Bicycle and Gear Reviews

Dress up: Helly Hansen LIFA base layers

5 Comments 18 September 2010

The HH stripe is their trademark, and sometimes it's a bit too much.

No one really likes the cold, not even Finns who have heat intolerance in their genes (seriously). That’s why my mom invented dressing up in layers to keep humankind warm, but not look like the Michelin man. There are a few schools out there: The Naturals vouch for different types of wool, where Merino is the king of wools. The Commandos are plain crazy and usually take the bus after the weather gets cold and then there are the Techies, who like synthetic fibers lovingly caressing their warm and sweat-free bodies.

The purpose of base layers is to act as the second skin right on top of your own. Their job is to keep your skin as dry as possible, letting your own body hair create the teeny-tiny layer of air around you, since air is one of the best insulators in existence. You doubt my word? Guess what’s the insulator in a thermos can? Yeah, it’s air. The closer and tighter (to a point) the base layer is, the better it works in pulling out the moisture. Merino wool does this naturally, but the Techies have gone further and I’ve used Helly Hansen’s base layers for nearly 20 years with very good experiences.

The company’s current technology, called LIFA is a two-layer construction in itself having to different weaving techniques in the fabric. With this new material, they have big promises. Sometimes they even manage to sound like shampoo commercials with their “XX% faster riding” comparisons. But they have a few good points: LIFA dries faster than older Helly Hansens (which were fast to dry anyway), they are non-allergenic and thanks to their new process, the fabric is even lighter on your skin than before getting rid of that heavy and stuffy feeling you might get from poor-quality or old base layers.

LIFA comes in four types depending on the temperature: Warm, Cool, One and Dry. I usually go with the Dry version functioning from -15 to +15 degrees Celsius (that’s +5 to +60 degrees Fahrenheit for our American readers). Warm is for negative temperatures, Cool is for summer performance and One is similar to Dry but for a bit warmer climate (-10 to +25 Celsius).

Our verdict: ★★★★★

I’m a very satisfied repeat customer with Helly Hansen and they even have a fly in their base layer pants!

ps. The people who use Helly Hansen’s regularly sometimes refer to them as “Smelly Hansens”, which is true if you keep them on for a longer period without washing (we’re talking about days here).

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Markus is a bike commuter gadget freak who is learning the ropes of the bike world, you can find him all around the web - but you can start with his twitter at @banton.

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  • Sami

    Just one besserwisser comment to the thermos can fact. It’s not air that acts as insulator in the thermos can, it’s vacuum.

    Anyway, great blog, keep up the good work!

  • Thanks Sami! I’ll besserwisser you back a bit, since it’s nearly impossible to create a perfect vacuum and the Dewar flask principle of design evacuates _most_ air into a near-vacuum, I’d say we are both correct – even though you are more :)

    My point was to demonstrate the difference of thermal conductivity between water and air, as water conducts heat 26 times better than air (said my dive master) and because they do not transfer heat by convection – air and other gases are generally good insulators.

    Thanks for reading, hope we can please you in the future as well! :)

  • I think I’ll go with these also. Retkiaitta @Forum has some special prices, around 40€.. spotted from the news paper some days ago.

    http://www.retkiaitta.fi/product/1873/helly-hansen-lifa-2pack–alusasusetti

  • Did you get them?

  • Anonymous

    Yet another great product from Helly Hansen, highly recommended can’t praise the LIFA enough, another product worth a mention is the Hybrid Top, do shop around though some places charge over the top even on eBay seen some high prices. Google product search is always a good place to start I bought my Helly Hansen workwear from mammothworkwear.com as they where cheapest at the time with postage included. Also worth a mention though many voucher codes are now available for the HH range so take your time and save a few quid.

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Coming Thru (or Coming Through - as that URL was taken) is a daily updated bike magazine - a collection of writings and links that relate to biking in its every form. The idea started from when Maarten met Markus decided to finally start collecting the things we like about bikes and talk about our everyday adventures in dodging moving objects at high speeds.The site is run by a collage of cyclists, most notably by Canadian Johanna MacDonald, Belgian Maarten Patteeuw and Finnish Markus Sandelin.

It all started in the spring of 2010, after a record breaking snowy winter when Markus bought a house 25 kilometers from the office and decided to handle the commuting with a bicycle. It turned out the bike wasn’t up to standards for that kind of stress and the first weeks were more tragicomic than glorious. Thus the idea began to brew to actually document this journey.

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