Helly Hansen is an extremely well-known brand that started life as sea-faring gear but has made a very successful crossover to winter sports over the years. This innovative Norwegian company has an incredibly rich heritage, particularly in its sea-faring history, that has seen it at the forefront of breakthroughs in textile and product technology over the years.
Helly Hansen's heritage makes it a truly genuine outdoor clothing manufacturer. The company's history dates right back to 1877 and a Norwegian sea-captain called, surprisingly, Helly Hansen, who started producing linen-oil skin outerwear for fishermen and sailors. Thanks to massive success in the Scandanavian market and a number of international awards, the Helly Hansen company was able to re-invest money into further textile research and as the 20th century unfolded it was at the forefront of several product breakthroughs such as Linox, Linolet, Helox and Fibrepile - which, thanks to its popularity amongst lumberjacks, kick-started the multi-layering principle that is now commonplace in outdoor wear.
The start of the North Sea oil industry in the 1970s, along with the development of LIFA (a base-layer fibre that kept the skin dry by pushing moisture away from the body and through the material) further increased the demand for the company's products and allowed them to create their next advance in the 1980's - Helly Tech, allowing Helly Hansen's products to be both breathable and waterproof (tiny pores allow water vapour to pass out but no rain droplets to get in).
Despite being taken over a couple of times since the late 1990's the company remains based in Norway, and remains an innovate company looking for new breakthroughs in textiles and products. Thanks in no small part to the company's seafaring history, its products are obviously very popular amongst sailors, fishermen, ocean industries and water-sports, but it's also gained a healthy following in snow sports too.
There's nothing too flashy about Helly Hansen gear, it's pretty similar to the functionality side of things - it just pretty much gets on with things and does it's stuff. Some basic coloured jackets, a few patterned ones, even a couple of throwbacks to 80's jackets thrown in there with the contrast coloured-panels. And if it's important to you that people know what you're wearing then the HH logo is now very well known off the slopes too.
Helly Hansen prides itself on its innovative history - breakthroughs and research into new textiles and products so the performance of it's all-weather gear is usually pretty high. Remember, this is stuff that's traditionally been used amongst Noway's ocean industries, it's fishermen, it's sailors. So if it can keep them relatively warm and dry out in the perils of the North Sea you should be ok with it for a few years on the slopes !
You're looking at between £150 and £250 for the majority of Helly Hansen's jackets, which makes it a decent alternative if you want a hard-wearing, solid jacket but don't have the extra money to spend on some of the premium brands.