I love waking up early on a ski day to see how much snow fell during the night, right at the moment the sun chases away the dark mountain black and the clean white snow crystals float through cold blue shadows into sun. That’s a cold time of day to stand in my socks and a t-shirt, so I  grab my new favorite jacket, the Helly Hansen Verglas Down Insulator, to warm up quickly, hoping my sweet baboo is making the coffee.

Made out of 700+ Allied European goose down, Pertex fabric with DWR finish to hold off light mist and snow, a sturdy YKK zipper that can zip into Helly Hansen’s Component Insulation System (CIS) shells, and soft Lycra cuffs, the Helly Hansen Verglas Down Insulator jacket has become my go-to winter jacket for backcountry ski trips, cold nights out, and layering under a storm shell when the Polar Vortex comes to town.

The Helly Hansen Verglas Down Insulator jacket punches way over its 440 gram weight class, and packs down to about the size of a large water bottle. It’s slim  enough to fit under a shell when the temperatures drop into the twenties and teens (i.e., below my normal fleece layer comfort zone), and it’s two waist-high, fleece-lined pockets are handy for stashing essentials.

After two weeks of winter mountain biking, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, and driving back and forth over the Sierra during whiteouts, plus another two weeks of arctic play in Minnesota, I’m impressed with the Helly Hansen Verglas Down Insulator jacket. It rocks as a functional, light, compact, versatile insulation layer that’s slick enough to wear on its own when I need to dress warm and look good.

I love the fit of the Helly Hansen Verglas Down Insulator jacket; the XL comfortably spans my shoulders and upper chest without being baggy at the waist. The sleeve length reaches past my wrists without going too far and catching on glove/mitten cuffs. (If you’re cold-blooded and plan on layering over some extra thick hand knit sweaters it wouldn’t hurt to size up, but I liked the jacket’s diagonal baffling and slim profile.) The Verglas Down Insulator jacket isn’t for bagging 8,000 meter peaks or diving into a thicket of aspen, but it packs enough warmth for a post cross-country ski break, backcountry tour rest stop, or cold weather belay jacket.

The Pertex shell fabric is down proof, but not bulletproof. So, don’t expect good results tree skiing in the Verglas Down Insulator jacket without a protective shell on the outside. However, if you want the jacket to stuff down into a teeny pocket and you want to look like the ski town locals your down jacket is going to need to come with a lightweight fabric shell and few patches.

Available in men’s sizes S-2XL in Deep Blue, Racer Blue, Deep Steel, Rusty Fire, Rock, and Black.

Bottom Line: High performance, great fit, nice style. An excellent all-around down insulation jacket.

Manufacturer’s Site: www.hellyhansen.com