by Chris Surette
When you go into the backcountry, you need to rely on your gear to perform and keep you warm.
To put some gear to the test we headed into the frigid backcountry of the Purcell mountain range and the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in southeastern British Columbia. Don’t let the bluebird skies fool you, temperatures reached a balmy -22 F.
It’s always been a dream of mine to go heli-skiing, so when I got the call from Helly Hansen to join them on this heli-skiing adventure, I jumped at it. We stayed in a ski-in/ski-out cabin style lodge tucked in the mountains of Kicking Horse. I say “cabin” but really it’s fit for a king, equipped with a hot tub, sauna, 7 rooms, a huge kitchen and chill area on the top floor and much more. Really, it was the perfect setting to get to know the other five people invited on this trip, and the four representing Helly.
The trip was four days long, and included two full days of skiing at the amazing Kicking Horse Resort and of course, the heli-skiing day with Purcell Heli-Skiing.
One of the trip highlights was getting to meet Philip Tavell, who flew in from Oslo, Norway the morning of our heli-skiing day. Philip is the category manager of winter sport and training at HH. Simply put, he is the one in charge of getting input on gear and making it better. So basically, his job is to test gear and help develop the innovative technology that goes into making HH gear trusted worldwide. Getting to sit down with Philip and ask him questions about what sets HH apart, and why they do things a certain way was a pretty cool experience. For example, HH doesn’t use GORE-TEX®
in it’s garments. Why? Because HH started out making clothing for sailing (Est.1887), they discovered that salt water actually eats away at GORE-TEX®. So HH designed their own waterproof technology called HELLY TECH®.
As we heading out to the Purcell Heli-Skiing headquarters to get ready for our day getting dropped all over the back-country via helicopter, the excitement amongst our crew was pretty transparent – we’re going heli-skiing today! Wooooo!
So as we finally boarded the helicopter to take off, we were tasked to be as critical as possible with the HH gear we were all sporting. After all, at the end of the day we got to report directly back to the dude in charge of taking our suggestions back to the lab in Oslo.
Helly Hansen HH Active Flow LS, $70
On really cold days a good base layer goes a long way to keeping you warm. You always hear how important it is to dress in layers, but unless you’re doing it right, it may not matter. The HH base layer is designed to absorb your sweat that is against your skin and place it on the outside of the garment, keeping you dry and warm.
From Helly Hansen: “The new design allows moisture to visibly rapid fire into the baselayers’ respective moisture-loving wool or polyester second layer. The result: skin stays dry no matter the activity or intensity level, keeping athletes’ body temperatures optimally regulated in a multitude of conditions.”
My grade: It’s lightweight, soft and breathable. The Lifa Stay Dry Technology really does keep you dry and warm, even as you’re working hard and getting sweaty. I really put this theory to the test being in frigid weather, then warming up in the chopper, then going back into intense cold of mountain peaks (repeat 6x). At no point was I cold from sweating. The downside: if you’re not in good shape you can’t hide it…In the words of my ski mate: “I feel like a stuffed sausage.”
Tip: Make sure you put your base layer directly against your skin for optimal performance. The technology won’t work if you’re wearing a cotton T underneath!
Helly Hansen Alpha Jacket, $400
When I first picked up this jacket, I was surprised how light it was, and with the -22F weather on the horizon I wasn’t sure it was going to hold up. This jacket features Helly Hansen’s new patent-pending H2Flow technology, which are essentially little pockets of extra insulation located in the interior back. This dispersion of pockets allows the jacket to be light-weight, breathable and surprisingly really warm.
From HH: “The H2 Flow Technology stands for “Hollow Heat Flow,” a system that marries insulation, featuring both positive and negative spaces, with a proprietary approach to air flow regulation. The unique combination of elements allows the wearer to easily regulate their temperature.”
My grade: I was a big fan of this jacket. I find lots of winter jackets can be big and bulky, but this one was warm, light and has a nice European slim fit (but not too tight). I also love this color. I have started to accumulate too many bright colors, so it’s nice to have something to wear casually around town too. Plus, at $400 it’s a great value. Helly Hansen hit a homerun here
Helly Hansen Carving Glove, $140
Nothing can ruin your day like cold hands (and feet, they both seem to get cold simultaneously). There’s nothing fancy about these HH Carving Gloves (they do have a nose wipe though, which is a must on cold days). They fit nicely, kept my hands dry and weren’t too bulky. The PrimaLoft® technology insulation inside has a really soft feel.
They also seemed to be waterproof (Helly Tech®PROTECTION on the outer layer), as they managed to stay dry throughout the day while getting in and out of the helicopter.
My grade: These gloves did the trick for me, but they weren’t the warmest gloves I’ve worn either. If you get cold hands easily, you might want to look elsewhere, especially with a lofty price tag of $140.
Explorer of the Canadian east coast, with a true passion for the outdoors, Chris is always up for any kind of adventure. Some of his favourites are skiing, cycling, hiking, kayaking, camping and simply exploring his backyard and beyond. When he’s not on an adventure he’s usually planning his next adventure. On the rare occasion he’s doing office work, he can be found managing new media for a publishing company called OptiMYz. He also has a passion for helping kids and is part of a project that is raising funds and awareness to get kids to experience adventure and to send them to camp. (http://paddle2sable.ca)