Those Scandinavians know how to make outdoor gear. Indeed it’s a bit of a shame that Helly Hansen haven’t really made inroads into the cycling market, I’d imagine they’d knock out a pretty good collection of winter clothing. They actually do make some short sleeve cycling jerseys but they’re not that easy to come by. Anyway, that’s beside the point. They’re also one of the oldest outdoor clothing companies having been founded by, yes, Mr Helly Juell Hansen, in 1877. They’re innovative and have developed a huge amount of new outdoor clothing tech over the years. Fun fact as well, they’re majority owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, who, it seems, only choose ethical companies to invest in. So you’re doing some good when buying a Helly Hansen product it seems.
They make a load of kit, as you’d imagine, sailing, skiing, outdoor. But their base layers are the stuff of legend. And you don’t build a legend by just selling loads of cheap tat. You build it by being legendary in the first place. Not just legendary in performance but, well, iconic. The Helly Hansen stripe on the Lifa series of base layers marks it out instantly as being Helly Hansen. They’re versatile as well, pop along to an off road running race or a fell run and you’ll see Lifa base layers being used as outer layers. And why not, they work astonishingly well.
Helly Hansen do four types of base layer at the moment, the deployment of which is broadly as follows:
- HH Dry: moisture management and layering, so use this for the cool or cold days.
- HH Active: the all year round ‘activity’ base layer or, because it’s a relaxed fit, a casual piece in its own right
- HH Warm: the cold one with the combined moisture management of the Dry
- HH Wool: the wool one that relies on the properties of merino
In truth there’s a bit of an overlap there so it’s worth trying on a few just to see what kind of feel you want and deciding what temps you want to use it in. I’ve got a few Dry versions, one in short sleeve which works even on mild summer days and a long sleeve one which I use as a cool weather base. In terms of choosing between Warm and Wool much is about feel with the latter feeling a bit silkier next to your skin.
I’m very lucky to have a Helly Hansen outlet a few miles away which means access to cheap base HH gear all year round. Choose wisely and you can pick up your winter base layers very cheaply. And that’s pretty much the story in this review. It does mean that this review is partially redundant because the Warm Flow base layer doesn’t appear to be widely available outside the outlets. But the tech is essentially the same in a variety of their winter layers so consider this review about the tech and the versatility of that tech. At the end of the review I link to some similar versions which are well worth investing in. The great thing about Helly Hansen kit is that it will last for years.
The base layer on test today is a Helly Hansen Warm Flow long sleeve. The composition is 68% merino wool and 32% polypropolene. That composition is pretty much the same in the Ice versions but the merino to polypro proportion is slightly altered. Don’t get hung up on that, the performance is pretty much the same.
This base layer combines their Stay Dry and Stay Warm technology, essentially the Lifa inner is ‘bonded’ to the merino outer. So, to that extent, the outer is actually pure merino wool. Merino is a great insulator and wicker of moisture so the addition of the Lifa tech inside should, in theory, increase moisture flow and provide a bit more insulation. As a winter base layer then, this should really hit the spot.
You can see the Lifa (interior) patterning on the picture below which, to my eyes, does rather look like a shoal of Piranha.
There’s nothing really controversial or magical to write about base layers. And in terms of when I use this one it’s for the really cold windy days. We’ve had quite a few of those recently though, as we’re now entering meteorological winter, the mild muck looks likely to return. I’ve an off road running race on the weekend, about 6 degrees is forecast, somewhere between cold and mild. I might actually run in this as a long sleeve jersey, it’s that versatile. I often wear it casually though the Mrs does claim it makes me look like an extra in Star Trek. And, of course, it’s red, meaning I’m more likely to be killed when beaming down to the planet than not.
So I’ve been using this base layer underneath Parentini’s excellent Mossa.2 and the new kid on the block, the Lusso Extreme Repel. Expect a review of the latter shortly but, at least on a preliminary basis, it’s up there with the Mossa.2. At sub zero temperatures, combined with the proper outer layer this is the ultimate winter base layer. It’s about the warmest base layer I’ve ever worn but none of that comes at the expense of moisture management. It wicks superbly.
It’s also very versatile. Stick it under a lighter jacket such as the normal Mossa or even under something like the Chapeau thermal jersey and that product is then transformed into a colder weather product. Indeed, with a base layer like this under a Mossa you could pretty comfortably get to sub zero on a reasonably tempo ride. And still stay dry.
I’m a big fan of Helly gear and their base layers are, in my view, world class and probably class leading. They’re not cheap though, this one retails at £60 rrp. Save that I paid £25 for it back in the summer. So, if you live close to me, get along there and get one for that price. Or find a Helly outlet close to you and see what they’ve got.
And that’s not very helpful, so I’ve done a bit of searching for you to see what I can find. Ignore the terminology, the Ice versions are pretty much identical to the Warm versions save for a little tinkering with the overall composition. The effect is generally the same (I’ve owned Ice versions in the past as well). If you come across any other bargains then let me know and I’ll update the list.