When it comes to winter sports, I often opt for a hard shell instead of a ski jacket because I want to strategically layer so I can easily control my temperature. It might seem counterintuitive that a chronically cold person with Raynaud’s isn’t throwing on an insulated ski jacket, but I’ve found the shell layering method to be the best way for me to climb mountains, snowshoe, and ski in the coldest conditions. The Helly Hansen W Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket does exactly what I need from a shell. It’s light, breathable, and has kept me insulated and dry in snowstorms at very high altitudes. Even more impressively, it’s made of 54% recycled polyester, proving that more sustainable gear can perform in the field.
Some mild fit issues aside, this is my new go-to shell when heading to the mountains—especially in snow, but it’ll certainly be coming with me to the high alpine this summer. At a retail price of $400, the Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket isn’t cheap—but Helly Hansen gear never is. There’s a reason Helly Hansen (one of the best ski jacket brands, in my opinion) outfits 60,000 professional skiers, ski patrollers, sailors, rescue services, and mountain guides.
Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket Specs and Features
- Men’s, Women’s
- Designed for backcountry skiing and touring, hiking, camping, mountaineering, and trekking
- Hard shell jacket
- 54% recycled polyester, 46% polyester
- 3-layer fabric construction (DWR-treated outer fabric, a highly-breathable and waterproof membrane, and a highly-breathable inner fabric)
- Recycled face fabric
- Two pit zips and two hand pockets with two-way sliders
- Helmet-compatible adjustable hood
- Backpack—and harness—compatible design
- Full inner front placket for wind protection
- YKK water repellent center front zipper and hand pockets
- Sure Grip zipper pullers and inner waist shock cord adjustments
- Zippers: Bemis laminated construction and tree-layer 5L tape
Sustainable Professional Technology
Helly Hansen first developed its professional fabric, HELLY TECH, in 1984. It’s the brand’s own proprietary waterproof membrane that’s gone through years of innovation and different versions. Essentially, this means HH adjusts their signature breathable and waterproof fabric to fit each jacket’s purpose, making their products more intentional.
HELLY TECH comes in three categories: protection, performance, and professional. The Verglas Infinity Shell is professional grade, meaning it has three layers that are designed for top performance in the backcountry.
So, let’s get into the details. In the list of specs, when I say “3-layer fabric construction,” I am talking about the three elements of the shell: the inner lining, the membrane, and the face (outer) fabric. The inner lining protects the membrane from body oils and is the breathable fabric next to your body, while the second layer (the membrane) has microscopic pores that allow vapor to get out, but are too small for rain to get in. The outer fabric (or face fabric) is waterproof and durable to protect the membrane from abrasion, tree sap, or whatever else is thrown at it.
Helly Hansen takes it a step further with LIFA Infinity Technology, where the product’s membrane isn’t treated with chemicals and solvents, but rather with heat to stretch the fabric and create tiny pores. HH has also develop a recycled face fabric (the protective outer layer) that does not use harmful chemicals in its waterproofing. Helly Hansen Marketing Manager Brady Barry stresses that this jacket, even without traditional waterproofing chemicals, “performs at an exceedingly high level.”
“There’s no sacrifice in performance to get sustainability,” Barry says. “That’s the coolest part about this. We didn’t have to dumb down HELLY TECH Professional to get here.”
Read Helly Hansen’s full sustainability statement here.
Testing the Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket in the Field
The best way to test a shell jacket is to wear it hard in the field. If you stay comfortable, it’s working. If not, the product’s issues quickly reveal themselves. So, to test the Helly Hansen W Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket, I brought it with me on some warm bluebird ski days and to the top of 12,392-foot hike-to ski terrain in a sub-zero blizzard. I also wore it as my outer layer on snowshoe hikes through the rugged Elk Mountains (whose steep uphills require consistent layering/de-layering).
Helly Hansen gives this shell a 6/6 for windproof-ness, waterproofness, durability, and breathability, and a 5/6 for weight (6/6 being the lightest). And I would have to agree. So, through a typical month of winter sports, let me break down for you why I second Helly Hansen’s high rating of each of their categories, why it’s one of the best hiking jackets and ski jackets, and why this jacket, justifiably, has an average of 4.7/5 stars on HH’s website.
Windproof and Breathability
This is one of those things that’s hard to test, but if you’re out enough in high-wind conditions (where I often find myself), it’s easy to tell when something isn’t windproof. Standing atop a 12,000ft peak this December in Colorado’s Elk Range with 65mph winds, I was definitely the least miserable I could be in that situation. And its two pit vents aren’t the only thing that keeps the Verglas Infinity Shell breathable. As I explained above, its 3-layer system lets vapor out, while keeping you dry. You work up a lot of sweat when you’re uphill skinning, climbing, and hiking. I sometimes find myself making sacrifices in waterproofness to keep myself from overheating. One of the biggest indicators of a poorly breathable shell is if you get too cold at rest from drying sweat because your jacket wasn’t helping regulate your temperature. But this jacket doesn’t do that. Taking a break after working up a sweat, I have yet to get that rush of cold that comes with too much heat built up under a shell, which can be even worse once you factor in a windchill.
The Verglas Infinity Shell has 100 percent passed my backcountry snow test, and I feel comfortable in case of emergency because I can last a long time in snow without risking my core getting wet and cold.
What I don’t love about a thicker ski jacket is that sometimes, even if it doesn’t get you wet, water can weigh down the outer layer. But that was not the case with this shell. It doesn’t hold on to moisture after getting covered in snow, and because the waist, sleeves, and hood are adjustable, I have yet to have any snow get in places where I don’t want it. In this jacket, I’ve tumbled down the end of a chute, dove head-first into a foot of powder, and hiked for 10 hours in consistent snowfall. I haven’t had any incidents where I’ve gotten snow around my wrists, or down the back of my neck (two generally common occurrences). You can adjust the hood (that fits over your helmet) in four locations, keeping your neck super mobile but also snug from any snow getting in and risking chilling your core. If you’re an ice climber, you can still tighten your waist all the way to keep snow and ice out, while still keeping your belay and tie-in loops free.
Durability and Weight
This Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell jacket is lightweight and extremely tough. I haven’t been worried about tearing it, even when hiking through thick coverage where it could’ve snagged on branches. As I said above, I’ve taken some serious tumbles in steep snow, and probably because of this jacket, I keep getting up unscathed. I hopefully will never experience the day where this jacket rips, because the impact will have to be serious. I’ve been consistently impressed so far this winter with this jacket getting the job one while weighing about as much as a raincoat. It’s also impressive that it can go in the wash without losing its integrity (with specific instructions).
Speaking of durability, I’ve found zippers are where brands often cut corners, but the Verglas Shell has strong, two-way sliding zippers that aren’t hard to zip with mittens on. It’s typically a tradeoff between zippers that keep things dry and contained, or easy access. Helly Hansen pulls off both.
And like I said before, each jacket they make is designed intentionally for specific uses. This jacket, meant for the backcountry, has two enormous pockets that can fit two skins or a beacon in each pocket, ideal for ski touring. I’ve also fit a first aid kit, food for a day, and an extra layer in the pockets alone. Each pocket has a compartment for smaller items, which work well to keep things organized.
My favorite elements of this shell, however, have to be the helmet and harness compatibility. It shows how much thought went into the design. I run cold, so I tend to wear a fleece hood over my helmet when I ski, and the shell’s hood still fits. My climbing helmet is much slimmer, and I have ample range of motion with the hood over it.
What the Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket Does Worst
One issue I’ve had with Helly Hansen over the years has been their inconsistent sizing. I wear an XS in their pants (around my typical size), yet a medium in their shells to properly layer and still have some room to move. Because a shell is not designed to provide a layer of warmth like a ski jacket, I wish they’d account for two base layers and a thin puffy (at minimum) when sizing their jackets. If I size up two sizes to be comfortable in a Helly Hansen jacket, I’m afraid people with larger bodies may have a hard time finding the right fit.
And while I love the two-way zip pockets, both pockets are huge on each side. It’s great for skinning, but I’d love to see a version of this shell with two smaller side pockets and a chest pocket on one side, and a large pocket on the other—so I can keep my 500ml flexible water bottle, snack, and any other large materials in one, and smaller things in the separate pockets. This would prevent a lot of issues when it comes to digging through pockets for small objects while wearing mittens. This is all due to personal preference because my snow pants also have massive cargo pockets and I sometimes prioritize organization over having maximum space.
What the Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket Does Best
The Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket is as good as Helly Hansen claims it to be. I also love the colors it comes in. I lent the jacket to my mom when we went on a hike in deep snow (pictured below), and she commented on how comfortable she felt being super visible to backcountry skiers and easy she was to spot in case of an emergency.
I also love the versatility and sheer functionality of this shell. Because it’s so lightweight, it’s a great outer layer for all my winter pursuits, and it’ll be on my gear list to tackle Colorado’s 14ers this summer (gone are the days of me pretending a standard rain jacket is a sufficient wind shell).
So, because the pros significantly outweigh the cons, just go try on this jacket to judge sizing, and you’ll see how high quality it is.
If you spend time at high altitude in the winter, $400 might not be a heavy price to pay for high functionality. And while I did receive a tester jacket from Helly Hansen, I would buy the Verglas Infinity at MSRP in a second. You’re paying for the best of the best, and it just so happens it has a lesser footprint than its competitors. It’ll fit right into your snow gear, hiking gear, and mountaineering equipment. Especially if you do multiple high-alpine or snow sports, it’s one investment that’ll serve you across the board.