We take a look at some of the best Helly Hansen sailing jackets from the Norwegian outdoor clothing giant – one of the most trusted brands of sailing clothing
Helly Hansen has a huge range covering all types of watersports and lists more than 100 sailing jackets, so picking the right one for you can be difficult. Here’s out opinion on some of the best Helly Hansen sailing jackets on the market at the moment.
So what’s the best way to identify the best Helly Hansen sailing jacket to suit your specific needs?
To some extent we get what we pay for, so a higher specification product will always offer better protection, especially in very unpleasant conditions.
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However, taking this philosophy to its ultimate conclusion would lead to using very expensive garments in circumstances where a more basic specification would be fine – and often more comfortable.
Yet, if you spend a lot of time on the water you won’t want to wear your best kit out in conditions in which a lower cost option would work well.
Any one jacket is unable to offer all the attributes needed to cope with the vast range of conditions we encounter when sailing.
Whether looking at a winter coat, or foul weather gear, it’s hard to shake off the old notion that a heavy jacket automatically offers the best protection.
However, advances in materials technology mean this no longer automatically holds true.
Instead what matters is the choice of fabric, the positioning of reinforcement and attention to detail in both design and manufacturing.
This is where items designed for racing have an advantage even for those who don’t sail competitively.
A lot of thought goes into these, which makes them less bulky and a lot more comfortable to wear. Yet at the same time the level of protection is very high.
They are also more likely to be made of a three layer fabric that doesn’t need a separate lining.
This makes the jacket easier to put on, faster to dry and it will take up less space in your kitbag.
Best Helly Hansen sailing jackets
Salt Coastal Jacket
This classic style full length jacket is one of the most popular in the Helly Hansen range. It’s made of a breathable two-layer fabric with a polyester lining.
Features include double cuffs and storm flap, high-visibility reflective hood, fleece lined collar and hand warmer pockets, plus articulated sleeves for easier movement.
It’s easily good enough for a cross-Channel cruise if you’re able to choose reasonable weather.
However, you’re likely to want a higher spec jacket for racing offshore or deliveries if there’s a possibility of bouncing upwind in 25 knots of breeze and wind against tide conditions.
Although this is a recent addition to Helly Hansen’s range, the distinctive styling harks back to the jackets made for the crew of Berge Viking, the Norwegian 1981 Whitbread around the world race entry.
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Salt Flag Jacket
This lighter and lower specification jacket is a good lower cost option for inshore sailing and occasional longer summer trips.
It’s a hip length jacket with fleece collar, “stealth” cuff seals, lined pockets and a high visibility hood with reflective elements.
The two-layer fabric has taped seams and a durable water repellant (DWR) coating.
It weighs barely more than 700g and will pack reasonably small in your kitbag, although the HP Racing Wind Jacket is even better in this respect.
Racing Lifaloft Mid Layer Jacket
Helly Hansen’s most technical mid-layer jacket offers excellent warmth from its insulated breathable fabric.
A full stretch construction makes for good ease of movement. The outer layer uses a new durable water repellant (DWR) coating that doesn’t include poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
This provides protection against light rain and spray, although this garment is designed primarily to be worn underneath a full foul weather jacket.
HP Racing Wind Jacket
This is the perfect answer to those summer days when you need to take a jacket afloat, but a fully-featured one is an unnecessary burden.
Minimalist style makes this a compact and lightweight option, weighing only 470 grammes. Yet the stretch fabric means it’s comfortable to wear and doesn’t restrict movement.
Arguably the biggest compromise is that the fabric is not as waterproof as that of more serious foul weather gear.
Nevertheless the fabric is fully windproof, which will help keep you warm on the water, and it’s very breathable.
Arctic Ocean Parka
An old Norwegian expression says there’s no such as bad weather, only the wrong clothing. Helly Hansen’s Arctic Ocean Parka is a perfect illustration of this idea.
It’s designed for sailing in the harshest conditions and is perfect for winter days afloat.
In addition to the waterproof outer layer and breathable inner fabric, there’s an insulating layer made of a high loft and quick drying recycled polyester.
Taped seams, a double storm flap and watertight cuffs are provided to keep the water out.
As well as the protective high collar, there’s a removable insulated hood which fits inside the high-vis outer hood.
Unlike most Helly Hansen sailing jackets, this one is only available in a unisex style.
Aegir Race Jacket
Helly Hansen brought in professional round the world racing sailors with huge experience of what’s needed to cope with the most extreme conditions to develop this offshore/ocean range.
The Aegir Race Jacket is a premium choice for races lasting several days, including the Rolex Fastnet Race and Newport-Bermuda.
Smaller pockets and zippers compared to the standard Aegir products create a sleek and lightweight design.
The four-layer fabric has a very high level of waterproofing and attention to detail is excellent.
Aegir Ocean Jacket and Ocean Modular Smock
These high end products are the result of considerable R&D, along with expert input from sailors including solo round the world record holder Thomas Colville.
Once this level of protection is needed I strongly prefer wearing a smock over a jacket. The Ocean Modular Smock includes a neat removable hood and collar.
Smocks are not as easy to don or doff as a jacket. However, the lack of the front zip, plus efficient neck and cuff seals, and adjustable waist band, make a significant difference to the amount of water absorbed when in really tough conditions for extended periods.
Both jacket and smock are made of a super-tough and water resistant five-layer fabric.
Aegir Ocean Drysuit
Even the very best conventional equipment won’t keep you fully dry when being fire-hosed in severe deep ocean conditions.
That’s where a top-quality ocean-specification dry suit comes into its own.
This much smaller than for drysuits designed for watersports, and the conditions they must withstand more demanding.
As as result this is not a cheap option. But for the few who need it the protection offered is of a different level.
Suffice to say, I wore a dry suit for four of the 17 days I spent at sea during the very wet and windy 2019 AZAB (Azores and Back race). The only thing I regret on both legs is not putting it on earlier.
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