I’ve been wearing and testing a Helly Hansen’s Dry Stripe Crew and Dry Fly Pant baselayers for the past 9 months, a major departure from the Patagonia Capilene 1 baselayers I’ve used for the past several years. You’re probably wondering why I’d undertake a near-year long baselayer evaluation. Truth be told, I was interested in testing out whether Helly Hansen’s LIFA (pronounced ‘LEEFA’) fabric, a synthetic fabric that is touted by the manufacturer as absorbing less water than other types of synthetic baselayers, worked as advertised and whether I’d stay drier wearing them.
Staying dry is important to me during the winter when I’m carrying more gear weight up mountains than the rest of the year and during the summer when I like to wear long underwear for sleeping on an inflatable pad, even in hot and humid weather. So, despite my past experience with Patagonia’s baselayer garments, I was surprised by how much better I like the ones from Helly Hansen. A lot better!
Many baselayer fabrics, including Patagonia Capilene, are designed to wick sweat from your skin up your clothing layer stack and away from your body. They do this by absorbing your sweat and spreading it out over a larger surface area so it can evaporate, a process that’s fueled by your body heat. While this works well in the mid-layers of a multi-layer clothing system, it’s not so great on the layer closest to your skin, because damp fabric will cool you in winter and can you feel wet and clammy in hot and humid weather.
The LIFA Difference
Helly Hansen’s LIFA fabric differs from wicking fabrics because it doesn’t absorb any water and will always stay dry next to your skin – as long as your sweat has someplace to go. That’s the key.
In my cold weather layer system, the moisture evaporates into my next layer, a Patagonia R1 Fleece sweater, where it can be dispersed without cooling my skin. On hot summer nights when I wear LIFA as my only layer, I feel cooler because none of my sweat is trapped by a wicking garment, but free to evaporate through the mesh-like weave of Helly Hansen’s Dry baselayers.
For me the DRY weave makes all the difference in terms of moisture transport, especially when compared to the silk-like feel of the Capilene 1 baselayers. On the flip side, Capilene 1 feels somewhat warmer to me than HH DRY, but that’s a trade-off I’m willing to take because I have other garments and layers than can make up for the reduced warmth higher up in my active and passive layering systems.
My 2 cents: try out some Helly Hansen DRY baselayers this autumn and winter if you like to hike and backpack in the cooler months. They’re also far less expensive than Patagonia Capilene, making them an excellent value for your money.
Disclaimer: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) receive a complementary HH Dry Stripe Crew Shirt and HH Dry Fly Pants for this review.
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