Combining an innovative new waterproof/breathable fabric with classic design and fit, the new ODIN Mountain Infinity Shell is one of the best ski jackets we've tested. Helly Hansen photo.
Designing apparel for living, working and playing in the mountains requires materials that need to check a whole lot of boxes. Obviously, those textiles need to hold up to the elements and provide weather protection and breathability – but Helly Hansen is expanding that list a step further by creating materials that don’t rely on harmful chemicals. After years of testing and refining, Helly Hansen just released their brand-new LIFA Infinity Pro fabric across their ULLR and ODIN line of apparel. You know how most waterproof fabrics need regular care and re-treatment with DWR coatings? LIFA Infinity Pro does away with that need, promising pro-level water repellent protection that never needs to be reproofed with chemicals.
We tested Helly Hansen’s new material in the ODIN Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket. At $700, it’s there to compete with the best in the market – and it’s refreshing to see something else than yet another GORE-TEX shell out there. Designed with input from ski patrollers, athletes, and other mountain professionals across Europe and North America, the ODIN shell covers all the bases for a high-performance backcountry skiing jacket. It’s ridiculously waterproof and windproof - no surprise given Helly Hansen’s history in the sailing world – and plenty breathable for wearing during high-output activities like hiking or skinning.
The ODIN shell is at home anywhere in the mountains. Helly Hansen photo.
LIFA Infinity Pro works just like most other waterproof garments, in that it allows vapors out to prevent you from overheating, while blocking larger molecules from entering from the outside. The difference, of course, is how those properties are achieved. Check out Helly Hansen’s video on the tech inside the fabric:
So environmental responsibility and an innovative fabric are nice, but how does it actually perform in the mountains? When it comes to choosing a jacket for ski touring, I’m quite picky. Given the nature of the sport, the material used in the jacket is just as important as the design of the garment itself. I’m a firm believer in the “less-is-more” mentality, with the caveat that certain things still need to be there: a big hood and a powder skirt for storm days, underarm zippers for when it gets hot, enough durability and abrasion resistance in the fabric so the jacket doesn’t get shredded to pieces, and a generous enough fit to guarantee range of motion and the ability to wear extra layers beneath. The ODIN shell checks all those boxes, and still is incredibly lightweight and packable, so that it can hang out in my pack when necessary.
I’ll be completely honest and admit that I haven’t actually skied in the thing yet. It’s only October after all. So, I went ahead and gave it the old garden hose and running up a mountain test. It passed both. Comparing it to several other Gore-Tex jackets, it’s waterproofness is on par – you are in fact sealed off from the elements. Water droplets simply bead up on the exterior and roll off. It does not visibly soak through after extended water exposure like some other fabrics. On the breathability front, while working up a sweat, the fabric still traps some heat, but open the pit zips and give it a few minutes, and the inside stays dry.
Construction-wise, the entire jacket features taped seams, no weird constricting tight spots, and taped zippers that don’t snag. The fit is relatively generous without being too baggy, I’d call it “Euro-Freeride.” I would compare it to the fit of most Mountain Hardwear or Arc’teryx shell jackets. I’m 6’0” with an average build and the size large fits perfectly.
The Bottom Line:
For years, GORE-TEX has ruled the world of waterproof fabrics. Helly Hansen’s LIFA Infinity Pro is a true contender. It possesses the same breathability and weatherproofness you’ve come to expect from any high-performance fabric, and it achieves all that without the use of harmful chemicals that you need to re-apply. The ODIN Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket, featuring LIFA technology, promises to be one of the best backcountry skiing shell jackets you can buy this season. With a comfortable fit, light weight, and all the right features, we’re looking forward to spending more days in this suit of armor this winter.
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