Helly Hansen boasts a solid reputation for their snow clothing. The Backbowl jacket would work well for cold, windy resort days. Zach Paley photo.
In this edition of Teton Tested, I took a look at the Helly Hansen Backbowl jacket and the Elevate shell pants. After extensive time testing both of these in Argentina, these are my impressions of the Helly gear:
HELLY HANSEN BACKBOWL JACKET
Helly Hansen’s Backbowl Jacket is an insulated hard shell that excels in cold and stormy conditions and is ideal for days at the ski resort. While there are issues with the pockets and zippers; it is very wind and waterproof, and reasonably priced at $400 MSRP.
WEATHERPROOFING, BREATHABILITY AND WARMTH
Lee Lyon takes on the steeps in Argentina's Las Leñas region. Zach Paley photo.
The Backbowl jacket makes use of Helly Tech Professional to provide a 20,000 mm waterproof and breathable outer membrane. It relies on 40 grams of Primaloft Black synthetic insulation to provide warmth, and the H2Flow System to ventilate and regulate temperature through the insulation. The H2Flow System is a structure of holes and mesh that promote airflow inside the jacket, and use two large pit vents to allow that air to escape.
I was able to wear this jacket on a few windy, snowy days, and was pleased with how waterproof and windproof it was. At no point did I feel like water had even made it past the DWR, or that wind was passing through the shell and making me cold.
The overall weight of the insulation in this jacket seems appropriate for resort skiing on storm days or colder days that don’t require very much hiking. Here in Las Leñas, I found that I was comfortable wearing the Backbowl on stormy, cloudy or windy days, but was much too warm on sunny days.
The Backbowl jacket is surprisingly breathable for a heavy, insulated shell. While this is certainly in part due to the H2Flow System and Helly Tech Professional Membrane, I think it is primarily because the pit vents are large and very effective at regulating temperature when you begin to overheat. While the jacket is certainly not breathable enough to do lots of hiking in, it is appropriate for active resort riding with an occasional very short hike, especially in cooler temperatures.
ZIPPERS, POCKETS AND FEATURES
Fabric breathability is good for such a heavy shell, but this likely isn't the jacket for those who do a lot of hiking. Zach Paley photo.
The main front zipper on the Backbowl jacket has a major issue. The zipper is too close to the light inner fabric of the jacket, making it very easy for it to catch. After quite a bit of practice, I still can’t pull the zipper all the way up or down without it catching a few times. For me, this is the primary flaw of the Backbowl jacket.
The Backbowl has one chest pocket, two inner pockets, a pass pocket and two hand warmer pockets. Most of the pockets are good, but the placement of the hand warmer pockets is strange. They are located too high to comfortably put your hands in, but too low to be above the waist belt of a backpack. This could be a bit more thought out for backcountry skiers, but again, with the insulation this jacket has, it's more targeted towards resort skiers, in which case these pockets should probably be lowered a little bit.
The Backbowl also has one of the largest hoods I have ever seen–even the largest of helmets will comfortably fit inside it. It is really comfortable and provides great coverage for storm skiing, but even when cinched down, it does not work well without the volume of a helmet filling it out.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall a functional jacket for seeking fresh lines, but the zipper and pocket placement just need some attention. Zach Paley photo.
The Backbowl jacket is an insulated hard shell that is perfect for riding around the resort, especially on colder, stormier days. It is warm, weatherproof, and surprisingly breathable, but the main zipper does not work very well and the pockets are oddly placed. If that's not a major concern for your days shredding inbounds and you're looking for more insulation than your standard shell, this is a great option.
Helly Hansen Elevate Shell Pants
Helly Hansen’s Elevate Shell Pants are a simple, lightweight, three-layer hard shell pant that are nicely weatherproof and breathable. They are a minimalist but still versatile pant. On the other hand, they are not particularly durable, have weirdly shaped pockets, and lack belt loops. Like the Backbowl jacket, the Elevate pants retail for $400.
WEATHERPROOFING AND BREATHABILITY
A lighter shell pant, the Elevates are waterproof and breathable, but compromise for less windproofing. Zach Paley photo.
The Elevate Pants use a Helly Tech Professional membrane and pack a 20,000 mm waterproof rating and are pretty breathable. They are a little less wind proof primarily because they are very light, and they also have large vents that greatly increase ventilation while hiking and are well placed on the back of the leg to minimize chances of snow entering the pant. Overall, I think the Elevate pants are a perfect balance of waterproofing, wind proofing and breathability for all kinds of conditions, with perhaps more appeal to those who hike around for their turns or tend to run hot.
ZIPPERS, POCKETS AND FEATURES
The pockets on the Elevate pants leave something to be desired, and you're out of luck if you're a belt wearer. Zach Paley photo.
The Elevate Pants have two front pockets. The left front pocket is normal sized, while the right front pocket is much longer, hanging all the way to your knee. This way, anything you put in your right pocket conveniently bounces of your knee every time you move your leg.
These pants have an adjustable waistband that allows for a lot of variation in waist size. However, they do not have belt loops. So, if the waistband does not adjust to your size, or it breaks, or you just like wearing belts, too bad.
The Elevates might be a great shell layer, but the overall longevity and durability of the pants doesn't look too good. Zach Paley photo.
I have not found the Elevate Pants to be very durable so far. After 40 days, I have quite a few scratches and stains all over the legs, especially in the cuff area. One in particular is 3” long. I have been very hard on them, but I would still expect more from a pant after only a couple months.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Backcountry testing conditions are admittedly hard on clothes, but these pants didn't really meet expectations for durability. Zach Paley photo.
The Helly Hansen Elevate Pants are light, waterproof and breathable. In this respect, they are excellent, versatile, minimalist pants. However, they are not very durable, have a poorly designed pocket, and lack belt loops.
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