Icebreaker womans Helix LS Zip jacket review

Views over to Monte Baldo in Lake Garda

Wool has been around since generations. Wool is a saviour to all your cold days, it warms even when wet. It’s only setback, it’s heavy and scratchy.
The company Icebreaker revolutionized that thinking when they introduced Merino wool to the world. And I was pleasantly surprised, when I heard they used recycled wool filling, also known as MerinoLOFT for their latest jackets. It was winter when the Helix jacket first came into my hands. Just in time before the winter showed its true colours.

Fitting in the Helix Jacket

Slipping in, the jacket felt comfortable around the body. The jacket goes just right under the hips which is a plus to keep any cold blasty winds out. With the stretchy jersey panels which goes all the way from the pulse to the hips , it gives a perfect tug fit and at the same time enable warm air built up during active activities to escape. The arms were a little long for me as it hung all the way over my fingers.  Luckily, the cuffs were elastic and not too stiff, and held the extra length together.  The outer pockets comes with each a zipper, the zippable inner pocket has a small outlet for ear plugs, good for those of you music lovers. However, the size of the inner pocket could’ve been a little larger to fit in more modern smartphones.  I was happy to find a chin protection garage coz I love zipping it right up when the wind blows and hate anything that scratches the neck. The helix jacket has a full front YKK zipper with a wind protecting shield behind. The jacket is stepped into little baffle chambers holding the filling in place.

Performance

I wasn’t quite sure what I would be expecting. I have seen and worn synthetic and natural down materials but never one that’s insulated with wool. I had my prejudiced opinion too. Was it going to be heavy when wet, is it going to keep me warm, is this really wind proof?

The jacket followed me on a few occasions to cross-country ski, hiking in winter and an occasional back country spin. It was one of the warmest midlayer I have had tested to date. In the beginning I had a long sleeve basic merino underneath, but this became too warm, so I settled mostly for a short sleeve merino t-shirt together with the jacket, and nothing else. It was the perfect combination to cross-country ski and hike. The front and back is wind protected and the jersey panels at the side allows access warm air to escape. Temperatures ranged around 0° C when I had it on. Like all other midlayer jackets, you will need a thicker outer insulation layer once you stand idle for a while (A down outer layer is a good combination). The pulse warmer at the cuffs are great to keep your hands comfortably warm when you want the freedom to use your fingers and you don’t want to wear gloves.

In damp conditions during a light drizzle, the jacket continued to insulate well.  I have never worn the jacket during a heavy down pour. ( an umbrella would probably be the better alternative to use) The jacket is according to the label water-resistant but sooner or later, you will be dealing with damp conditions, when not from the outside, then from the inside because it warms you well.  Which ever way it goes, I felt at ease to know that my insulation layer kept  working, even when wet.

Views into the Valepp

Care and maintenance

It had to go in for a wash after a few sweaty sessions. Not so much because it was full of mud and dirt, but it began to smell. We all know now that Merino wool gives you the opportunity to wear their garments for a longer period of time without letting you stink. However, with the jersey panels going right under the underarms, you are indeed clamping this piece of jersey under your arms instead of any merino garment. And thus, yes, it had to washed after a few trips. (I wear less under the jacket which results in the jacket absorbing all my perspiration) Washing it was simple. Usual washing powder (with NO softener) and a normal 40 degree wash cycle had the jacket clean in no time. The care label also says NOT to tumble dry, so I hung the jacket flat to dry on the rack. It was dry within a day, no hassles. The jacket has been washed twice ever since, and is still looking good, and performing well and not running out of shape.

What I liked:

  • Warmer than usual synthetics
  • Sustainable product made from recycled wool and wool waste
  • Light enough to give sufficient insulation in active conditions, nevertheless still heavier than synthetic and down.

What could be better:

  • Cutting. Arms too long, shoulder/ back too saggy. Actually, I have a broader shoulder than the usual, but this didn’t help much when wearing a thin basic layer. I usually wear an XS, but had ordered an S so that I could layer the jacket with an extra fleece layer inside. However, the S size came in just fine without having to pair it off with a fleece. But those extra long arms…  was this an asset especially for climbers?
  • Sensitive jersey panels. At the sides where the straps of the backpack runs under your arms is also the most sensible spot of the jacket. Friction causes the jersey to peel quickly at this spot and after the first excursion, you will already find some nasty abrasions there.

The Verdict

Yes, I would definitely recommend this jacket to anyone who is looking for a midlayer that is a little warmer than the usual synthetic insulation.  It’s easy to handle, guarantees insulation even when wet.  Like most of the technical jackets in the market today, it is a good partner while on the move, but too little as a stand alone. But that’s what is for. A midlayer on the go. 

Fabric:  100% recycled polyester body, 255 g terry/39% merino/45% nylon/16% LYCRA® side panels, 70 g Icebreaker MerinoLOFT™ insulation, 100% wool heather lining

 

[Disclosure: I have received product samples for my time and efforts in reviewing this product and creating this article, thanks to Bergfreunde.de. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ]

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