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Reviews > Clothing > Gloves and Mittens > Hestra Heli Mitt > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

OWNER REVIEW by Richard Lyon
January 31, 2011

Personal Details and Backpacking Background

Male, 64 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Northern Rockies since 1986.  I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do forced marches too. Winter adventures are often on touring or telemark skis.


MittsThe Heli Mitt (Hestra uses the singular) is a member of Hestra’s Alpine Pro line of handwear.  Each mitten is two pieces: an outer shell made of HESTRA Triton/polyamide fabric with a proofed Army leather-goat leather palm, and a liner, also in mitten shape, made of  “Bemberg/polyester lining with Quallofill/Fiberfill insulation.“   The shell is waterproof, the liner is not.  Velcro strips that encircle both components hold the liner inside the shell at the liner’s cuff, about 1.5 in inch (3.5 cm) above the gauntlet-style cuff of the shell.

Manufacturer: Hestra Handsken [literal translation: “Hestra handwear”], Hestra, Sweden  This address resolves to the company’s US website, but the first page offers a user the opportunity to choose the contents in Swedish, Norse, UK English, or German.
Related products: The Heli style is available as a standard or three-fingered glove, each (like the Mitt) in Men’s and Women’s (different colors) versions.
Size: 11. Men’s available in sizes 5-12.
Color: The Men’s Heli Mitt is now available in black or grey.  Mine, which I purchased in Europe several years ago, appear to be a special edition named after former World Cup skier Philippe Raoux.  They are bright red fabric with yellow leather palms.
Weight, measured: Shell, 2.6 oz (74 g); liner 1.5 oz (43 g) (per mitten)
Length, measured: Shell, 14.0 in (35.6 cm); liner 11.5 in (29.2 cm)
MSRP: $110 US


Shells and linersI put the Helis to good use on winter day hikes and backpacking trips, whether on skis, snowshoes, or just in hiking boots.  Any of these three modes means trekking or ski poles, and most of my poles have a homemade second grip (good old duct tape) below the standard one for ascending.  

The Helis are my go-to mittens until warmer weather late in the season dictates lighter weight and not-so-heavily insulated handwear.  I’m cold prone in general and particularly susceptible to discomfort in the extremities, so I favor mittens over gloves on most occasions.  Skiing for me means inbounds days at lift-served resorts and hiking and touring in the backcountry, and the Helis are terrific for both.  When the day includes significant skinning or boot-packing to get to the untouched powder (which happens inbounds as well as the backcountry), I’ll pack the shells until rest stops or descents, hiking in only the liners.  Occasionally I’ll use other liners (a practice encouraged by Hestra), but I like to keep this team together, as the Velcro strips match exactly. In the front country the Helis are particularly useful on long walks in the cold or a night on the town in a ski resort.

I estimate I’ve worn the Helis well over one hundred activity days – skiing or hiking or snowshoeing, not counting civilian use – at temperatures as low as -30 F (-34 C), often in snowy and windy weather.  When the low temperature is forecast to exceed 25 F (-4 C) I’ll usually select a less substantial pair of gloves or mittens.  


These are warm mittens.  Very warm mittens.  I cannot recall frigid fingers inside the Helis, even when stuck on a stalled ski lift at -15 F (-26 C) with snow blowing right at me.  I especially like the fact that both shell and liner are mitten-shaped, allowing fingers to warm each other inside a single cocoon.  As noted, the only issue with insulating ability is that during vigorous exercise or warmer temperatures my hands start to sweat, requiring me to shed the shells.   Another advantage of mittens in general, one certainly true of the Helis, is that it is very easy to refit the liners into the shells without worrying about a liner finger here and there not finding its way into the corresponding finger on the shell.

I’m a gauntlet guy; the length of these mittens was a major reason I chose them.  The wider cuff on a gauntlet can become a snow scoop when I fall.  Hestra has included two features to keep the snow from wetting my wrists and hands from the cuff.  Each Mitt has an adjustable Velcro strap (called a “snow lock” by its maker) threaded through a D-ring to allow cinching just below the palm, and a toggle closure (“handcuff”) at the cuff.  Each of these is easy to adjust with one mittened hand.

ClipsThe only other feature is shown in the photograph: the Helis have small mating clips that allow me to connect the shells or full mittens for storage.

The Heli shells have proven to be completely waterproof.  Properly treated full- grain leather is difficult to beat for repelling water.  This does require some homework.  A tag inside the right shell reads “Leather must always be regularly waterproofed,” and I’ve heeded this admonition faithfully.  Retreatment with a leather conditioner and a waterproofing product (usually Sno-Seal, a beeswax-based product) is a part of my pre-season gear preparation for winter.  I will repeat this process once or twice during the winter whenever I think about it, and as a result the leather on my Helis is soft and broken in.

The liners are not waterproof, not even water resistant.  They will get wet from continued exposure to snow.  They dry quickly once back inside the shells, however, and wick perspiration well when worn alone.

At Grand TargheeThe Helis don’t look like new; the leather is somewhat wrinkled from use.  But these mittens have held up remarkably well after much hard use.  No loose stitching, no rips or rents, and no apparent deterioration in waterproofing or other performance.  I wash the fabric cuffs once in a while, usually at the end of ski season, by immersing them in water mixed with Atsko Sport Wash, hand-massaging the solution into the material, and then letting them dry flat, in the sun if possible but indoors occasionally.


Waterproof and WARM.  That’s what mittens are for.

Snow locks.  They work.

Bright colors.  Easy to find if I’ve taken them off. (They also stand out in a photo - as at right.)

Remarkably durable, worth the maintenance.


Not a thing.  For cold weather the Helis are great handwear.


Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

Reviews > Clothing > Gloves and Mittens > Hestra Heli Mitt > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

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