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Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt review: a fast-drying, sun-shielding top that’s literally full of beans

The extremely light Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt is a top T, made with mostly recycled materials and providing great sun protection

Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt
(Image: © Helly Hansen)

Our Verdict

A high-performing and versatile running top, which supplies good levels of protection from the elements and aggressive trail growth

For

  • Super lightweight
  • Quick drying
  • High sun protection
  • Made with partially recycled material

Against

  • No reflective details
  • No mesh (can run quite warm)
  • Baggy fit won’t suit everyone

Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt: first impressions 

A nicely designed, highly practical top, the Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt has flat seams and is comfortable from the first wear, with no next-to-skin coarseness.

The Lifa Active poly material is 60% recycled, and despite its relatively baggy, relaxed-fit – and a complete lack of mesh – this T-shirt remains lightweight and quick drying. All the kinds of thing you want from the best running tops.

Specifications

RRP: $55 (US) / £35 (UK)
Style: T-shirt
Weight: 150g / 5.3oz
Sizes: S–XL
Materials: 60% recycled polyester, infused with used coffee grounds
Colors: Cloudberry / White / Ebony / Navy
Compatibility: Trail and road running, racing, training, hiking, climbing

The fabric has been infused with used coffee beans using a low-temperature, high-pressure and energy saving process called S.Café, which heightens the garment’s ability to protect the wearer from the harmful effects of the sun, giving the T-shirt a UPF sun protection rating of 50+ (and here are some more tips for running in hot weather). The coffee – which the brand claim will not wash out – also helps prevent the buildup of bad odors caused by bacteria and allegedly also offers up to 200% faster drying time compared to cotton.

While good for a range of outdoor pursuits, the lack of any reflective detail on the T-shirt is a shame for road runners who want to run safely at night.

Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt: on the trail 

Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt

The Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen T-shirt wicks away sweat beautifully (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I have been trail testing the Solen T in the relatively warm conditions of Southern England in late spring and early summer, and I’ve found it to be a pretty versatile top, providing some protection from early morning chill when required, but also breathing well (see what is a breathable fabric? for more on why they’re a good idea for outdoor pursuits). Lacking any mesh elements, it can run a little hot when the temperature really rises.

The Lifa Active poly material wicks sweat away beautifully, though, and the garment dries pretty quickly if it gets wet with sweat or rain. It’s comfortable and provides excellent protection from sunburn, and the fabric is thick enough to offer some protection against stinging nettles and brambles. 

Thus far the coffee-infused material has honored its promise to prevent the buildup of stink, but we will keep monitoring that.

Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon (opens in new tab) and Dorset (opens in new tab), and once wrote a whole book about Toilets (opens in new tab) for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades here (opens in new tab).