With the Helix, Icebreaker has taken repurposed merino wool and placed it between a recycled polyester shell and wool lining.
It’s a great idea because as far as insulating the wearer goes, it works a treat. I never once felt the cold while wearing this. Admittedly winter got off to a mild start in the north, but I am confident the jacket could handle the colder temperatures found in the lower North and South Islands.
The benefit of the merino insulation is that it traps warm air even when it’s wet. Combined with the water-resistant shell and you’ve got a jacket that can handle some nasty weather. But while it’s an excellent insulator, the merino isn’t very compressible and I found it bulky when trying to stuff it into a pack.
The jacket has a hood, adding to its ability to keep you warm. It’s the kind of hood that works when you’re at the rugby or out and about in the city, but in the hills you’d want something that can be better adjusted. I found the single rear drawcord caused the hood to ride back on my head, exposing my forehead and leaving me feeling like it was about to fall off. Side drawcords would do a better job snuggly enclosing your head.
The jacket’s wool lining looks smart but also a little out of place on an outdoor jacket. The inside sleeves don’t have this lining, and the soft polyester fabric feels comfortable against bare arms. I suspect a few vital grams could have been saved by removing the wool lining, but then I also suspect the jacket is targeted at those who want a warm winter jacket, but not necessarily intending to use it in the outdoors.
The result is a jacket weighing a fairly hefty 490g.
The hem can be tightened to trap air, but the drawcords are accessed beneath the hem, not through the hand warmer pockets.
If it’s warmth you want, then the Helix delivers in spades. On cold evenings my friends had their jackets zipped up to their necks while I was wearing short sleeves and still had to keep the Helix open to stop me from overheating.
Though I’d love to use the jacket in some truly cold conditions, its bulk and weight mean I’m more likely to pack a down jacket.