Helly Hansen LIFA Merino Midweight Crew Base Layer review: ski, hike or sail in comfort and style

Built for cold weather adventures, this base layer takes the moisture-wicking properties of merino wool and gives them an added advantage to keep you safe, warm and dry

Pat Kinsella modelling a base layer in Wales
(Image: © Ed Smith)

Advnture Verdict

The crafty two-layer construction of this thermal base layer means it’s entirely non itch and keeps you warm on dry when you’re hiking, skiing and sailing

Pros

  • +

    Moisture-wicking, breathable and quick drying

  • +

    Non-itch with flatlock seams that don’t rub

  • +

    Versatile for all types of adventures

  • +

    Durable and great value

  • +

    Stylish

Cons

  • -

    No thumb loops

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Helly Hansen LIFA Merino Midweight Crew Base Layer: first impressions 

In this high performing base layer, Helly Hansen have built upon the already admirable properties of merino wool, which if you don’t know is quick drying, breathable and wicks away sweat when you’re adventuring in cold weather. By essentially creating a two-layer base layer, the merino wool acts like a shell while the layer that touches your skin is non-itchy polypropylene which means even those of you with the most sensitive skin can benefit from the warmth and protection of this base layer. 

Specifications

• List price: $100 / £80
• Gender specification: Men's and women's sizing available
• Weight: 7oz / 198g (women’s S)
• Sizes available: Men’s: S - XXL; Women’s XS - XL
• Materials: Shell: 57% Merino Wool, 43% Polypropylene
• Colors: Black, Deep fjord, Darkest spruce, Malachite, Cloudberry, Blue fog, Navy, Baby troope, Amethyst, Jade, Off white
• Best use: Hiking, camping, trail running, skiing, sailing 

This base layer doesn’t have any added elastic fabric, but it’s naturally stretchy enough for all activities and is carefully designed to sit close to the skin the way base layers should, and is easy to layer your fleece jacket on top of. Stripey sleeves give the garment a slightly retro vibe, but the beauty is really in its performance. You can wear this on frigid ski days in the backcountry or sailing in high seas, get soaked and still stay warm and be dry soon after. Priced in the middle of the range, we think it’s excellent value for money. 

Helly Hansen LIFA Merino Midweight Crew Base Layer: in the field 

Julia Clarke modelling a base layer in Wales

This base layer is super versatile across different activities and weather conditions (Image credit: Ed Smith)

In three months, I’ve tested this base layer under the following conditions: cold-weather hiking in Scotland, -19°C skiing in Switzerland, sailing the high seas in south Wales and trail running during an extreme cold snap on the West Highland Way. So, I might not be an expert in hiking, skiing, sailing or running, but I think I’m an expert in how well this base layer performs in extreme conditions and I think it’s fantastic.

Here’s how performed:

Fit and comfort

This base layer runs a little on the large side and because they haven’t added a stretchy fabric like elastane, it’s not as figure hugging as some of my other base layers. That said, it sits comfortably next to my skin and the lack of stretch means it’s more durable than some of my other tops. I prefer the fit of it in my normal size, but if you’re on the small end of your size, you might consider sizing down.

What makes it really comfortable is the two-layer construction, so the part that’s next to my skin isn’t itchy wool, and the flatlock seams mean no annoying rubbing anywhere.

Though it isn’t super stretchy, I haven’t deducted any points there because it truly doesn’t restrict my movements at all. I’ve even done yoga wearing it, so unless you’re planning on doing something that requires more range of motion than Wheel Pose, you honestly won’t miss the stretch.

Temperature regulation and breathability 

What I want from a base layer is something that keeps me warm and dry. I thought all of that had gone out the window when I went out on a small skiff in high seas off the coast of Swansea last year on a Helly Hansen sailing trip and within seconds, a giant wave had dumped itself down the collar of my sailing jacket (I didn’t realize there was a hood). So, I was soaked from the inside out and, though it wasn’t freezing for November, it was cold enough. But I stayed out on the seas for a couple of hours and was really impressed by how warm (or not cold) I remained. It also served me well under other layers on a recent very cold ski trip, and I’ve worn it with my running jacket during a cold snap for trail running.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t overheat in it the way I sometimes have wearing merino wool base layers. It’s super breathable and I think I’d be comfortable wearing it in any mild to freezing adventures.

Weight and packability

This isn’t the lightest base layer I own, but it’s meant to be midweight and it's certainly not heavy or bulky. If you’re really worried about weight and pack size, one that is a single layer construction will definitely be a better choice, though it might also be itchy. For something that performs in harsh conditions, you'll want this base layer.

Odor control and durability

Merino wool is known for its great odor control, but the polypropylene lining of this means that it does get a little smellier. It’s nothing compared to an all-synthetic base layer, but expect to have to wash it after a couple of sweaty runs. That said, it’s a great quality garment with lots of staying power.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.