An effective, breathable body warmer that protects against the wind as well the cold.
The tall collar is not to everyone’s liking
Only two colors available
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Helly Hansen Paramount Softshell Vest: first impressions
The Helly Hansen Paramount Softshell Vest offers a different approach to other items we’ve tested for our best gilets buying guide; it uses fleece for insulating warmth and soft-shell to keep out the wind and protect the torso from rain. The result is a performance garment, ideally suited to powering uphill with better breathability than you could expect from synthetic or down-filled vests and gilets.
A really useful chest pocket offers a handy alternative to the two large zipped hand pockets, which can get covered up by a backpack’s waistbelt.
From an eco perspective, the water-repellent treatment is PFC-free, and the vest/gilet is made with bluesign-certified manufacturing process (see also: best eco-friendly outdoor brands). Its slim profile makes it ideal for slipping under a waterproof shell, and while it pains us to say it, the Paramount would also be a smart choice for playing golf – a good walk spoiled, as Mark Twain did or didn’t say.
• RRP: $110 (US) / £100 (UK)
• Insulation: Fleece
• Gender availability: Men’s / Women’s
• Sizes: S / M / L / XL / XXL
• Colors: Navy / Black
Helly Hansen Paramount Softshell Vest: on the trails
Out on the hills, the Helly Hansen Paramount has proved to be an absolute revelation as an outer layer. The wind protection of its softshell fabric ensures it is significantly warmer than any of the down-filled gilets tested.
It’s a reminder that a chill wind can render even the warmest insulation redundant if it can strip away heat. What’s more, the lack of bulk in the Paramount, compared to the airy baffles of down gilets, make this a far less obtrusive and more agile garment to wear.
If you plan to use a gilet primarily as an outer layer, rather than a mid layer under a shell, this is a brilliant choice for warmth and ease of movement. If, however, your gilet does most of its insulating work underneath a windproof and waterproof shell, then down-filled options arguably have the edge.
After spending a decade as editor of Country Walking, the UK’s biggest-selling walking magazine, Jonathan moved to edit Outdoor Fitness magazine, adding adrenaline to his adventures and expeditions. He has hiked stages or completed all of the UK's national trails, but was once overtaken by three Smurfs, a cross-dressing Little Bo Peep, and a pair of Teletubbies on an ascent of Snowdon. (Turns out they were soldiers on a fundraising mission.)