The Improved Helly Hansen Liftaloft Stretch Insulator Jacket: A Review

The latest offering from Helly Hansen has set the bar high for a near-perfect jacket for active winter sports such as snowshoeing and cold-weather hiking. The Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket improves on Helly Hansen’s impressive job several years ago when it introduced its Lifaloft Insulator jackets. The first Liftaloft jackets were amazingly warm and light, but the Stretch Insulator shattered that barrier.

Helly Hansen Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket

The Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket is warm and breathable like the first model with improvements to fit and features. Photo: Helly Hansen

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The Fit

When I reviewed the original Lifaloft Insulator jackets in 2019, I had a few criticisms, mainly regarding the fit. The originals were based on a more athletic fit. Unfortunately, the athletic fit didn’t work well for me since I’ll never be accused of having an athletic build. So, the original Liftaloft Insulator jacket was uncomfortably tight in the torso for my taste, although it was still wearable.

Apparently, Helly Hansen listened to such concerns. As a result, the Stretch Insulator’s fit is much more generous, even before the material’s stretchiness is considered. Helly Hansen provided me an XXL jacket to review, and I could likely have gone a size smaller.

Warmth & Breathability

On its own, the jacket is equally as light and warm as its predecessor. But, the updated Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket has better waterproofing on a more cloth-like exterior. The stretch panels are located on the sides and work very well indeed.

Since the weather has been unseasonably mild in Southern Ontario, where I live, with an accompanying lack of snow, I haven’t been able to try it on an actual snowshoeing excursion as yet. However, I have tested it extensively for walking and hiking in cool weather. The coldest morning we’ve had this season was -13 C (8 F), and the jacket held up perfectly in those conditions, so long as I was active. As I like to put it, this isn’t a standing-around jacket.

One of the best things about the jacket is that I have yet to become overheated or even sweaty in it, which is both remarkable and ideal for cold-weather usage. That breathability is where the Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator clearly out-performs the original Insulator.

In fact, the updated Stretch Insulator is also ideal for a mid-layer and will comfortably fit under a heavier coat if the temperature demands it.

Read More: Best of Base & Mid-Laters Helly Hansen Review

man wearing the Helly Hansen Stretch Insulator Jacket in cold weather

Depending on the temperatures, this jacket could function as a mid-layer or outer layer. Photo: Timothy Giilck

Features

The Stretch Insulator also offers a chest pocket for electronics, whereas the original didn’t. In fact, this is a pocket with extra insulation to it. So far, it has succeeded in preventing my very cold-sensitive iPhone from shutting down in cold weather.

Furthermore, the updated Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket features two hand-warmer pockets and two interior waist pockets. The sizing of each pocket is generous.

The jacket I’ve been trying is also rather attractive in a slate-blue primary colour with chartreuse trim.

Other Considerations

With all the positives to the Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket, there are still a few improvements that Helly Hansen could make to it.

The hood is sizeable and could benefit from making it adjustable. The cuffs on the sleeves need to be beefed up, as they tend to curl and lose shape. Finally, there have been a few loose threads here and there that have needed trimming.

Overall

All in all, though, this jacket has prompted me to ditch the initial Liftaloft Insulator Jacket that had become my go-to coat. Even with the first version’s warmth and breathability,  I now always return to the updated Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket for its more comfortable fit.

Have you tried the Helly Hansen Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket? Or, would you try it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Helly Hansen provided the Liftaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket for testing. As always, the views and opinions expressed in this article are entirely the author’s own. This article was first published on November 5, 2020, and most recently updated on December 23, 2021. 

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