HELLY HANSEN H2 FLOW JACKET
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
September 13, 2013
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a light-weight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) and use a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Helly Hansen
|Photo courtesy of Helly Hansen|
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.hellyhansen.com
MSRP: $180 US
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 13.2 oz (374 g)
Size Tested: M
Other Sizes Available: S, L, XL and 2XL
Color Tested: Bright Sky
Other Colors Available: Deep Plum, Black
Made in China
The H2 Flow jacket has a polyester outer shell with a lining of mesh polyester. In the torso area between the outer shell and lining there is 200g POLARTEC® brushed fleece with holes in it. These holes provide air pockets which are intended to hold in heat. There seem to be three different sized holes which are strategically placed.
The main zipper has a stiff storm flap and zipper garage which has a fabric on the backside which is soft. This is a nice feature since those areas can touch my face and neck. The inside of the collar also has a nice soft fabric with a flannel feel to it. There is a hang loop at the base of the collar. There are two zippered hand-warmer pockets. On the front of the jacket there are two zippers which open to allow for ventilation. Inside of both the pockets and the ventilation zips is a mesh lining.
The hem has a drawstring with a cord-lock on either side for adjustment. The back is slightly longer than the front allowing for some rear coverage. The cuff is a narrow elastic portion that is an orange color. The main zipper pull and the Helly Hansen logo on the left sleeve are also orange along with a few areas of stitching beneath each zipper.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The care tag says to machine wash in lukewarm water. Do not bleach, iron, use fabric softener, tumble dry or dry clean. They also recommend to close the zipper before laundering and to wash dark color separately. This all seems pretty standard and I'll just hope to remember to zip it up before throwing it in the laundry.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
My initial impression was that the fabric was softer than expected. The jacket looks like a soft shell rain jacket or wind breaker which I would expect to be stiffer. I love the bright blue color and subtle orange accents. The fit is perfect for me with room for a medium layer underneath but not much more. I am happy with the fit based on what was advertised in their fit guide. Overall the jacket seems to be very much as-advertised on the website.
Since the jacket arrived on a cool day with rain threatening I was happy to immediately try it on. The first thing that I noticed was that the sleeve lining bunched up. Upon further investigation it appears that the sleeve lining is attached to the outer shell only a short distance from the cuff. So from there to the shoulder it is not attached which allows it to slide separately. This is why the lining bunched up when inserting my clothed arm. I'll have to keep an eye on this during the testing period.
I didn't get a chance to wear it until going to work the next day. It provided a nice way to take off the chill. At lunchtime when I normally go for a walk I was hesitant to even bother going out since it was quite windy with 30 mph winds. My walking partners were ready to go though so the jacket got its first test. I loved the way it completely blocked the wind. On the way back I was getting warm and opened the front zippers to allow for some airflow and found it to work well enough that I was able to leave the jacket on. I usually would have to remove my jacket at this point.
The Helly Hansen H2 Flow jacket is a wind protective jacket of high quality with a fleece lining for extra warmth. There appears to have been much thought that went into the design of it.
Stylish Women's cut
Innovative fleece liner
Sleeve lining folds in on itself
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I wore the Flow jacket on two backpacking trips (a two-day and a four-day), three morning runs, one day-hike and multiple lunch-time walks.
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 2 days; 10 mi (16 km); 6,327 to 6,500 (1,928 to 1,981 m); 34 to 59 F (1 to 15 C) with clear conditions; wore hiking through snowfields at first part of hike then wore in evenings and mornings in camp.
Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park, California: 4 days; 32 miles (52 km); 3,900 to 7,400 ft (1,189 to 2,256 m); 35 to 70 F (2 to 21 C); wore in camp in evenings and mornings.
Forni Lake, Desolation Wilderness, California: 10 mi (16 km); 6,600 to 7,100 ft (2,012 to 2,164 m) elevation; 50 to 60 F (10 to 16 C); cold wind blowing off of snow fields.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Flow jacket provides a similar amount of warmth in the torso as my light down jacket. In the evening at Laurel Lake though I opted for my down jacket instead which provided better warmth for my arms. The level of warmth of the Flow is perfect for my spring, summer and fall backpacking but the weight of it is twice what my light down jacket weighs. For testing I've been carrying both jackets.
The jacket is very comfortable on my skin and is a great wind block. On several occasions there was a cold strong wind and I was so happy to have the Flow to protect me. Particularly at Forni Lake there was a very strong wind blowing off of the half-frozen lake and snow fields. It kept me comfortable and warm while slowly circumnavigating the lake in an attempt to catch-and-release more brook trout than my husband. We tied.
As things warmed up I used the front ventilation zippers to help cool me. They definitely allowed me to leave the jacket on longer rather than just getting too hot and having to remove it. On my runs I would start out with the jacket which was very welcome but eventually even the front ventilation wasn't cooling enough and I slipped it off of my shoulders to still keep my arms warm but let most of the heat escape. The ventilation was very good. It never felt clammy and I never saw any water droplets inside the jacket when I got back home.
I wore the jacket in some light rain and it did a good job of resisting the water. I wasn't out in any significant rain for a long enough period to test how waterproof it is.
The jacket compresses pretty well and was easy to pack in my clothing dry sack in my backpack. It doesn't even stay significantly wrinkled once I pull it out. In camp the jacket also served as a pillow case and I liked the feel of the fabric on my face. It is soft and comfortable and not stiff like many of my windproof jackets.
I still noticed the sleeve bunching up when I inserted my arms but I'm kind of used to it now and it hasn't really been any issue. It all straightens out once my arms are through the cuffs.
The durability has been very good. There are no signs of wear, no snags, no pilling and no abrasions despite wearing it through some challenging terrain and with a pack. I washed the jacket one time and it came out looking nearly new.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
With the warmer summer temperatures, I wasn't able to wear the jacket for day-to-day use. I only wore the jacket on overnight backpacking trips where the cool evening and morning temperatures gave me the opportunity to wear a layer.
Emigrant Wilderness, Sierra Nevada, California: 4 days; 24 miles (39 km); 7,160 to 8,930 ft (2,182 to 2,722 m); 55 to 85 F (13 to 29 C).
John Muir Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 3 days; 24 miles (39 km); 4,035 ft to 9,940 ft (1,230 to 3,030 m); 45 to 80 F (7 to 27 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I continue to really like this jacket. It is very comfortable and is a nice combination of a cozy fleece and a windproof shell. On both trips I was using a polyurethane sleeping pad that was quite noisy and sticky to sleep on. It would squeak with my every move so I used the Flow jacket as a cover on the pad. I use a quilt so that meant that I was touching the jacket instead of the sticky sleeping pad. It was much more comfortable for my skin to contact the jacket and it eliminated the noise.
My experience with the jacket was similar as in the field testing period and I used it in similar ways. I didn't see any sustained rains so again I was unable to assess its ability to resist water after a longer period. I did don the jacket and hop in the shower for several minutes. The water shed in beads at first and then eventually wetted out the fabric. However, the water didn't come through and I was impressed with how much water it shed for a jacket that makes no 'water-resistant' claims.
The jacket manages to provide warmth in cool weather but also breathes as well as any jacket I own that provides any type of wind or water protection. The innovative holes in the liner really seem to work.
The only downside of the jacket for me is the weight. It provides a similar amount of warmth as my light down jacket but weighs twice as much. We hiked the entire 225 miles (362 km) of the John Muir Trail but after the first few days I swapped out the Flow jacket for my light down jacket in order to save pack weight. My rain jacket and light down jacket together weigh slightly less than the Flow, so logically it makes more sense to carry both of those than one jacket. I get more flexibility for less weight.
Durability continues to be stellar with no wear or workmanship issues at all. The Flow still looks fantastic.
The Helly Hansen H2 Flow jacket is a mid-weight jacket providing just the amount of warmth that I need and doing a great job of blocking the wind. I'm looking forward to cooler weather to get to wear this jacket more often but I don't expect to take it backpacking very often due to the weight.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
Great wind block
Stylish and I love the color
Twice the weight of my down backpacking jacket
This concludes my Long-Tem Test Report and this test series.
Thanks to Helly Hansen and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of Helly Hansen gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith