a waxy coating found in sheep’s wool, and while alpaca hair doesn’t benefit from its water-repellent properties, it won’t leave sensitive customers with itchiness.

Clothing made from Alpaca fur requires special attention, however.

Per PAKA’s washing guidelines, their sweaters should be hand-washed in cold water, but washing in cold water on a delicate cycle is recommended if machine-washing is a must. Garments should be laid flat to dry in both cases.

PAKA Apparel

PAKA apparel is high quality, comfortable, and priced fairly. While those qualities can be found from other popular brands, their commitment to ethical consumption, respect for livestock, and celebrating their craftspeople puts them in their own lane.

Shop PAKA

My Hands-On Review

The Hoodie

The Adult Man Paka The Hoodie Looking Off 800

Before diving into the nitty-gritty, I have to give props to PAKA for including two free bracelets plus a few stickers. I’ll admit I’m swayed when a brand throws in a surprise freebie, and I actually see myself rocking them often for a touch of Peruvian flair.

So here it goes with PAKA’s hoodie: it’s one of the softest natural-fiber pullovers I’ve ever felt.

I was fully expecting a coarse grit similar to sheep’s wool. It’s just as soft as my favorite 100% cashmere while just as light, and the thin fleece can be tied around the neck without a bulky knot around my neck for some preppy layering.

PAKA states that it has a “thermal comfort range of more than 50°F”, and their lifestyle photography depicting nature lovers wearing it under serene waterfalls, arid canyons, and frosted mountaintops seems to back that up.

While PAKA doesn’t officially call themselves an “outdoor” brand, their media footprint implies they’re hiking-adjacent.

With that being said, specifying the recommended temperature range would be helpful, especially for hardcore adventurers who take preparation seriously.

Its breathability adapts to 65°F days and, somehow, the nearly undetectable weight insulates enough for comfort during nippy 40°F mornings.

The Adult Man Paka The Hoodie Side Profile 800

While most of my hoodies keep me cozy in most conditions, PAKA’s manages to do so with a lighter weight than any of them.

Here’s what caught me off guard with the fabric: it’s not 100% alpaca fleece.

I couldn’t tell that 35% of it is recycled nylon. I was expecting nothing but pure alpaca fiber from a brand that worships the fuzzy mountain mammal.

The Adult Man Paka The Hoodie Fabric Close Up 800

The product description doesn’t list any functional benefits of the nylon content. I’d understand if it supposedly made the hoodie lighter, more breathable, or easier to move in, but I’m left thinking it’s simply a cost-cutting measure.

The Adult Man Paka The Hoodie Length 800

There’s no question that it has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios I’ve experienced, but this hybrid makes it hard to gauge the value I’m getting for a hoodie costing almost $150. 

Considering it’s made by hand, everyone between the alpaca and employees are treated well, and the unquestionable comfort, it’s still a good buy.

At 6’1 and 193 pounds, PAKA recommended a large—my go-to size for tops.

Either the version I got flew under quality control’s radar, or the sizing tool is no better than a Magic 8 Ball.

First, the sleeves fall to the middle of my hands. Not a deal breaker by any means, but not a proper fit, either.

The length was the biggest let-down. With my arms by my side, the bottom hem ends a couple inches above my hands. Even with my above-average stature, it looks way too long, and I think it’d look even worse on guys who size up to accommodate weight rather than height.

The Adult Man Paka The Hoodie Side Pattern 800

Folding it over my waist usually does the trick, but the extra slack results in an awkward droop.

I commend PAKA for the side gussets. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much of a difference they make fit-wise, so I’m glad to see them here.

Even though it fits long on me, these fabric panels avoid any exaggerated slimness.

I also don’t fancy the hood dimensions. I prefer a roomy fit of pullover hoods, but The Hoodie’s is pretty small. It cradles my head like a beanie, which isn’t that bad considering it’s warmth, but you won’t get that cloaked aesthetic that standard hoodies have.

The Adult Man Paka The Hoodie Hood Up 800

PAKA did a great job making a basic hoodie uniquely their own without a heavy coat of branding. 

The front hem has a logo-stamped leather tab, and while I think it looks nice, I’ve seen this accent on plenty of other pullovers.

My favorite detail by far is the colorful strip of Peruvian fabric stitched on the bottom-right hem.

The contrasting pattern is a subtle focal point against the solid-colored fabric, and above all, pays homage to the rich culture behind PAKA and their skilled craftspeople.

Like a mechanic’s signature penned in a Ferrari’s engine bay, each PAKA sweater is signed by the woman who sewed it together. The talented hands of Maribel G. brought mine to life.

The Adult Man Paka The Hoodie Signed Label 800

Too many brand’s nowadays boast about their fair-trade labor practices, and while I think every company should champion their manufacturers, it rarely feels sincere.

This small element is a potent reminder that someone put effort into making something for me to enjoy and PAKA doesn’t want their work going unnoticed.

So The Hoodie’s fit was a bit off. I didn’t see many reviews that complained about the same thing, so I’ll give PAKA a pass for the unit I received.

Regardless, The Hoodie exposed me to the wonders of alpaca fur’s softness and breathability. Its approachable styling solidifies it as an easy choice any time I need a second layer of warmth.

PAKA The Hoodie

For guys who want to maximize the use of every garment they buy, the minimalist look and temperature adaptability of The Hoodie will do the trick for just about anything. It’s got the warmth of a wool sweater and the softness of cashmere without the ludicrous cost of either.

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The Original Crew

The Adult Man Paka The Original Crew Looking Off to The Side 800

Let’s be real—hood vs. hoodless completely flips the vibe of a garment.

As much as we all love hooded pullovers, the hood itself doesn’t mesh well with outfits meant to convey professionalism.

The Original Crew doesn’t deviate much from its hooded sibling. It’s made of the same 65% alpaca fur 35% nylon fabric, while featuring both the leather tab and patterned fabric details as.

The Hoodie, only with a ribbed collar instead of a hood.

PAKA’s fabric blend is really stretchy, and I suspect that’s why the washing instructions call for a gentle wash cycle and lay flat to dry.

The Adult Man Paka The Original Crew Side Pattern 800

My first thought would be that the collar would quickly become warped and loose, but after about ~10 wears and two trips to the laundromat, I have yet to see any deformities.

Well, other than pilling. Even my polyester zip-ups aren’t immune to clothing’s telltale sign of aging. If this is your first go-around with alpaca fur, you should plan for occasional maintenance with a fabric shaver just as you would with most other sweaters.

After also ordering a size large in the Original Crew, I’m further led to believe that The Hoodie’s fit must’ve been an error. Between the torso measurements, sleeve, and hem length, I can confidently report that this feels true to size.

The Adult Man Paka The Original Crew Leather Logo Label 800

Between The Hoodie and The Original Crew, I recommend the latter if you’re looking for a (mostly) natural sweater suited for office or semi-formal events.

Aside from the elevated hem details, it has the same silhouette as any cashmere crewneck I throw over a button-up or under a blazer.

I always associate anti-odor properties with performance athletic gear. With animal-derived fabrics? Not so much.

PAKA reports that both sweaters repel bad smells enough to “hit the slopes, grab some dinner, wear it to bed, and repeat.”

I haven’t put either of mine through such rigorous testing, and I’m not sure I really want to test how long I can wear them before they reek enough to scare off woodland predators.

The Adult Man Paka The Original Crew Posing 800

The Original Crew costs the same as The Hoodie despite less material from ditching the hood. I’m a fan of their alpaca fleece, and the crewneck certainly looks better on me, but I’d feel better about scoring another colorway if I was saving a few bucks.

I’m willing to overlook The Original Crew and The Hoodie’s equal price. Even if it’s slightly less material, a skilled Peruvian woman literally signs off on their attention to detail, and the crew neck silhouette will get a lot more use with my hybrid work schedule in mind.

PAKA The Original Crew

Softness like this can only be found from an animal that evolved to withstand the frigid mountaintops of Peru. As a crew neck for its canvas, The original Crew brings that warmth to in-office affairs, scenic wilderness travels, or lazy grazing on the sofa.

Check Price

Crew Socks

The Adult Man Paka Crew Socks Sandals 800

The Crew Socks are the smallest item in this roundup, but this is PAKA’s chance to truly shine.

Wool has the heavy-duty sock game in a vice grip. A trip through any respectable outdoor retailer reveals that it’s the industry standard for durable, foot-swaddling warmth.

Based on my experience, the sheep might need to make room on the pasture for their long-necked relatives.

Costing around $20 for a single pair, I wasn’t hit with sticker shock. The price tag for a solid pair of work socks always falls in this ballpark, and ordering a 3-pack can save a few bucks, too.

The Adult Man Paka Crew Socks With Hiking Boots 800

I’d say these socks feel somewhere between a thick wool sock and a lighter athletic sock—substantial enough to fill out a hiking boot yet slender enough to suit runners or casual sneakers.

Alpaca fur adapts to temperature fluctuations of 70°F in a single day, and this biology isn’t lost after shearing it off and spinning it into a pair of socks.

My thick Kirkland wool socks, while warm, trap enough moisture to feel wet after a day of use. On the other hand, The Crew Socks are in the goldilocks zone of insulation and breathability, which is ideal if you appreciate the simplicity from committing to one sock.

The fabric is 41%, alpaca fiber, 8% Tencel, 50% recycled nylon, 1% Spandex.

The Adult Man Paka Crew Socks 800

My gripe with the nylon content in the PAKA sweaters stemmed from the unclear benefits of including it. The alpaca fiber has the soft texture I’ve come to adore while the elastic materials deliver support and a proper fit crucial for an active sock.

Here’s the kicker: PAKA offers a lifetime warranty. Yes, you heard that correctly.

You’d think something that takes the blunt end of every stride, stomp, and jump would be the last thing a business would volunteer themselves to replace. PAKA really stands by them.

They add that “standard shipping charges may apply,” but still, I’m not seeing this magnitude of customer service from other brands in the same space.

I’m never that stoked to pen a writeup on socks. PAKA’s Crew Socks have unique qualities that gave me something to write about for a change. The warmth and breathability of alpaca fiber is superior to any wool socks in my drawer, and with their lifetime warranty, I don’t need to be so merciful in putting them to work.

PAKA Crew Socks

I love that it has the warmth of wool without the volume and cotton’s anti-odor and softness with better durability. The lifetime warranty is much-valued hole insurance considering their status as a newfound staple of mine.

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What Do Other Reviewers Say?

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Clearly I’m not the only one blindsided by alpaca fiber’s desirability.

Whether I browsed the crew, hoodie, or crew sock reviews, I spotted numerous cheering testimonials from first-time PAKA buyers wishing they’d discovered alpaca fiber sooner. Avid hikers in particular love the Hoodie and Original Crew as they can layer under anything while providing superb warmth.

The Crew Sock reviews gave me a few laughs. Some of these guys weren’t afraid to name drop competitors and how they don’t stack up in durability or feel. It seems we see eye to eye on the top-notch warmth-to-weight ratio.

PAKA Alternatives

Free Fly

Free Fly mens apparel hoodie pulling over hood

I recommend Free Fly to the guys making the switch to natural fabrics while keeping it strictly plant-based.

Many of their products use viscose, a fiber made from bamboo that is lightweight and breathable. They use it in their shorts, pants, and tops, and Free Fly offers a sizable assortment for both casual and athletic options.

Free Fly Apparel

Free Fly emphasizes four core values: simplicity, comfort, community, and freedom. Their bamboo-based fabric is innovative and a fresh take on comfort apparel. If you love simply hanging out in cozy clothes, Free Fly is a solid option.

Shop Free Fly Apparel Read Our Review

Reigning Champ

Reigning Champ Midweight Terry Slim Sweatpant Sitting

If PAKA’s thoughtful manufacturing caught your attention but you can’t get down with their homegrown aesthetic, Reigning Champ is one of my favorite brands that I’d refer you to next.

Their 100% heavyweight cotton fleece, flatlock stitching, and comfort-minded designs set a lofty standard for casual sweats—all made in Canada, might I add.

Their vibe certainly leans towards streetwear, but their top-sellers are pretty neutral overall and can be worked into outfits of all types.

Reigning Champ

Reigning Champ’s name isn’t to be taken lightly, and neither should their made-in-Canada quality. Their terry and jersey fabrics are tough from the get-go but don’t require a lengthy break-in period, and the flat-lock stitching oozes top-notch construction. 

Shop Reigning Champ Read Our Review

My Thoughts Overall

What I Like

  • The softness and temperature adaptability of alpaca fiber makes it far more versatile than the cashmere and wool options in my closet.
  • Both the Hoodie and Original Crew feature labels hand-signed by the woman who sews them.
  • The colorful strip of patterned fabric stitched to the sweaters is a subtle yet snazzy detail that illustrates PAKA’s admiration for Peruvian artistry.
  • The Original Crew’s approachable silhouette adds warmth and comfort to my casual and professional outfits alike.
  • While the Crew Socks are only 41% alpaca fiber, they’re breathable, supportive, and warm when they need to be.

What I Don’t Like

  • The Hoodie’s sleeve and hem length fit far too long for my tastes despite the sizing tool recommending my go-to size.
  • I think the Original Crew should cost less than the Hoodie considering it uses less material.

Who Is Paka For?

If you’re a guy who’s ready to experiment with clothing that isn’t so heavily concentrated in plastic fibers, PAKA’s alpaca fiber clothing deserves a look.

The Verdict

At first I was confused about what PAKA was trying to be.

Are they competing for market share with Patagonia and Arc’teryx by juxtaposing natural fibers against their GORE-TEX and polyester microfleece formulations?

After reviewing sweaters, socks, and studying up on PAKA lore, they’re doing their own thing with confidence.

Each product I tested incorporated a significant amount of natural fiber, making the Hoodie and Original Crew some of the coziest sweaters I’ve worn. I totally get why they say you can sleep in them, and I’ve noticed hugs lasting longer when my girlfriend embraces its buttery texture.

I can’t wrap up this review without another nod to PAKA for the lifetime Crew Sock warranty. Even though mine aren’t showing any signs of disrepair, y’all are the G.O.A.T. for this.

PAKA apparel is high quality, comfortable, and priced fairly. I like that about them, but I can find those qualities with a swift Google search. Ultimately, their commitment to ethical consumption, respect for livestock, and celebrating their craftspeople puts them in their own lane.

PAKA Apparel

PAKA apparel is high quality, comfortable, and priced fairly. While those qualities can be found from other popular brands, their commitment to ethical consumption, respect for livestock, and celebrating their craftspeople puts them in their own lane.

Shop PAKA