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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Helly Hansen Lifa Loft Hybrid Insulator > Test Report by Christie KimberHelly Hansen Lifaloft Hybrid Insulator Jacket
September 2, 2018
Name: Christie Kimber
Height: 6’0" (183 cm)
Weight: 145 lb (65 kg)
Bust 32 in (81 cm)
Waist: 28 in (71 cm)
Arm Length: 36 in (91 cm)
Email address: christiekimber AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country: Courtenay, British Columbia (BC), Canada
Backpacking Background: I started hiking in 2015 when I moved from Saskatchewan to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I started with day hikes and have eventually pushed myself to weekend and even week-long excursions. I am a three-season hiker. That being said, as I gather new gear and develop skills I am pushing my limits to try out 4-season backpacking and mountaineering. Vancouver Island gets a lot of rain and has a moderate climate. I also spend time in interior British Columbia in the Rocky Mountains.
Manufacturer: Helly Hansen
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Size: Women’s Medium
Available sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL (color dependent)
Available colors: Blue Haze, Grenadine, Graphite Blue, Wild Rose, Black
Measurements: none listed
Actual weight: 356 g (12.5 oz)
MSRP: $270 CAD
Date received: Sept 3, 2018
I received the Helly Hansen Lifaloft Hybrid Insulator Jacket in a very timely fashion. It was sent with minimal packaging – simply folded into a clear bag with a packing slip and receipt, then into a flexible mail bag. Upon initial inspection the jacket is in perfect condition. There are no rips or loose threads. It looks well-constructed. There was no extra swath of fabric or spare zipper sent in case of future issues. I was not sure what to expect with this product as I have had no previous experience with the Lifa or PrimaLoft technology, however, I found myself initially impressed with how low profile the jacket was. In retrospect I think I was expecting something a little puffier given the “loft” terminology. Apparently it is the Lifa yarn that reduces both weight and bulk. So far both of these seem true to me.
I was sent the color Grenadine which is a vibrant orange/red blend, more orange than red. I would describe it as a “loud” color, especially in combination with the shiny, sleek material. The jacket is accented with black. It has black Lycra wrist cuffs, hood edging, and zipper seams. This is a soft and comfortable material. The zipper itself is also black. There is a small black Helly Hansen logo on the left breast. The inside of the jacket has a black liner as well as a black placket that extends the entire length of the zipper. The zippers are YKK and have a tiny “HH” logo on them. They are easy to grab. Overall I don’t mind the look of the jacket. I think it is more functional than fashionable, but I wouldn’t be afraid to wear it off trail around town.
Construction and Fit:
The Lifaloft jacket is made up of a few different materials. The term “hybrid” in the product name seems to refer to the combination of Lifa and Primaloft, but could also be referring to the macroscopic combination of the two different materials on the jacket. The upper half of the body and upper sleeves are made up of quilted Lifaloft panels with stitched seams separating each panel. The lower body, lower sleeves, and side body panels are made up of a stretchy fleece. On the outside the fleece has a smooth finish and on the inside is has a softer, fuzzy feel. In terms of fibre distribution Shell 1 is 100% Polyamide. Shell 2 is 50% Polyamide, 41% Polyester, and 9% Elastane. Lining 1 is 100% Polyamide, and the Lining 2 is 100% polyester. Overall, the jacket feels thin and light.
Now for fit. As a tall, slim female, fit is my biggest struggle and I am always a little anxious whenever I receive something I haven’t tried on before. Interestingly, I believe this jacket is fully released in Europe. I was able to go on to the European Helly Hansen website and fill out an interactive online “fit guide” (specific to this jacket). I plugged in a variety of information including height, weight, weight distribution, chest size, hip size, etc. and the fit guide produced a suggested size. It stated: “… there is an 86% chance that you will be happy with a size M.” This is based on data collected from thousands of shoppers, as well as returns. However, I wasn’t willing to put all of my faith in it. I used the generic Helly Hansen size chart as well, and was able to confirm medium. Lucky for me it fits almost perfectly. It has a slim fit and “womanly" cut. It is a bit longer in the back, which I personally always like. At the front it just hits the waist band of my pants (usual for me). My only concern is that the sleeves are about two inches shorter than I would prefer, but everywhere else fits well, so it is not something I would change sizes for. Due to the slim fit, I don’t see adding many layers underneath this jacket, however I think that is in keeping with its stated purpose. I do think I would want at least one thin layer, especially when sweating, to prevent getting stuck to the slick inside of this jacket, but otherwise the slim fit allows a shell to easily fit over top.
I also noted a few other things while I had the jacket on. The front zipper zips just above my chin. There are two drawstrings at the bottom of the jacket on each side to cinch the waist for a more exact fit. For me, this also keeps the jacket from riding up. The pockets are described as hand warmers. One side of the pocket is the polyamide lining and one side is the same soft fleece lining as the bottom inside of the jacket (as described above). I suspect the addition of the fleece gives them “hand warming” status. Both of the hand warmer pockets have zipper closures with the Lycra lining. These pockets can hold a large cell phone, and probably not much more than that. There is also one pocket on each side of the inside of the jacket. These are top loading and have no definitive closure.
In terms of caring for this jacket, the label states it can be machine washed in 30 C (86 F) water on a gentle cycle. It can be tumbled dry and is safe to iron. The label advises to close zippers when washing. Do not iron on print. Do not use fabric softener. Wash dark colors separately. There was no additional instructions in terms of future special treatment required in order to maintain performance.
The Helly Hansen Lifaloft Hybrid Insulator is suggested to be used as a stand-alone jacket or under a shell. It claims to be lightweight, windproof, and water resistant. So far, I definitely agree that it is light weight. I am most excited to test out the water resistance as it also claims “keeps you warm even when wet.” If this is true, this will be my go-to jacket in every season!
November 19, 2018
This jacket was perfect to test in the Canadian fall season. It is rated for a low of 10 C (50 F). Depending on the conditions I used the jacket both by itself, as well as layered with a base layer and an outer Gortex shell. I found it to be warm enough by itself at the 10 C rating and used the additional layers when the temperature dropped below this. Once I got sweating, it actually maintained warmth even below 10 C (50 F). I also found the thin profile of the jacket was ideal for layering, unlike some puffier down jackets I have had in the past.
Overall, I found the jacket performed really well. I was surprised at how wind proof it was, even in high wind gusts of 80 km per hour (50 miles per hour). I am not totally sure how Helly Hansen pulled this off as it certainly doesn’t strike me as a typical “wind jacket”, but it worked great. I loved the hood in the wind as well. It is fitted around the face so I had no trouble keeping it on. It also provided great protection for my ears.
The Lifaloft jacket did well in light rain. It isn’t waterproof, but it provides enough protection to keep my skin from getting wet. The outer shell material seems to protect the Lifaloft fill well because warmth was not an issue, nor did it lose its loft in the rain. I did not test it in any downpours, as I had my Gortex shell with me, and wouldn’t expect to use this type of jacket in heavy rain anyways. I found the Lifaloft jacket dried quickly once home.
In terms of construction, I liked the fabric on the bottom part of the sleeves and shoulder area. I found the material soft and comfortable. I wish it extended up the entire sleeve as I found the upper part of the sleeve a bit “sticky” once I had been sweating, especially if I only had on a tank top underneath. That being said, I would describe the jacket as being very breathable overall. The stickiness only occurred in warm conditions when I had another layer on top (hence taking away from the breathability of the Lifaloft jacket itself most likely). I did not find I had to take the jacket off to completely air out except when it was above 15 C (59 F) and I was working pretty hard.
Lastly, I also loved the hand warmer pockets! My hands are always cold and the soft fleece material made a huge difference. I also found the outside pockets large enough for my phone, a map, or a treat. I didn’t use the inside pockets, but could have if needed.
Now for what I did not love about this jacket. As stated in my Initial Review, the sleeves and body are just a bit short on me. While the longer back length of the jacket is really nice, the front did ride up above my waistline at times. The drawstrings at the bottom of the jacket could not be tightened for a truly snug fit around my hips to keep the jacket in place with activity. Because of this, wind did sneak in under the front of the hem a few times. However, I do think medium was the best size for me.
I also don’t like where the zipper sits in relation to my chin. There is a very small collar on the jacket so the zipper doesn’t lie flat, it stands up off the chest. I find it is always rubbing on my chin whether it is zipped or not. For this reason I actually folded the corners of the top part of the zipper in ward after a while.
The Lifaloft jacket has a lightweight, slim profile that made it easy to wear and pack. It will definitely have a home in my hiking backpack from now on.
Long Term Report
January 14, 2019
Weather did not cooperate for any additional overnight backpacking trips with this jacket. However, I did do several more backpacking day trips and a few different types of activities (snowshoeing and skiing) to put it through the paces. I also got a whole lot more cold weather. During my three field trips I used this jacket initially as a mid-layer under a Gortex waterproof jacket. Once I got warmed up, I actually removed my outer Gortex layer during my Callaghan Valley trip. I had it layered over a base layer and a fleece. I found the jacket exceptionally light weight, warm, and breathable when used this way - exactly as advertised! I cannot express enough just how versatile and easy to layer this jacket is. On my other two trips which were both a bit colder (the Yukon much more so) I actually ended up wearing two puffs. I wore the Helly Hansen jacket as a mid layer and another more winter appropriate puff on the outside.
Over the course of four months of testing I have had no concerns in terms of longevity. The jacket still looks brand new to me. There is no wear and tear whatsoever despite being well used and packed away lots.
I think this jacket works well for use all year round. It can be used as an outer shell for three seasons and is easy to use for layering in the winter. It keeps you warm and dries quickly.
I would also like to touch on two features I have previously drawn attention to - the hood and waist drawstrings. I think the fitted hood is excellent. It fits well, holds up in any kind of wind, and adds to the overall warmth of the jacket. My main gripe continues to be with the waistband drawstrings. Although they exist, which is great, I don't find they cinch well at all. This is in spite of some dedicated time to fix this problem. Because of this a perfect fit eluded me.
Overall, I think this is a great all-around jacket for anyone who is active. It layers well and can hold its own by itself. It provides a lot of warmth and only takes up a small amount of room in a pack. I will continue to use it now that the test period is over.
- Well fitted hood
- Hand warmer pockets
- Great for layering
- Regular fit (a bit small for us tall girls)
- Zipper rubs chin
- Waist drawstrings
This concludes my Long Term Report. I would like to thank Helly Hansen and backpackgeatest.org for the opportunity to test and review this gear.
Read more gear reviews by Christie Kimber
Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Helly Hansen Lifa Loft Hybrid Insulator > Test Report by Christie Kimber