By Don Jurries
The Helly Hansen booth was one of the most popular during the Outdoor Retailer Winter 2012 Demo-Day at Solitude Mountain, Utah. For a $10 donation to Life Turns, anyone attending the event could test one of the HH base layers. The other option was to strip down and exchange the base layer you were wearing for a new one, with many people going nearly topless to get a chance to take home one of the new HH base layers.
I tested the warmest of the four base layer versions, the Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip, intended for use from -30C (-22F) up to -5C (+23F). I generally wear a polyester turtleneck as my base layer when skiing, followed by a merino wool mid-layer. With the warmth of the Helly Hansen base layer, I almost didn’t need the extra mid-layer.
The HH base layer uses a Lifa dual layer construction made from the company's proprietary Lifa Stay Dry Technology. The exterior is made from merino wool, fused onto a lightweight insulation using Helly Hanson’s Lifa T3 hollow fibre polypropylene fabrication.
The key to the Lifa technology is it doesn’t wick moisture, it uses your own body heat to push sweat vapor through the fabric and away from the skin. I definitely felt dryer when skiing, even under the arms, ultimately keeping me warmer. When compared to synthetics, Lifa retains 40 times less moisture, is 50% lighter, has a natural resistance to bacteria that cause odors, and is hypo-allergenic.
The men's and women's Helly Hanson Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip retails for $85 and comes in a variety of colors with a bit of trimming or designs to make them fashionable enough for sitting around the fire back at the lodge.