Expert Review: Helly Hansen Men's Ridge Infinity Shell JacketPublished on 02/27/2023 · 10 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the jacket, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2020.
All photos courtesy of Ethan Y.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the jacket, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2020.
The Helly Hansen Ridge Infinity Shell Jacket is a durable, high-quality, fully weatherproof shell, with a comfortable utilitarian design. It is an ideal layer for harsh conditions when skiing on the resort or in the backcountry.
About the jacket I own
- Model: 2021 Helly Hansen Men's Ridge Infinity Shell Jacket
- Size: Medium
- Fit: Runs large
- Height: 5’9”
- Weight: 165lbs
- Experience: 20 years of skiing
- When I bought this: February 2020
- Days tested: 80
- Where I’ve used it: Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Montana
- Conditions I’ve used it in: Powder, freezing rain, spring slush, rain, wet snow, bluebird sunny days
How it performs
What I was looking for
I wanted a bombproof, fully weatherproof, non-insulated jacket that could stand up to a variety of conditions and provide professional-grade performance while still being comfortable. I prioritize function over form, and I look for specific technical features—like pit zippers and interior pockets—that will offer increased versatility in both resort and backcountry settings.
Why I chose this gear
I chose this product because of its high weatherproofing, its loose and comfortable fit, and the many technical features it includes. I also love that Helly Hansen has made this jacket with 50 percent recycled materials and PFC-free waterproofing chemicals. I considered a few other options, such as the Odin 9 Worlds Infinity Shell and the Patagonia SnowDrifter Jacket.
What I love about it
- Fit: I am not a big person but I like my gear to fit loosely as it allows me to add layers underneath without affecting mobility. This jacket has a larger, looser fit that could be described as “boxy.” This jacket definitely provides the extra length I like in the arms and torso, but without being excessive. The only drawback is when wearing a backpack with chest or hip straps, the extra material on the sleeves can feel bunched up when compressed under the straps.
- Range of Motion: This jacket has an amazing range of motion given the looser fit. I have never felt restrained by it while skiing in the park, hiking up a steep chute, or digging out my car. I want to point out that most weatherproof shells are made of a stiffer three-layer design (often GORE-TEX) that can feel rigid. This jacket is far more flexible and is equally weatherproof (even more so for wind) due to Helly Hansen's proprietary LIFA INFINITY PFC-free DWR treatment. This allows the waterproofing to be part of the fabric, rather than just a coating, and is one of the top supple waterproof fabrics on the market. This optimal mobility alone makes the jacket stand out among its peers and is definitely noteworthy, as it dramatically improves the comfort and feel when moving.
- Design: This jacket is designed with functionality in mind and is not minimalist at all. It has heavy-duty zippers, seven large, easy-to-use pockets (even with mittens on), including a large internal mesh pocket and a Helly Hansen LIFA Tech insulated chest pocket. For someone who uses one jacket for a wide variety of activities, I have been very impressed by the design choices made here. One thing to note: the front zipper can be hard to line up and use with gloves on. I added a zip-tie to it to improve the grip.
- Style: While style is not a top priority for me, it is still a consideration, and this Helly Hansen jacket looks pretty cool. The color options are fun and offer both subtle (gray/blue) and not so subtle (bright yellow/orange). I like to stand out, and the bright orange was a selling point for me. I also found that the looser fit was not only more comfortable but also had a cool style to it that is reminiscent of park-inspired long T-shirts and hoodies, but without looking too goofy.
- Quality of Materials: Honestly one of the best-made jackets I have ever used. Not only is it durable, breathable, comfortable, weatherproof, and flexible, but it also does not require re-waterproofing and is made with almost 50 percent recycled materials.
- Durability: I will admit I am rough on my gear. I don’t always land on my feet or avoid tree branches; that being said, I have had no durability issues. After two years of use this jacket has no rips or stains, the waterproofing is still 100 percent, the zippers zip, and the seams are fully sealed. The fit and stretch of the material is still holding strong as well, and I expect it to continue to do so for many more seasons.
- Pockets: There are seven well-designed pockets with a variety of uses, including a left upper-arm ski pass pocket ideal for trail maps, RFID cards, and snack bars; an interior mesh pocket that is great for climbing skins or holding gloves; two very large, mid-torso pack-friendly pockets that are slanted and are great for warming up hands; two large external horizontal hand pockets; and lastly an insulated chest pocket. I want to touch on this internal pocket specifically because it uses Helly Hansen's LIFA insulation technology, which provides a lot of warmth for so little material—and it's hydrophobic. It is perfect for a phone and, while I was doubtful, it has always kept my phone warm and protected the phone battery from the cold.
- Waterproofing: Ice, rain, wet/dry snow, slush, sleet—you name it, this jacket has no-joke weather protection. I have sat in the snow for up to twenty minutes and rained on while on chair lifts and still have not gotten wet. I am truly impressed by the materials used here, and this is a standout feature of the jacket especially given the soft and stretchy nature of the material. It's easy to see why Helly Hansen is trusted by professionals and national teams in the world’s harshest environments.
- Breathability: This jacket offers above-average breathability ratings for a fully weatherproof shell. The stretchy breathable membrane outperforms other materials like GORE-TEX while still providing the same weather resistance. I run very hot and I appreciate the large underarm vents and even the large torso pockets that add additional vents during warmer days. While this does have good breathability, if that is the top priority, this jacket is not the best in that category. The heavy weight and many features are noticeably warmer when doing high-intensity activities like backcountry use. I usually opt to take off the jacket during these times or, if it is snowing, open all my pockets and zippers to dump excess heat.
- Features: One of the best and most subtle features is the adjustable hood. It fits over a helmet without being too restrictive and has a built-in neck gaiter allowing the jacket to zip all the way up to my nose. This feature is incredibly useful on windy chair lifts or when hunkering down on a peak to wait out a weather system. The neck also has a separate zipper with a quick adjustment that allows me to change how closely it fits. The built-in wrist gaskets with thumb holes, and snap-away powder skirt stop, snow so I can fully seal off my upper body when the snow gets deep or I need a boost of warmth.
- Other: This jacket features RECCO technology; while this is a cool addition to a jacket that has potentially life-saving applications, it is by no means a replacement for training and proper avalanche equipment. Please seek professional advice and training before venturing into the backcountry. Note also that many search and rescue services do not carry RECCO locating devices.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Warmth: The jacket offers warmth in so far as it protects me from being exposed to cold wind, water, and ice. It has no insulation or liner, but is still a thicker jacket as far as a pure shell layer goes. I run hot, so I chose this jacket knowing it had no additional insulation, but this fit has plenty of room to add layers underneath on those extra frigid days. For those colder people, there may be better options available.
- Weight: The heavy-duty design, many pockets, and thick materials make this a heavier-than-usual jacket. I don't mind the extra weight in the backcountry because I like the protection and features it offers. This may be the same for others who want top-tier protection, but those also looking for a light, packable shell for backcountry use, or a jacket for snow sports and everyday life, will want to find another option. It is worth noting that Helly Hansen offers a similar jacket in a slimmed-down, more minimal design specifically for backcountry and mountaineering uses that is significantly lighter.
Favorite moment with this gear
I live and ski in the Pacific Northwest—primarily at Mt. Hood Meadows. It rains here about six months out of the year, and the rain sometimes creeps up in elevation to include the ski resorts. Last year I got trapped on a stopped lift for about 20 minutes during a time when the rain was oscillating between frozen and liquid.
Unfortunately for me, this particular lift has a particular section that is notorious for windy conditions, so you can guess where I stopped. Lucky for me I was wearing this jacket, and while I have suffered similar situations in the past, I have never escaped as dry and warm as I did this time. I flipped up the hood over my helmet, cinched the waist, wrist, and helmet cuffs, zipped my pockets and pit zippers, and fully zipped the main zipper. This allowed me to scoot down into my jacket so only my goggles were exposed to the wind as I could fit my whole face below the highest point on the main zipper.
I waited out that storm in this bunker of a jacket. The heavy weight of the jacket provided bonus wind resistance and my music never died despite the frigid temps. I just about fell asleep on that lift.
Value for the money vs. other options
I will start this out by saying this jacket is a top-of-the-line piece of performance ski apparel, and it is priced as such. It is one of the more expensive jackets on the market, and the quality certainly reflects the price. Given the amount of use and the conditions I wear this jacket in, I feel justified in the price. For those skiers who are looking for a more approachable price, there are certainly other high-quality options available.
When compared to other popular shell jacket designs with a similar price, such as the Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge and Arc'teryx Beta AR, this one shines due to its versatility and durability, making it a top contender in the price range for professional-grade apparel. I find that most jackets in this price range are either a slim, minimalist, less comfortable shell or a more bulk, fully insulated jacket. For a truly top-tier, fully featured weatherproof jacket that is non-insulated and very comfortable, this is a hard-to-beat option.
An amazingly versatile jacket that spares nothing to achieve its goal. Helly Hansen crushed it on this one. This is one of the best shell jackets for mixed use activities, from the slopes of the resort to the backcountry, and stands out among a group of ski jackets that all commonly look and feel the same.