Overall, we had a hard time deciding which synthetic insulated jacket to most highly recommend. The closest competitors were this Helly Hansen Alpha and the Spyder Leader. Both feature 80-gram synthetic insulation, burly weather protection, and are each comfortably cut in their own way. Their respective scores across our scoring metrics varied, but in the end they were only separated by half a percentage point overall. The Helly Hansen is slightly warmer, with a couple more features than the Spyder. Overall, the Alpha edges ahead of the Leader, especially when comparing these latest versions of each. The Helly Hansen has improved, while the Leader took a step or two backwards. Read each full review for the full comparison.
Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 ReviewPrice: $450 List | $356.25 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Close fitting and as warm as a synthetic jacket can get
Cons: Less stylish body hugging fit
Bottom line: A comprehensive, modern ski jacket with a body-hugging fit.
Insulation: Primaloft Gold & Black
Waterproofing: 2-layer waterproof membrane
Manufacturer: Helly Hansen
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ski Jackets for Men
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Helly Hansen Alpha is the stretchiest, closest fitting jacket in our test. The interior and exterior are soft, but the weather remains outside, as it should.
With a score of 74 out of 100, the Helly Hansen is exactly tied with two other very different jackets for third place, overall.
With 80-gram Primaloft insulation, the Alpha 3.0 is tied with two others for the most synthetic insulation. Both the Spyder Leader and Best Buy winning Columbia Whirlibird Interchange have 80-gram synthetic insulation as well. The Spyder Leader, when battened down tight, is similar in warmth to the Helly Hansen Alpha, while the Columbia Whirlibird feels definitely warmer. It is likely that the Columbia contender feels warmer due to the additional layers of fabric associated with the three-in-one construction. The looser fit of the Spyder Leader requires more attention to seal out the cold than the Helly Hanse Alpha does. The lightly stretchy, body-hugging fit of the Alpha 3.0 nicely complements the insulation and provides a very comforting warmth. No drafts get in or out of this Helly Hansen competitor.
The smooth face fabric of the Alpha 3.0 and Helly Hansen's long wet-weather pedigree inspire confidence. In our testing, the sealed seams and waterproof backing to the face fabric shed weather almost as well as the dedicated shell jackets like the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell and the ultra-beefy Editors Choice Arc'teryx Sabre. The Helly Hansen contender is decidedly more water and wind resistant than the non-seam-sealed Columbia Whirlibird.
With short, mesh-backed pit-zips and a normal one-way zipper, there is nothing special about the ventilation of the Alpha 3.0. The Patagonia Primo Down and Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Macai are similarly vented. The 3-in-1 style jackets, like the Columbia Whirlibird and Patagonia 3-in-1 Snowshot earn higher scores by virtue of their respective customizability. Of the one-piece jackets, the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell's long, mesh-free pit-zips offer the best ventilation.
The Helly Hansen Alpha is the most heavily featured jacket in our test. With almost the full suite of features we look for, there is no better-equipped product in our review. Only the Best Buy Outdoor Research White Room jacket comes close. The Alpha 3.0, with a goggle wipe, pass pocket on the forearm, interior routing for headphones, a Recco reflector, three storage pockets, and two fleece-lined hand warmer pockets, leaves little to be desired. The only improvement we might suggest is to insulate the outer layer of the hand warmer pockets for around town use. Only the Best Buy Armada Carson Insulated jacket has insulated hand warmer pockets.
Fit and Comfort
In a world dominated by loose-fitting, snowboard-inspired clothing, the close body-hugging fit of the Alpha 3.0 is very much appreciated. The lightly stretchy construction goes from lining to insulation to shell fabric. This stretch is apparent and lends a very comforting feel to the wearer. Only the Arc'teryx Macai fits this closely. Other jackets in our tested size medium (especially the Patagonia Primo Down and Spyder Leader) fit far more loosely. Were these bigger jackets to be downsized for a closer fit, their non-stretchy construction would be confining. For a close fit that is not at all confining, the Helly Hansen Alpha and Arc'teryx Macai lead the pack.
There is nothing remarkable nor offensive about the look of the Alpha 3.0. The muted grey color we first tested is complemented by brighter offerings. In 2018 we tested yellow. Whatever color you choose, the lines are clean and the style is understated. The Spyder Leader is a bolder, higher-end look.
The Alpha 3.0 is an excellent all-around, insulated ski jacket. It fits the bill for a variety of applications.
This contender sits almost exactly in the middle, price-wise, of our test roster. The more expensive jackets are generally down insulated and come with name brand shell fabrics. The closest competitor is the Spyder Leader, with similar insulation, in-house shell fabric waterproofing, and a retail price that is exactly the same. In comparing these two, the Spyder Leader is slightly better looking with a more contemporary loose fit. If you want a jacket that is closer fitting, with other attributes roughly the same, choose the Helly Hansen Alpha over the Spyder Leader. For a ski jacket that offers all-around award-winning value and uniqueness, consider the Top Pick award winner, the Columbia Whirlibird Interchange.
Helly Hansen is known for making wet weather gear. Their ski gear has taken leaps and bounds in the last decade and the Alpha 3.0 is the culmination of their efforts. It is a warm, protective piece that is the softest construction in our entire review. For a jacket that feels like a sweatshirt, but performs like a rain slicker, you can't go wrong.
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Most recent review: February 14, 2018
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