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Helly Hansen History
Firstly, who are Helly Hansen? In 1877, Captain Helly Juell Hansen saw a need for better clothing to protect from the harsh Norwegian elements. He began soaking coarse linen with linseed oil which resulted in water resistant clothing for workers at sea. The clothing was a revelation.
Since then, Helly Hansen have forged a path as an innovative manufacturer of high quality clothing. Their journey has included a number of firsts. For just one example, their famous Lifa underwear became the first technical base layer in 1970. Since then, many other innovations have followed. Their range now includes an array of products used in many countries by varied users.
Central to Helly Hansen’s ethos is sustainability. They were one of the early users of plastics for production of their fabrics and have always seen their environmental responsibilities as a core aspect of their business.
This ties in nicely with the use of Polartec fabrics. It is hard to believe that it was four decades ago when Polartec (then called Malden Mills) invented the world’s first fleece fabric. The company has been at the heart of sustainable manufacture ever since. In the intervening years over 1.5 billion plastic bottles have been diverted from landfill for fabric production. They are a natural partner for Helly Hansen.
This Helly Hansen Power Air Heat Grid jacket review should, therefore, initially consider the fabric. This is core to this garment. Why? Because the jacket features Polartec Power Grid fleece. This is made from a combination of 89% Recycled Polyester and 11% Elastane. It therefore already offers a good return environmentally. That isn’t all. In producing Power Grid Polartec have sought to tackle the looming issue of micro plastics.
Microplastics are tiny plastic fragments smaller than 5 millimetres in size. There are also nanoplastics which are even smaller. Nanoplastics are less than 100 one ten-thousandth of a millimetre in diameter. Microplastics enter the environment from a number of sources These include the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic waste already in the environment. Fragments are also created as car tyres wear down and industrial waste also plays a part. Finally, threads and microfibres from synthetic clothing are created when clothes are washed.
Most current research on micro plastics has focussed on how it ends up the world’s watercourses and more is now needed on its entry into soils. There is little doubt among scientists that it is a growing problem.
It is difficult to accurately estimate the total amount of microplastic particles in the environment, but research is being done. One example is a study of the River Mersey near Liverpool. Scientists found there was an average of over 84,000 particles of microplastics in each square metre of water.
Microplastics have been found in fish and other animals and there is evidence they can cause physical harm to small creatures in a variety of ways. Another concern is that they act as a vehicle for transporting harmful chemicals into humans and other animals. People are certainly likely to consume microplastics. They have been detected in a wide range of food and drink products. The possible long term effects on human health, although not yet fully understood, are concerning. There is certainly evidence that some chemicals used to treat certain plastic products, such as bisphenol A (BPA), could be harmful to human health.
Power Air Fabric
So, Polartec Power Air fabric aims to reduce the release of microplastics through wear and washing. To do this, the polyester fibres are encapsulated within pockets. It can perhaps best be compared to the way a down jacket uses baffles to hold the down clusters in place. It works. The loose polyester fibres, now trapped in a tightly woven outer, results in up to 80% less microplastic release. Bravo to Polartec for seeking ways to tackle this problem.
The jacket is designed around simple and elegant lines. This is a hoodless full length zip jacket with a medium height collar. There are two handwarmer pockets along with the Helly Hansen logo embroidered on the chest. Other nice design touches are very welcome. Thumb loops on the cuffs help to cover the wrists. A zipper garage prevents the zipper rubbing at the chin and logoed zipper pulls make the zip easy to use even when wearing gloves.
So, as innovative as the fabric might be, my Helly Hansen Power Air Heat Grid jacket review obviously also needs to focus on function. I’ve used a number of Helly Hansen garments over the years and the quality and design flair of their products has always been evident. This is no exception. I was provided with a plain black jacket and it looks both sleek and functional.
The nature of Polartec Power Air means the jacket outer shell has a square grid pattern. This is subtle and actually looks great. The grid is part of the capsule structure aimed at ensuring micro plastics can’t be released. This outer surface also aims to offer durability and to ensure the fleece resists bobbling or pilling on the surface. I have so far worn the jacket for everyday use, but also for climbing and bouldering on limestone and gritstone. There is certainly no sign of pilling.
The Helly Hansen Power Air Heat Grid jacket is a midlayer fleece, but would certainly be at the heavier end of the market for a midweight. I was a medium size and it weighs 580 gms. There are certainly lighter midweights on the market. This means choosing this over lighter ones has to be a choice informed by sustainability.
The industry and end users inevitably keep driving towards fabric insulation performance and this is important. However, we also need to keep our focus on choosing with a view to the environment. Here is a jacket that, although not the lightest, offers some industry leading sustainability. Maybe a fleece can both keep us warm and be better for the planet. Isn’t that more important than choosing based on performance alone?
The jacket also performs well in every other way. It has a comfortable and reasonably tailored fit. It is neither baggy nor overly tight. Actually, it is smart enough for casual use just as much as mountain wear. The other features all just work as you would hope. I really like both the fit and feel of it. I would just note that the bottom hem is not tight and there is no adjustment. Expect a relaxed fit in that area. It all just works really. I would have quite liked an interior or exterior chest pocket. Otherwise, the styling can’t be faulted.
There is certainly a growing awareness about microplastics and this issue will undoubtedly escalate up the environmental agenda. Particularly, that is, as more becomes known about the problem and its impact on the planet and living creatures.
I applaud Polartec for looking at ways to actively tackle the problem. I also congratulate Helly Hansen for being willing to produce garments from innovative materials like this. Hopefully consumers will be willing to show their support with their purchasing choices.
In every other way, I also really rate the Helly Hansen Power Air Heat Grid jacket. It performs well and looks great. The high build standards are also clear. It will certainly suit a wide range of users for many situations. The jacket costs £150 and there is also a women’s version available. Please do check out more about Polartec on their website here and more about Helly Hansen here. You can also learn more about this garment here. The video below also helps to explain the Power Air concept.