Helly Hansen is not known for their backpacking apparel. I was lured into their OR show booth with a promise of the world’s lightest wind jacket. See the dispatch here. After oohing and ahing over the wind jacket, I stayed for the full tour and spotted several items of interest for the adventurist. I won’t cover shoes here, but suffice it to say that the Helly execs come from a footwear background and their interest in shoes shows.
Helly Hansen is known for their LIFA fabric. LIFA is polypropylene manufactured and treated with proprietary processes. Polypropylene is completely hydrophobic which makes it a wonderful fiber to use in active clothing. Older iterations of polypropylene are famous for a single characteristic: the ability to accumulate odor like no other fiber. The reason: polypropylene fibers, during manufacture, are prone to extremely rough surface textures that provide a tremendous surface area:volume ratio, which means lots of places for bacteria to grow and odor-causing compounds to absorb. Helly Hansen has created a manufacturing process that virtually eliminates this surface roughness, resulting in polypropylene that accumulates stink no worse, than say, most polyester-based fabrics, such as Capilene.
Helly Hansen uses polypropylene in various fabric applications including the new, woven LIFA, and LIFA Versa. Both these fabrics are used in the new Versa Duro shirts. LIFA Versa is a bicomponent knit fabric with LIFA face and polyester exterior that is used in the majority of the Duro shirt. Woven LIFA, which is more durable than knit LIFA, is used in the shoulders, back, and waistband. I’ll be looking forward to getting some real use data onhow this shirt performs. The technology certainly holds promise.