High Gear: Helly Hansen Ridge shell jacket for men
Sometimes tradition translates to innovation. Starting in 1877, Helly Hansen began making waterproof gear for fishermen working the seas off Norway. The company was headquartered in Moss, Norway until relocating upstream to Oslo in 2009. Over its more than 135 years in business, the company has continued to push the boundaries to create the next generation of gear to accommodate cold and wet conditions at sea or in the mountains.
With that heritage, anyone shopping for new gear to keep dry while flying down the slopes or navigating the backcountry should investigate the Helly Hansen Ridge shell jacket. The men’s jacket is part of Helly Hansen’s all-new ULLR line. Harkening back even further than the company’s roots, the new freeride collection pays homage to the Norse snow god Ullr.
While it may require somewhat deep pockets ($500 retail), the jacket does incorporate Helly Tech Professional 3L fabric, using a new air-permeable (FLOW) membrane. This is the state-of-the-art from Helly Hansen, which promises snow-sport lovers unequalled breathability while keeping you dry and comfortable, even in heavy winds.
The company worked with pro freeskiers worldwide to design the freeride jacket, and, from looking at the detailed features, there is little doubt their input was taken seriously.
Fit and features
Of course, it is a shell jacket, so layer accordingly, but it is cut loose enough to slip over an insulated mid-layer jacket. This provides excellent flexibility to simply shed the down jacket later in the season and still be dry but not overheated.
The fit is long and loose, and wearing the Ridge shell is likely to become an afterthought, as it allows stellar movement and range of motion. Even with gloves on, working the large YYK waterproof zippers is cake. In line with what you’d expect from Helly Hansen, the seams are fully-taped and welded, and the venting zippers are aligned to allow access without removing your backpack. There is nothing worse than gear than doesn’t work together seamlessly.
Speaking of gear that fits well, another ideal feature is the jacket-to-pant powder skirt attachment that allows the Ridge shell to connect with the Helly Hansen Elevate shell pant. The hood is adjustable and large enough for a helmet. Even the cuffs are large, and, besides being easy to work, they have a noticeable stiffness that allows for an easy fit with gloves.
The waterproof, windproof and highly-breathable Ridge shell also incorporates safety features especially important to those making tracks in the backcountry. Most notable is the Recco system reflector embedded in the jacket. Give the rescuers a chance to find you, right?
Also, in less extreme cases, the jacket has hi-visibility trim and brim to help your friends waiting behind you spot you in heavy snowfall.
Features you might expect include a chest pocket and dual hand-warming pockets. On the inside are internal pockets for electronics or other items best kept dry. There is even the obligatory ski pass pocket. Other finishing touches include a high collar, goggle wipe and wrist gaitors. And, when it comes to touch, it’s a safe bet no moisture will make contact with skin, as the jacket is finished off with a durable water-repellency treatment.
One thing most winter sport enthusiasts share is a love and reverence for the grandeur bestowed by snow-covered mountains. The inner ecologist in us all can embrace the fact that the Ridge shell is made with bluesign-approved fabrics. The bluesign system was created to minimize the environmental impact of product manufacturing. When a jacket like the Ridge shell bears the bluesign seal, you’ll know that 90 percent of the material complies with strict safety and environmental standards.
One other bonus offered by Helly Hansen is the Ski Free promotion. Any Helly product with a Ski Free hang tag provides the purchaser with a free day of skiing at Aspen, Snowmass or 17 other North American resorts. In case you are crossing the pond, the offer is also good at Chamonix Mont-Blac in the French Alps and 11 other European resorts.
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