Having just returned from a few days of skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort with the Helly Hansen marketing and PR team, I wanted to extol the virtues of their LifaLoft Insulation. This innovative insulation can be found in a wide variety of their apparel and a few of the pieces I was fortunate enough to test out over the few days of skiing we enjoyed. Fernie Alpine Resort was the chosen test destination since Helly Hansen has a long and trusted relationship with the Fernie Ski Patrol. This team of first aid and avalanche professionals doesn’t just wear the Helly Hansen apparel, they actually test it day-to-day in some of the harshest environments and provide valuable feedback on improvements and changes to the Helly Hansen design team.
Hear the virtues of Helly Hansen's Lifaloft Insulation straight from the pros who know..
Helly Hansen was founded in 1877 in Norway by Helly Juell Hansen who at the age of 35 started producing oilskin jackets, pants and tarps made from linen soaked in linseed oil. These were some of the first waterproof fabrics ever made and just one of several Helly Hansen firsts. In 1914 after Juell’s death the company was passed his son Helly.
In the mid-1970s Helly Hansen introduced the worlds first technical base layer using what they called LIFA fibres which went on to be an effective solution for regulating body temperature and a timeless material found in most adventurer’s closet. This past fall, Hello Hansen did LIFA one better and released their latest brainchild—Lifaloft by Primaloft. Lifaloft is 20% lighter than Polyester since it’s made from 75% Lifa fibres and 25% PrimaLoft insulation. This makes it less bulky while still being incredibly warm. It’s able to capture and retain heat by trapping air in microscopic air pockets which means you stay warmer and since Lifaloft is hydrophobic it has great moisture wicking properties and is also quick drying.
With high alpine winds dawn to dusk at Fernie Alpine Resort, the Helly Hansen Lifaloft Insulator Jacket was an ideal mid-layer under the Helly Hansen Ridge Shell 2.0 Jacket. It kept me warm while skiing laps for two days, yet wasn’t stifling when the sun poked out at lower elevations on the mountain. Its thin design wasn’t nearly as bulky as down, yet it provided an amazing amount of warmth. I wore it over the Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Hybrid Top base layer, which together combined to keep me warm without breaking a sweat. I especially liked the absence of a hood on the Lifaloft Insulator Jacket as this allowed it to be layered more effectively but for those that cannot go without, there is also a hooded version to keep you happy. For apres ski when a shell was not needed the Lifaloft Insulator Jacket was all that was required. Should ever a light rain develop, the Perfluorocarbons (PFC) Free Durable Water Repellent (DWR) will keep you dry as it easily repeals moisture. The Bluesign approved fabric and DWR not only work, but they’re not harmful to the planet. Combine this with Lifaloft’s smaller carbon and water footprint—when compared to standard polyester and you’ve got a super warm mid-layer that’s also environmentally sound. In fact, Polypropylene garments, which LIFA and LIFALOFT is made of, have a 16% lower water footprint than Polyester garments and consume much less water in the manufacturing process than wool or cotton insulations.
Also tested on this media trip were the Helly Hansen’s Ridge Shell 2.0 Jacket is made with a light waterproof/beathable Helly Tech Professional 3L stretch fabric. It’s a fully featured freeride jacket complete with Life Pocket+ which preserves your phone or camera’s battery life by keeping it three times warmer by using PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Aerogel. The Ridge Shell 2.0 Jacket retails for $650 CAN / $550 US and yes, accenting pants are also available. For base layers, I tested the Lifa Merino Hybrid Top is Helly Hansen’s warmest base layer and made from 100% merino wool and combined with Lifa fibres in a 2 layer construction. It retails for $130 CAN / $120 US and is super comfy and warm.
Any new insulation technology which can keep you warmer with less bulk is a backcountry skier’s dream. Helly Hansen’s new LIFALOFT insulation which is made by PrimaLoft is not only light and compact but it’s also water resistant and windproof so I found it to keep me very warm on even the harshest of weather days. The Lifaloft Insulator Jacket was small and compact enough that it works well as a ski touring layer and fits in the smallest of touring packs when not needed. This new insulation has all the properties of a great mid layer for most adventures and works well as an external jacket when the wind picks up on the skin track.
Since the face fabric of the Lifaloft Insulator Jacket doesn’t breath all that well it can build up heat when you red line your cardio meter. If Helly Hansen were to make an active insulation piece with LIFALOFT this would be a backcountry skiers dream come true. Fingers crossed.
Lifaloft Insulator Jacket
Price: $250CAN / $200US
Insulation: Lifaloft 80g
Shell fabric: 100% Polyamide
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Colours: Catalina Blue, Graphite Black, Grenadine, Black Matte, Olympian Blue, Black
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