Monday, December 03, 2018

Gear Closet: Helly Hansen LifaLoft Insulator Jacket Review

Winter is nearly here, which means we're all looking for the best ways to stay warm during out outdoor adventures. That usually means developing a good layering system designed to be functional and comfortable at the same time. One of the key components of any such layering system is an insulating layer, which often comes in the form of a puffy jacket. This year, Helly Hansen is redefining exactly what that jacket looks like thanks to its new LifaLoft Insulator, which is designed to provide a high level of warmth without a lot of bulk.

If you've ever gone shopping for a puff jacket you probably already know that there are a number of options available when it comes to the insulation that is found inside that jacket. Down is of course the most common choice for gear manufacturers, although there are a number of synthetic options too. LifaLoft is one such synthetic option that was made in conjunction with the team at PrimaLoft and is proprietary to Helly Hansen itself. The big draw here is that the material reportedly offers a 20% increase in warmth compared to its weight, allowing it to be warmer with the same level of insulation or better yet give users the ability to stay just as warm with less insulating material. The result is a lighter, thinner jacket that performs at the same level.

I first got the chance to try out a pre-production model of the jacket last winter when Helly gave me an early model to test at the January Outdoor Retailer show. I wore it well into the spring and found it to be comfortable and warm, just as you would expect from a technical mid-layer. But a month or so back I was also sent a final version of the jacket, which is no on sale for customers to buy. It sports a bit of a redesign that looks great in my opinion. More than that however, it seems to be more functional too, as I've found the consumer version to be even warmer than the original test model I was using earlier in the year.

My day-to-day testing of the jacket indicates that LifaLoft lives up to the hype. This jacket is definitely thin and lightweight without compromising performance outdoors. In fact, it has become one of my favorite jackets over the past several weeks, going with me on excursions across the country, while also being used on daily dog-park runs and trips around town. It is stylish, incredibly comfortable, and for someone who is on the road a lot, it is nice to have a jacket that doesn't take up much room in your bag but will still keep you plenty warm.

The outer facing fabrics of the LifaLoft Insulator are both water resistant and wind-proof, with a PFC-free DWR coating for good measure. Hemmed cuffs and waistline help to give it clean, form-fitting cut, while also keeping cold winds at bay. Other than that, there aren't a lot of features or functions to point out, just a warm, high-performance garment built for those who are active in cold conditions.

Tipping the scales at 380 grams (13.4 ounces), yet performing like a jacket that weighs considerably more than that, the LifeLoft Insulator is easy to recommend for travelers and winter athletes. Its lack of bulk makes it a joy to wear in all situations, although some may find it a bit too technical looking for use in casual settings around town. Personally, I think it looks great and I've gotten more than few compliments while wearing it, but it certainly does look the part of an adventure jacket.

I've seen a few comments online indicating that the jacket runs a bit larger in size, so be careful when ordering. That said, I typically wear a size large jacket and didn't find Helly's sizing to be off in my case. Your mileage may very, but it is important to be aware of this just in case.

Priced at $200, the LifaLoft Insulator seems like a real bargain to me, although you may not agree upon first glance. That's because the jacket feels surprisingly thin and light for something you would want with you a winter excursion. You'll be convinced otherwise once you start wearing it on your active adventures however, as it performs well above its weight class, making it easily worth the cost.

Find out more at HellyHansen.com.

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