Helly Hansen Baselayer

Words Thomas Philips | February 17, 2012
Helly Hansen Baselayers offer an ideal blend of warmth and moisture management for any activity level
Words Thomas Philips February 17, 2012

Staying warm in the winter is an often misunderstood science.  Let me rephrase that:  staying warm in the winter while being active is an often misunderstood science.

Whereas going out for a quick trip in the cold is simply a case of throwing on a warm coat, spending an extended period of time in the cold with fluctuating body temperatures is significantly more complicated.  Skiing/snowboarding is a great example.  Starting out the day, your body is cold, so you need something to keep your body warm.  But as you begin engaging your body, it heats up from the activity, causing you to sweat.  As you sweat, this moisture accumulates on the clothing layer closest to your body, and when you stop engaging your body (such as your trip back up the mountain), this soaked layer is the first to cool.  It’s this layer that is single biggest cause of uncomfortably cold body temperatures during your time outdoors.

Putting it bluntly, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on your outerwear, if you don’t have the right baselayers, you’re not going to be warm.  It’s as simple as that.

I just got back from a weeklong skiing/snowboarding excursion in Vail, and it’s a truth I became intimately familiar with, as I had the opportunity to test several baselayers that are part of my winter gear collection.  With temperatures fluctuating about 30 degrees during my stay, ranging from cold and windy to relatively warm and sunny, I found that it was exceptionally difficult to find a baselayer capable of managing the expanded temperature range.  They either didn’t warm adequately, or when they did warm, they ended up saturated with sweat, resulting in not only an uncomfortable baselayer, bus also one that cooled significantly during any downtime.

There was one base layer, however, that managed to withstand the temperature swings and fluctuating body temps, and unsurprisingly, it came from the brand that pioneered the concept of layering:  Helly Hansen.  Not only did the Helly Hansen baselayer manage to keep me warm in every temperature I used it in, it excelled at maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the day, irregardless of my activity level.

Helly Hansen Baselayer Construction

The secret to the brilliance of the Helly Hansen baselayer range lies in the fabric it’s constructed from, which Helly Hansen calls Lifa.  Invented by Helly Hansen in the ’70’s, Lifa is a technological marvel – a super fabric developed to not only keep you warm, but also to wick away moisture from your body better than anything else.

Without getting overly technical, Helly’s Lifa baselayers operate under a simple premise:  they repel moisture.  Whereas polyester (one of the most commonly used baselayer materials) absorbs moisture, thus becoming saturated during activity and keeping moisture in contact with your skin, Lifa was created to do exactly the opposite:  it repels moisture away from your skin.  So as you sweat, Helly’s Lifa baselayer is constantly channeling moisture away from your body and onto your mid layer.  Your skin stays dry, which translates into warmer body temperatures, whether you’re active or not.

It’s Lifa’s moisture wicking properties that make the baselayer the first of Helly Hansen’s unique 3-Layer system.  The Lifa baselayer wicks moisture away from your body; the midlayer absorbs the moisture from the baselayer, keeping it safely away from you skin; and the third outer layer protects you from the wind and elements.  The result is continuously stable, warm body temperature, irregardless of conditions or activity level.

Helly Hansen Baselayer Families

During my time in Vail, temps ranged from the 20’s to the 50’s, so I used baselayer pieces exclusively from the HH Dry family.  Constructed entirely from their Lifa fabric and virtually seamless, Helly’s HH Dry family is ideal for a wide range of temperatures and heightened activity levels, due to the aforementioned moisture wicking properties.  Available HH Dry baselayer pieces include the HH Dry Stripe Crew (men’s), the HH Dry Charger Half Zip (men’s), the HH Dry Dynamic LS Crew (women’s), the HH Dry Dynamic LS 1/2 Zip (women’s) and the HH Dry Fly Pant (men’s and women’s).

For even colder temperatures and added insulation, Helly Hansen also offers the HH Warm baselayer family.  Whereas HH Dry is constructed entirely of Lifa fabric, HH Warm is essentially two layers in one, with a Lifa core to maintain exceptional moisture wicking ability and an outer Merino wool layer to provide added insulation in sub zero conditions.  Available HH Warm baselayer pieces include the HH Warm Ice Crew (men’s and women’s), the HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip (men’s and women’s) and the HH Warm Pant (men’s and women’s).

Helly Hansen Baselayer Care

One of the things I love most about Helly Hansen baselayers is how exceptionally easy it is to take care of them.  Simply wash your baselayers with a mild detergent at 60 degrees Celsius for HH Dry or 40 degrees Celsius for HH Warm, then let air dry.  Due to their moisture repelling properties, they dry exceptionally fast.

Interestingly enough, the Helly Hansen care guide notes that if you dry your baselayers, they’ll actually melt.  Intrigued, I emailed Helly Hansen’s customer service to find out why my baselayer would melt, and their response was quite interesting.  Unlike conventional thread that’s woven from even smaller strands, Helly’s Lifa fabric is unique in that its thread is created by melting particles together.  When magnified, Lifa’s thread would show a smooth surface, whereas other threads are simply multiple smaller threads joined together with millions of crevices and gaps.

Helly’s process of creating thread through melting has two key advantages.  Unlike woven threads that allow bacteria to enter and hide in its various crevices, Lifa thread’s smooth surface doesn’t have the same places for bacteria to hide.  The result is a baselayer that doesn’t maintain an odor after you wash it.  Secondly, and my favorite part of Lifa, is the fact that the color chips are actually baked into the fabric during its melting phase.  As a result, colors of Helly’s Lifa baselayers will never fade, and they’ll never bleed onto one another, as they’re actually a part of the thread.

After using Helly’s baselayer this winter, it’s easily the most durable, easy-to-take-care-of baselayer system I own.

Where to Get the Helly Hansen Baselayer

I’m clearly a fan of Helly Hansen’s baselayers, so much so that I now own multiple sets of both the HH Dry and HH Warm series.  They’re the warmest, most breathable baselayers I’ve used, period.  If you’re interested in picking up a Helly Hansen baselayer for yourself, you can do so at the official Helly Hansen online store, Altrec, and a variety of other retailers.