Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very warm, dexterous, keeper straps are awesome even though they appear dorky
Cons: Leather die bleeds, leather palms need to be retreated more often than most, palms are seam sealed
Best Uses: Colder weather resort skiing & snowboarding, backcountry skiing & snowboarding, some general mountaineering
The tried and true Hestra Heli has a big following and will stand up to years of abuse. A slightly wider fitting, very focused, ski and snowboard glove that is the second warmest we tested; being just edged out in warmth by the Black Diamond Guide. While not quite as warm, the Heli was a little bit more dexterous. It sports a removable and easily dryable fleece liner that is held tightly in place by a beefy strip of Velcro. The liner never pulled out with our fingers even when our hands where wet. After over thirty days of use we found it to be one of the more durable products we tested. While structurally the pair we tested did great, the navy blue dye on the fabric did bleed onto the white leather but this wasn't that big of a deal and it didn't effect it functionally. If you use these gloves in warmer climates you will have to retreat the palm more often than most gloves, however with colder drier snow this is less of a big deal.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Heli was a little below average among all the gloves we tested in dexterity. The main reason for this is because it is pretty thick and one of the warmest products in our review. It is also one of the most durable, featuring a thick leather palm, all that warm fleece and beefy leather which also make it less dexterous. We did think it was slightly more dexterous than our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick for colder weather the Black Diamond Guide. The Heli could handle simple tasks like buckling boots okay and could handle some of our more moderate difficulty tasks like taking a photo with a traditional point and shoot camera, but we struggled to write and tie shoes. If you are looking for a warm glove but aren't willing to make the sacrifice of all the dexterity and don't like the stiffness of the Black Diamond Guide, then the Hestra is a solid option. Compared with some of our other Top Picks, it is less dexterous than our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick the Outdoor Research Magnate or our Editors' Choice the Arc'teryx Alpha SV Glove.
Water resistance is one of the few categories where the Heli doesn't excel. It is a super warm glove and most people who use it will be in cold climates where 100% water resistance isn't as much of a factor. The Heli doesn't use Gore-Tex or a similar waterproof insert like many of the other top scoring models in our water resistance tests. It basically relies on a DWR (Durable Water Repellence) nylon and leather palms which need to be treated regularly. Despite all of this we used them for a couple dozen days in the wet snow climate of the Pacific Northwest and when the leather was treated often enough, they did fine. It wasn't as waterproof as any of the products we tested that used Gore-Tex or another propitiatory waterproof membrane.
Warmth and Breathability
The Heli was nearly the warmest in our review being only just barely edged out by our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick for cold climates, the Black Diamond Guide. The Heli uses a thick fleece liner and a beefy shell and along with the BD Guide, are some of the few options we would consider for resort skiing in close to 0F. While the Hestra Heli wasn't quite as warm as the BD Guide, it wasn't far off. This makes them a great choice for East Coast or Upper Mountain west skiers or 'boarders who get cold hands easily. The Heli is slightly warmer than our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice the Alpha SV, significantly warmer than the DaKine Scout and noticeably warmer than all the single layer models we tested.
This was one of the more durable products we tested. The Heli features a beefy layer of leather that covers the entire palm and the fingers. After using them for over 30 days they showed little sign of wear. One thing that wasn't a big deal; we experienced a simple leather discoloration with the navy blue nylon bleeding onto the white leather. We also ran into other folks who suffered a similar problem. It didn't bleed a lot, but enough to notice. We didn't think this cosmetic bleeding effected the functional use of them at all.
Features and Ease of Use
While a little old school, we really like the removable keeper cords and found them nice on chair lifts. When we had tasks that forced us to remove our gloves, we didn't worry about dropping them off the chair. The Heli had our favorite keeper straps of any competitor in our review. The velcro wrist straps are wide and basic, but do the job and help the Heli fit better. The gaunlet cinches nicely with one hand but is harder to loosen with one hand compared with others we tested.
Sizing and Fit
If you have ever looked at Hestra or several other European glove manufacturers before you may have noticed that they don't use the typical North American sizing system (S,M,L etc). Instead they use numbers to identify size, like the North American system at one point, those numbers referred to a circumference of the hand but now days it is as relative as our system. So lets break down the Hestra sizing system: A "10" is like a smallish Large and a "9" is like a Medium to help people figure out their sizing needs. Beyond the European sizing the overall fit of the Heli is a slightly wider than average fit compared with the other gloves we tested. They even run a little wider than several of the Black Diamond models we looked at, which are the other wide fitting gloves. They certainly run wider than the Mountain Hardwear or Outdoor Research models.
Value and the Bottom Line
The Hestra Heli is one of the warmer gloves in our review and is nearly as warm as our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick for colder climates, the BD Guide and costs $35 less. It is considerably more expensive than the DaKine Scout ($50) but is also much more durable and is warmer. It works okay in wetter snow climate areas like the Pacific Northwest, but you will have to treat the palms more often than other gloves.
The Heli - Women's, $125, are the women's version. You can also purchase the mitt version (with eagle grip - two fingers, plus mitt) of this glove, the Army Leather Heli 3-Finger, $135.
For $35 more, Hestra makes a Gore-Tex XCR version called the Army Leather Gore-Tex XCR Glove which retails at $175 and has a Gore-Tex insert.
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: October 22, 2014
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