Most people who participate in winter activities understand that layering is the key to all-season comfort in the elements and the best apparel companies make sure to address this with their lines. Helly Hansen, the company started in 1877 by a Norwegian sea captain, knew the importance of this early on and began creating its 3-Layer System in the 20th century. The 3-Layer System includes the HH Warm baselayer, a Verglas down Insulator, and a lightweight jacket such as the Backbowl Jacket and combined they let you tackle all winter conditions and temperatures. This article will include a HH Warm Flow High Neck 1/2 Zip review, a Verglas Down Insulator Vest review, and a Backbowl Jacket review and give you an idea of how they interact together.
Helly Hansen HH Warm Flow High Neck 1/2 Zip Review
A high performance thermal baselayer is a key component to any layering system for a number of reasons and the HH Warm Flow High Neck 1/2 Zip addresses all of them. Using a high tech combination of fibers, the inner Lifa fibers wick moisture away from the body to keep you dry while the outer merino wool fibers add warmth. Hollow fibers imitate polar bear fur to increase moisture movement and insulating abilities.
The first thing you notice when you put on the HH Warm Flow High Neck 1/2 Zip is that it is super comfortable and form fitting without being overly tight. The fabric is soft and instantly provides a blanket of warmth on your upper body. The flat seam stitching ensures that there are no itchy seams to bother you as well. To test the baselayer, I wore it on a short ski tour up a local hill and also a day of resort downhill skiing at Beaver Creek. It performed great in both situations. As I got warmer skinning up the mountain, I stayed pleasantly dry even as I began to sweat more and could feel the Lifa Flow technology doing its job. I eventually removed my outer and mid layers and the High Neck 1/2 Zip remained a perfect top for giving just enough warmth in a high intensity activity in the winter temperatures and the zip at the top allowed me to dump some extra heat quickly.
When I tested the baselayer on a casual downhill skiing day, I layered it under the Verglas Down Insulator and Backbowl Jacket and it performed just as well as in the higher intensity use. It was a cold morning and the HH Warm Flow High Neck kept me from feeling any drafts on my skin.
Helly Hansen Verglas Down Insulator Vest Review
There are few pieces of clothing that can get as much use through 3 seasons as a down vest and the Vergals Down Insulator Vest is an exceptional entry into this category. Fit is excellent and is form fitting due to an athletic cut combined with stretch panels on the sides.
Fit note: the arm openings are elasticized to make keep air in for maximum insulation and this makes them a little tighter than you might expect. Those with very large arms/shoulders may consider upsizing.
I loved the minimal bulk of the vest that is possible because of a high performance 700 fill European goose down. Smaller stitched panels throughout the vest help keep the insulation in place. The stretch panels in the side of the vest are fleece lined so that they don’t give up much warmth while serving their purpose of providing maximum mobility.
The best summary review I can give of the Verglas Down Insulator Vest is that it very quickly became a staple part of my daily outfit. In the Fall, it pairs perfectly with a t shirt for added warmth when it’s still not cold enough for a jacket. On a moderate winter day, pairing it with a flannel shirt made for a very lightweight and comfortable option. Layered over the HH Warm Flow High Neck and under the Backbowl Jacket, it kept me warm on a very cold morning on the slopes. The beauty of a vest for a mid-layer is that it keeps your core nice and toasty while letting your arms move freely and without overheating. I really loved the Helly Hansen Verglas Down Insulator and give it my top recommendation.
Helly Hansen Backbowl Jacket Review: A freeride oriented shell jacket for skiing in and out of bounds
For a successful, versatile layering system in most winter climates, a shell jacket with minimal or zero insulation is generally the best option. The Helly Hansen Backbowl Jacket is a relatively light weight, freeride oriented outer layer designed to handle big mountain skiing. Minimally insulated with PrimaLoft Black Insulation 40g, the Backbowl makes for a versatile option as a shell for a 3 layer system or as the only piece on a warmer day.
Starting with the fit, I really liked that Helly Hansen decided to give the jacket a longer hem that is both keeping with current style and better for those with longer torsos like myself. Everything felt tailored well to my 6’1, 185 body in a size large with a good balance between room for layers and athletic cut. The fixed hood worked well over my helmet and the the high collar with awesome expansion zipper created a nice protection from wind and snow. I am a big fan of zippers that go to the side instead of the center because they minimize chafing on your face/chin.
One thing that continues to be an issue for me with Helly Hansen is zippers that tend to get caught easier than most. I believe it has to do with an excess of fabric near the zipper and I hope they address this in the future because it isn’t present on most jackets of this caliber. The fabric on the Backbowl jacket is the reliable Helly Tech Professional, which is their high end line. This is the 2-ply version that offers a little bit of stretch but not as much as their top of the line options. The company has continuously improved on their innovative H2Flow System that optimizes mechanical air venting by layering mesh with open holes that lead to vents and I found it worked well here, with the large pit zip vents allowing you to dump heat quickly.
Some of my other favorite features of the Backbowl Jacket include oversized wrist closures, high visibility hood brim and logo that are easier to spot in deep powder days, and extra high dual pockets that are easy to access with a pack on. Overall, I found the Helly Hansen Backbowl Jacket to be a solid outer piece for a 3 layer system as well as a stylish and practical jacket for variable conditions throughout a season.
Helly Hansen 2015/2016 3-layer Ski System Review: Final thoughts
Helly Hansen’s experience in creating skiwear pieces that work together was obvious to me throughout this review. The HH Warm Flow High Neck 1/2 Zip is a superb base layer for winter activities and is both warm and breathable. The Verglas Down Insulator Vest is extremely versatile and the ideal layering piece as a mid or outer layer, offering a great balance between insulation, lightweight, and unencumbered movement.
Finally, the Backbowl Jacket makes a great waterproof shell layer for keeping out the elements while maintaining a freeride oriented fit and style. I highly recommend the HH Warm Flow base layer and Verglas Down Insulator Vest to everyone and suggest checking out Helly Hansen’s line of shells for the one that suits them best. For a layering system, the uninsulated Ridge Shell jacket would also be an excellent choice.