In November and December I had the opportunity to test out Helly Hansen’s new lightweight insulation, LIFALOFT, in the form of LIFA merino base layers and the LIFALOFT Hybrid Insulator Jacket. I put these pieces through the wringer, fishing and boating on the Chesapeake Bay on some of the coldest days we’ve had this season, and what really struck me was how warm I felt while wearing less bulky layers.

helly hansen lifaloft
Testing out Helly Hansen's new LIFALOFT Hybrid Insulator Jacket during a day of fall fishing in Annapolis.

LIFALOFT Insulation

Helly Hansen’s proprietary insulation, that has been exclusively developed by PrimaLoft, is constructed with 75 percent Lifa fibers and 25 percent synthetic fibers. It is less bulky in construction and weighs 20 percent less than standard polyester alternatives, yet delivers more warmth based on an increased number of microscopic air pockets that capture and retain heat. It is also a more sustainable choice due to a lower water and carbon footprint.

The proprietary Lifa fibers inherently do not absorb moisture making the insulation ideal for wearers in variable conditions. Each jacket in the new collection includes 80 grams of LIFALOFT insulation by PrimaLoft, and a water resistant and windproof outer fabric with PFC-free DWR certified by Bluesign.

When I go fishing in the colder months, I tend to wear the bulkiest of layers, to the point where I have less mobility to cast a rod or move about the boat. It’s frustrating, but I hate being cold even more than my decreased flexibility. When I first tested the hybrid jacket and base layers, it was a windy, low 40-degree day in November. I wore the base layer leggings under my jeans and the half zip base layer top under my jacket, and that was it (apart from gloves, hat, and boots). I was pretty skeptical walking down to the dock, but I was surprisingly comfortable for the four hours we spent fishing. I had great mobility casting, and while reeling in my rockfish, I did not feel impeded by bulky outerwear in any way. Since that initial test, I’ve worn the jacket many times, in light rain and even colder conditions, and it has exceeded my expectations. 

The LIFALOFT jacket comes in three varieties: the hooded insulator, the non-hooded insulator, and the hybrid, which is a mix of lightweight shell fabric and a slick face stretch fabric below the elbows and around the waist. The hybrid is great as a stand-alone jacket and also light enough to be layered under a shell on the coldest of days. ~K.J.

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