I got turned onto Helly Hansen baselayer garments and their wicking LIFA (pronounced LEEFA) synthetic baselayer fabric last winter, when I tested the HH Dry Stripe Crew (click for review.) I was blown away by LIFA’s ability to wick sweat away from my skin and up into my mid-layer where it could evaporate without chilling me. It worked as advertised and surprisingly better than the Patagonia Capilene 1 base layer crew I’d been using previously.
This winter I switched to another Helly Hansen garment called the Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip Baselayer Top which combines a next-to0-skin LIFA layer with an outer Merino Wool Layer in one garment. I’ve been wearing it on cold weather and above treeline hikes since November when I need a little more core warmth over my chest and back but don’t want to have to continuously put on and take off a fleece to regulate my temperature. In the past, I dealt with this by hiking a bit colder than I’d like, simply to avoid lots of layer changes , but no more since switching to the Warm Freeze 1/2 Top.
I’m warmer because the outer layer of the garment is made out of wool, and dryer because LIFA wicks my sweat to the wool layer more efficiently, than if I was wearing a technical fleece over a LIFA layer like the HH Dry Stripe Crew. If I’m too warm from exertion, I simple open up the zipper and roll up my sleeves and that is usually enough to keep me from sweating. I still carry a fleece pullover, but use it a lot less frequently and mostly when I need a lot more insulation under a technical shell.
The HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip Shirt works best in temperatures under 25 degrees fahrenheit and at moderate exertion levels like winter hiking. If the temperature outside is warmer than that, it’s best to switch to a thinner baselayer.
Order retention is minimal with the HH Warm Freeze, probably because your sweat is so efficiently wicked from the inner LIFA layer into the outer Merino Wool layer. The wool layer retains very little odor.
Helly Hansen recommends washing the HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip shirt inside out with a gentle wool detergent, but I never do this, and throw it into the regular wash with everything else. I don’t think it matters too much with this garment, because the wool never touches your skin. I dry it in the drier with everything else and haven’t experienced any resulting shrinkage.
I’ve found the sizing on HH baselayers to be skin tight and just a little bit too snug. I put up with it because the performance of these garments excels, but I’d prefer something a bit roomier. Still, having a snug fit obviously improves the garment’s wicking performance and I forget all about the snugness as soon as we step into the cold crisp winter air and start hiking.
Disclosure: Philip Werner received a HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip shirt from Helly Hansen for this review.
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