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Helly Hansen Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip Baselayer Top

Philip, Off the Beaten Trail
Philip and the distinctive Helly Hansen Chevrons, Off the Beaten Trail

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-to-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.

HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip
HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip

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.

Sleeves Rolled Up to Regulate Temperature
Sleeves Pushed Back over Wrists to Regulate Temperature

Temperature Range

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.

Odor Retention

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.

Care Instructions

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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  1. Wow – you’ve only just discovered HH Lifa – I used to wear it all the time back in the late 70s up to the mid 80s when it had the rather dubious reputation of being fantastic until it stank! It was then only fit for – as you would say – the trash. I’m glad to see it has been rejuvenated and is now competing again. I might give it another try.

    • I’m just not a fashion hound like you Ben – but I am catching up. :-) I don’t think most hikers know about Helly Hansen in the states – they really market to skiers, near as I can tell. That’s a shame because a lot of their clothing is absolutely outstanding and the baselayers aren’t that expensive when compared to Patagonia. Really like this garment – just setting it aside for a hike/climb tomorrow up the 15th highest peak in the Whites, Mt Garfield (4500′). Going to be a cold day.

  2. Phil, you might want to reconsider your use of standard laundry detergent on your shirt. It will eventually remove the lanolin from the wool leaving it brittle. My wife started washing my hiking shirts (mostly merino wool) and the older one started tearing like tissue. Anyway, I’ll have to take a look, sounds interesting…

    • I read somewhere that regular detergent makes the wool brittle and itchy, but I’m not at the stage where I have enough laundry that’s wool to set it aside special…..and this garment has been through dozens of washes with no ill effects. Like I said, it doesn’t touch my skin so maybe I’m just oblivious to it.

      • Naw that’s not the right answer. I’m sure if you look you have a fair amount of technical gear that you can make a load of. I buy the occasionally bottle of Nikwax woolwash and use it for my Merino (socks too), fleece, and any other ski/run/bike nylon/tech gear I have. Even it if’s a small load and then you use less of it. The Nikwax woolwash does a great job, so much that I bought some down wash. I’ll probably have the down wash for a couple of years for sleeping bags and jackets.

  3. Love my wool layers and the HH approach seems really interesting and their stuff sounds great. Thanks so much for the review. I would agree with Marco’s comment that the wool detergent can be worth it — for me it hasn’t been in terms of itchiness, but after about a year or so of washing my wools with regular detergent the durability seems to be affected and I tore a hole through a wool shirt with a finger when I had to turn it around when putting it on. The sewing machine came to the rescue. Perhaps the HH shirt will prove to be more durable because it is just the outer layer that is wool.

  4. How does HH compare to Smartwool? I use and recommend smartwool to my clients all the time. If this is better, I am open to change.

    Ramona (Moni) Murphy

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