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Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew Review

Best Buy Award
Price:   $40 List | $34.97 at Amazon
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Pros:  Low weight, low price, dries quickly, sleeves stay in place
Cons:  Not warm, bottom rides up if not tucked in, basic
Bottom line:  This top is a thin synthetic layer that functions well for basic next-to-skin needs, but don't expect much warmth.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Helly Hansen

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a basic base layer top for moderate to high-level activity in cold weather, the Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew is an ideal option. The lightweight, synthetic material is thin, so it won't keep you warm when idle in cold conditions. On the bright side, though, it breathes exceptionally well, wicks away moisture like a champ, and dries fast. The fit is tighter than most tops we reviewed, but it isn't constricting, and the tight sleeves mean they don't ride up when reaching overhead. Need a light layer for winter runs or skinning up mountains while touring? Or even for warm downhill days at the ski resort? At $40, this shirt offers excellent performance at a price way below average, clearly earning our Best Buy on a Tight Budget.

The Lifa Stripe wasn't uncontested in this review. The Patagonia Capilene Midweight offers a touch more warmth and durability, plus comes with thumb loops. It comes close but doesn't match the wicking and breathability of the Lifa, though. Our other Best Buy Award winner, The North Face Warm, is a warmer synthetic top, which is better suited for low to moderate activity in cold weather. It also feels incredible against your skin!

One Product, Multiple Names
If you're looking for this top at online retailers, be aware that it is found under a different name at various retailers. We have seen it named the "Dry Stripe Crew" at a few retailers, although it is still the Lifa Stripe Crew on Helly Hansen's website.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Long Underwear and Base Layer for Men


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ross Robinson

Last Updated:
Monday
November 20, 2017

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The Lifa Stripe Crew from Helly Hansen is a thin synthetic long underwear top with a reasonable $40 price tag. The design is basic yet efficient. It dries and wicks away sweat and moisture super fast, making it a superb choice for intense activity in cold weather. The fit is tight, and it fits under additional layers very well. It won't keep you super warm, but if you're moving your body, it might be all you need.

Performance Comparison


Scanning for the next climbing route in the Lifa Stripe Crew.
Scanning for the next climbing route in the Lifa Stripe Crew.

Warmth


This top is not warm, but it's not trying to be. The synthetic material is toward the lower end of the lightweight range at 125g/square meter. It also only weighs 5.5 oz in size Medium, so tossing this top in our packs for backpacking trips and backcountry tours was not much of an issue. It's on the opposite side of the spectrum from the thicker, heavier, and much warmer Arc'teryx Rho AR.


While it doesn't provide much warmth on its own, the long torso and tight sleeves of the Lifa Stripe keep cold air from sneaking in to reach bellies and wrists. The neck collar is also higher than typical crew cuts, and the overall fit is tight, keeping warm air in better than loose shirts like the Patagonia Capilene. These design features kept our skin from being exposed, even if the top isn't very warm itself. The expectation here is that you provide your own warmth with physical activity while the shirt essentially provides a protective layer from the elements.

Breathability


As you might expect, the least warm top reviewed topped the charts regarding breathability. We loved how well the Lifa Stripe moved moisture away from our torsos to the external air. We wore this shirt on several hikes and trail runs, and no matter how much we sweat, it never piled up under this shirt. It's like, really, really good at it, and better than any other top reviewed. This further boosted our confidence to wear it during aerobic activity in cold temperatures, knowing that we wouldn't remain a sweaty mess as we worked hard. A warmer but less breathable shirt can end up being colder to wear than this top after you break into a heavy sweat, because the longer the moisture stays next to your skin, the more chill you experience.


On the flip side of breathability, this top does not do much to block wind gusts. For that, check out the thicker synthetic models, such as the Rho AR and Microchill 2.0, or pair this top with a thin wind breaker jacket or softshell. This top still wicks away moisture well beneath another layer in our field experiences.

This top wicks away moisture almost as fast as we could produce it  as was the case on this morning trail run.
This top wicks away moisture almost as fast as we could produce it, as was the case on this morning trail run.

Comfort and Fit


The Helly Hansen model is a form-fitting top, yet it isn't constricting like the Under Armour Base 4.0. The tight fit assists in this top's breathability and drying speed. The material stretches comfortably across the torso, making it easier for moisture to pass through to the outside. Despite being one of the most snug tops reviewed, the material also stretches well. When climbing in this top, body movement was not restricted. Being synthetic, there is also zero itch factor.


The wrists are the tightest part of this top, which meant they did not ride up our arms when extending them overhead. The Lifa Stripe Crew does ride up in the belly as you move around (especially when running), but this is easily remedied by tucking the shirt into pants. As it's a common practice to tuck a base layer top into bottoms, this didn't bother us much. The SmartWool Merino 250 Base Layer is the most comfortable top in this review, as long as you don't have an adverse reaction to wearing wool.

Sleeves staying in place!
Sleeves staying in place!

Drying Speed


The Lifa Stripe Crew is the fastest-drying top review. It's also made of the thinnest synthetic materials, so this isn't a huge surprise. But it is a huge advantage once you've sweat through your shirt and are waiting for it to dry out. The cuff of the sleeves, similar to most tops, are the last to dry out.


Compared to merino wool fabrics, the synthetic material of this top readily absorbed water. In all the wool products tested, such as from SmartWool and the REI Merino Midweight, they resisted absorbing water until agitated. The merino wool/synthetic blended fabric of the Rab Merino+ 160 dried second-fastest and provides more warmth.

A closer look at the fastest-drying fabric reviewed.
A closer look at the fastest-drying fabric reviewed.

Durability


While this shirt is thin, we expect it to hold up rather well. The triple and quadruple-stitched flatlock seams appeared to our testers as bomber, and throughout the testing period, we experienced no obvious signs of wear and tear. It will surely snag occasionally on velcro, pulling out a few odd fibers, but overall, this shirt should stay intact for a multitude of uses. Pilling also didn't become an issue during our testing period. We followed Helly Hansen's instructions and did not toss this top in the dryer.


The most susceptible area to breaking down is likely in the armpits of the Lifa Stripe Crew. which has seams that meet in a three-way intersection smack bang in the middle of the armpit. As this is a high-flex area, it can experience more wear (just look at the armpits of some old t-shirts in your dresser), eventually wearing a hole in this area. Some tops, like the Patagonia Capilene Midweight, feature stitching designs that avoid seams coming to a crossroads in the center of the armpit. For the most warmth and durability combined, the Mountain Hardwear Microchill 2.0 is your top choice.

Rappelling down after a successful  unrestricted climb in the Lifa Stripe. After a day of rubbing against the rock while climbing  this top didn't show signs of wear.
Rappelling down after a successful, unrestricted climb in the Lifa Stripe. After a day of rubbing against the rock while climbing, this top didn't show signs of wear.

Layering Ability


As a first layer, this top is excellent. The snug fit makes tossing another layer on top of it a breeze. The tight wrists mean that the sleeves do not get bunched up inside another shirt, which we love.


Due to its tight fit, the Lifa Stripe Crew doesn't layer well over another top. Don't expect the versatility of the Arc'teryx Rho AR, which can be worn as a first or second layer.

As far as first layers for skiing goes  this top is an excellent choice.
As far as first layers for skiing goes, this top is an excellent choice.

Best Applications


Based on this top's performance in the field and in our specific tests, the Lifa Stripe Crew is best used in moderate to intense activity in cool to cold weather. Backcountry skiing, mountain biking, and jogging in winter conditions are all excellent applications for this top. The Lifa is also a long-time favorite among downhill skiers who charge hard in the resorts and don't need much insulation from their long underwear. We do not recommend it as a first layer for low activity in cold weather, where a warmer top is more appropriate.

Value


This base layer top is a great deal. For $40, it performs way above its price range. If you need a first layer for intense winter activities, this top gets it done for less cheese than most.

If your base layer needs focus on breathability  drying speed  and comfort  you'll be very happy wearing this shirt.
If your base layer needs focus on breathability, drying speed, and comfort, you'll be very happy wearing this shirt.

Conclusion


The no-frills design of the Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew works to its advantage. It keeps costs low while still offering surprising performance. It also looks good worn its own! This is the best lightweight, thin synthetic long underwear top that we have ever tested for its price range. Just be aware that it isn't as versatile as other models featured in this review. For its intended uses, though, it's awesome.
Ross Robinson

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Most recent review: November 20, 2017
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