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Reviews > Clothing > Base Layers and Undies > Helly Hansen Warm Baselayers > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Helly Hansen HH Warm Baselayers
By Raymond Estrella

February 23, 2013


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 52
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Helly Hansen
Web site:
Product: HH Warm Ice Crew & Pant
Size: Extra Large (crew) Large (pant)
Year manufactured: 2012
MSRP (each): US $80.00
Weight listed: N/A
Actual weights: 9 oz (crew), 7.7 oz (pant) (256, 218 g)
Colors reviewed: Night Blue, Ebony

Quick & Dirty Nitty Gritty

With excellent warmth, great comfort and superior durability the Helly Hansen HH Warm Ice Crew and HH Warm Pant became my favorite baselayers for a while, only getting beat out by another of the company's products later in the winter. They still are on my short list of go-to baselayers, going on just about every trip this winter and moving into spring. (Spring, what we call prolonged winter here in Minnesota.) Please read on for the details.

Product Description

Not me in them, I wish...
Images courtesy Helley Hansen

The Helly Hansen HH Warm Ice Crew and HH Warm Pant (hereafter referred to as the crew/shirt and pant) are mid-weight baselayers made for cold temperatures. In fact the manufacturer say that the material is "the natural choice to stay warm in sub zero environments". Well, that describes my winter playground.

The baselayers are made of a fabric they call Warm. It is a blend of Lifa, their version of polypropylene, to the tune of 43%, and the other 57% is merino wool. As fabrics are designated by their weight, the Warm is a 215 g/m2 (6.3 oz/y2) blend.

The mixture is not just blended together in the thread but has an inside and outside face. Inside is the Lifa. It is woven in a very open pattern. When held up to the light it almost looks like more of a mesh than a solid fabric. This is on purpose as the thicker spots contact the skin and pull moisture away from it while the more open areas allow the moisture to evaporate faster. The Lifa is black in color. While not as noticeable in my pants it is quite obvious in the shirt as may be seen here at the neck opening and where I have the sleeve turned inside out.

Inner and outer

The hydrophobic Lifa moves moisture away into the outer wool face. The merino wool (blue in the case of the crew above) is a finer weave, although examination with a magnifying glass reveals that it is a corded weave. This helps with both evaporation because of the space between the ribs, and warmth by creating more insulating air space in the cords. I don't have a cool digital microscope to show it so you will just have to take my word on it. Or buy some and see for yourself… ;-)

This blended fabric covers the entire shirt with the exception of the band of white stripes running down each arm from shoulder to wrist, which looks to be just fine woven Lifa. The bands serve a purpose more than just looks as the flatlock seams sit on either side of my shoulder keeping it from being a spot of irritation when I am carrying a heavy pack. All of the seams on the shirt are sewn in this fashion.

The waistband, collar and cuffs are made with a tight weave with a lot of elastic in it to allow it to stretch. Inside the collar of the crew and the waistband of the pant are plastic sizing and care tags. Another small tag on the outside/front/left of both has the Helley Hansen H/H logo on it.

The pant has a small overlap type fly opening. It seems to be made for right-handed guys. Sorry lefties.

Both pieces are built with gusseted construction for comfort and range of motion. Both are said to be cut in a "regular" fit, as opposed to an "athletic" fit. But a word of warning to those who think (like I always have) of regular cuts being loose and roomy. Helly Hansen's regular is what most of my other baselayers called athletic. Their "athletic"? Think blue paint… Not a pretty picture with this old body. ;-)

There are no antimicrobial treatments built-in or applied to the fabric. (More on this later.) The washing instructions are standard for this kind of garment in my experience: Wash cool and inside out. No bleach, no ironing, no tumble dry, no dry clean. No problem…

Field Data

In the Obi Elite

I have used the HH Warm baselayer pants on every trip since late September 2012 and the crew since later that fall. I took them on a long California trip that saw a 2-day backpacking trip in the southern Sierra Nevada, a 5-day backpacking trip in the northern Sierra Nevada, and a day-hike and 2-day trip in the Angeles National Forest. There was a total of 136.5 miles (220 km) with 23,575 ft (7186 m) of gain, in temps that ran from 31 F to a ridiculously warm for that time of year 90 F (-1 to 32 C). Almost all of it was on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Once back home, I went to the canoeist primitive campsite on the Red River outside Hendrum, Minnesota for one trip and the last fall trip was to my friend's property north of Halstad, Minnesota. While I normally like to stay in the woods it was just too mucky (my shoes weighed a ton!) so I ended up by the Red River on some flattened prairie grass. I went chasing weather again because the forecast was rain, turning to snow and low temps. It hit a low of 26 F (-3 C). In the picture above you can see the HH Warm pant sitting next to my pad as I wait out the rain with a good book.

Once the ground froze and winter set in I fired the hiking back up again taking seven backpacking trips. Five were on the Red River, either north of town or on the Halstad property, one was on the North Country Trail by the Anoway River in Chippewa National Forest, and the last was on the North Country Trail in Paul Bunyan State Forest. These trips were cold with lows averaging around 0 F (18 C). The trip on the Anoway River saw -22 F (-30 C). I wore wore the baselayers on two "snow camping" trips in the yard with my son, and three or four dayhikes, most at MB Johnson Nature Park outside Moorhead, Minnesota. Average temps while day-hiking was around 10 F (-12 C). Here is a shot backpacking north of Halstad after a December thaw melted our snow cover.

Hiking on the Red River


I have long been a big fan of merino wool in all my hiking clothing. I don't buy any socks that are not wool, and until trying the Helly Hansen Dry shirt (see review) would not dream of using polypropylene because I have never found any that did not stink after use. The Lifa that Helley Hansen uses works great as far as the funk factor.

Wool is naturally odor fighting and the main reason I love it, especially for winter. This is because while it may seem that hiking in sub-zero temps is not smell-inducing, in my considerable experience it is actually worse!

The problem that I have run into with 100% merino wool, especially in the light and medium weights, is durability. Under the arm, and more so the crotch areas wear out fast, sometimes developing holes in just a few trips. This is where wool blends shine for me, being more durable and still having the odor control. I look for blends with no less than 50% wool as a rule.

Another place the blends work well is with wicking and drying. While wool does naturally wick moisture it does not do so as well as synthetics and it retains more moisture than synthetic making it dry slower.

After using the company's HH Dry for a few months I knew that I liked the properties of the Lifa so I decided to give the Lifa/merino wool blend a shot. I was impressed right away.

The Warms are made very well and are quite comfortable to wear. When backpacking I literally wear them full time as I hike in some and then bring a clean set to sleep in at night. The bottoms have seen the most use as in the middle of the winter I started alternating days/nights with another baselayer top that I beta tested for another manufacturer.

The wicking properties are excellent. The open weave of the inner Lifa really moves sweat away from my skin. This was a blessing when we finally got a lot of snow and trips were a major work-out plowing through deep snow and dragging a gear sled.

Yet once in camp where I could pull out the big parka and get warm the HH Warms dried inside my parka quite well. Hmm, well the crew did, the HH Pant dried under my insulated snow pants.

At bedtime I swap baselayers so as to keep my sleeping bags and quilts free of body oils and dried sweat. The worn baselayer goes next to my bag and I swap them back out in the morning if there is more than one night in the field. If I am heading back home that day I just keep on the baselayer I slept in. This is a much warmer proposal than changing in Arctic conditions. Here is a shot ready for bed with my Warms on (take my word on the pants) along with a stylish down hood. Hah.

In the Propel

They live up to the Warm name, being too warm to wear in the house when I am getting ready to go. I have to put them on right before I get in the car or I will sweat like crazy.

Odor retention is nonexistent. They are as good as 100% merino as far as I can tell, and that is based on around a dozen 100% baselayers in my hiking chests. After wearing them for two straight days of hiking I even let them sit wadded up (so no air was getting to them) for a couple of days to "set in" just to see how they would be. Glad to say there was barely any smell. (Even more glad to say that nobody saw me sniffing my long johns…) And there is zero odor after washing.

By mid winter I was thinking that these were my favorite baselayers and was looking to get more. Then I saw (and ordered) some different models in the same Warm series that I liked even better! I will be reviewing those next so come back soon.

But rest assured I really like these baselayers and expect to be using them far down the trail. I leave with a picture of them waiting for bedtime.

In the Jack Rabbit 2

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
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