This is a review of the Helikon Blizzard Jacket StormStretch – a nice lightweight and versatile softshell jacket for adventurers who are not afraid to face the challenges of adverse weather. This softshell is built for easy layering with other garments making it suitable for most weather conditions. The fabric is treated with Teflon finish for protection from wind, light rain, and snow. Except for the added weather protection, the Teflon fabric protector also resists soil and stains and facilitates easier cleanup.
Basically, the Blizzard Jacket StormStretch has all the essentials an avid outdoorsman could ask for from a jacket. Additionally, it has many functional features typical for premium hiking/tactical softshell jackets engineered for enhanced mobility. What else did we find testing this jacket? Read on and you will find out.
Quick specs: Helikon Blizzard Jacket – StormStretch
Weight: 650 g (22.9 oz)
Material: 98% Nylon, 2% elastane
Where to get it: Military 1st
- Composed of StormStretch fabric (with DWR finish) and VersaStretch fabric (with DWR finish) treated with Teflon for added wind, water, and stain resistance
- Temperature regulating armpit zip vent with additional mesh for added breathability
- High collar with chin guard and adjustable, stowable hood with visor
- Hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs and drawstring-adjustable bottom hem so that the user can tighten or loosen the fit
- Great weather resistance for all-day protection during high-intensity sports and activities (the Teflon-treated fabric offers good protection against strong winds, snow, and light rain).
- Hard-wearing construction made with fairly breathable, lightweight but durable 2-way elastic StormStretch and 4-way elastic VersaStretch guaranteeing decent mobility whenever needed.
- Well-built, highly functional, and comfortable, it comes with backcountry specific features such as: six pockets in total (two chest utility zip pockets with a smaller pocket inside each of them and two bicep zip pockets; all pockets are mesh-lined for added ventilation), several high-quality YKK zippers with pull including a two-way front zipper, adjustable drawstring cord with cord locks (for adjustment of the bottom hem and hood) that can also be operated when wearing gloves.
- Can fit virtually anyone because of the extended cut, relatively stretchy fabric, and adjustable bottom hem, sleeve cuffs, and hood.
- Streamlined design that allows for easy layering and a full range of motion.
- No hand pockets. We are not thrilled about the pocket configuration and the lack of interior pocket(s). Don’t get me wrong, the jacket offers plenty of storage space but most of it is situated in the chest area. This can be a problem if you’re used to carrying lots of stuff in your pockets. On the other side, this feature (large, zippered Napoleon or chest pockets) is getting more common on hiking and tactical jackets as it allows the user to have access to his/her pockets even when carrying a big multi-day backpack. You can find more about the pockets in the ‘functionality’ section below.
- Water-resistant not waterproof. Generally, a water-resistant jacket is a more practical option as it will do its job of protecting without sacrificing breathability. Yet, quality waterproof breathable garments are usually better at keeping the wearer dry in foul weather.
- No insulation means that you’ll need to wear a couple of layers underneath to make sure that you’re properly dressed for the cold.
We’ve had an opportunity to test the Helikon-Tex Blizzard Jacket StormStretch since early November of 2020 and see how it behaves in certain situations and environments including:
- Changing temperatures – from 0°C to more than 15°C (approximately 32-60°F)
- Variable weather conditions – from moderate to scanty rainfall to sunny (+ moderate to strong winds)
- A multitude of terrains – from hiking on an even and not-so-rugged terrain including walking through town to negotiating rough mountainous terrain
- When paired with one to three layers underneath, hats, gloves, etc.
The Blizzard Jacket StormStretch is a very functional softshell jacket that works well in various environments and conditions. This would be appreciated by those who’d use it for all kinds of outdoor activities in mountain, backcountry or town environment. The jacket is lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and sufficiently weather-resistant to battle against the elements.
Material and construction
The main softshell material (called ‘StormStretch’) is a 2-way elastic blend of 98% nylon (polyamide) and 2% elastane (spandex). The content of elastane is minimal as the jacket doesn’t need to be too stretchy to ensure mobility, functionality, and comfort during a backcountry trip (unlike outdoor pants for high-exertion outdoor activities). Keep in mind that the main function of the Blizzard StormStretch Jacket is to keep the wearer cool, dry, and comfortable and to protect him/her from the elements. Hence the material is light and thin but tough and not soft to the touch by any means. The 4-way elastic VersaStretch fabric (93% nylon, 7% elastane) is a more stretchy material and is used for the articulated elbows.
The construction is well-made and the material seems to be durable and abrasion-resistant. We didn’t have any problems regarding its durability during our trips. And while it’s too early to judge about the overall durability of the jacket objectively, we perceive the Helikon Blizzard as a very reliable jacket.
The material is treated with a high-quality DWR (durable water repellent) finish – Teflon fabric protector – to provide the needed weather protection and to minimize unpredictable spills, stains, and splashes.
The extra wind and water protection is a must for winter as well as sports and pursuits in the high mountain where rapidly changing weather conditions are the norm. It’s surprising how many people go totally unprepared for the conditions or ill-equipped with basic survival skills. The apparel is also of importance as it is supposed to help keep the user dry from the outside and from the inside.
The Blizzard StormStretch jacket doesn’t have any waterproof rating (sure, it isn’t a rain jacket or a hardshell but a jacket for a year-round active lifestyle) but this doesn’t mean that it won’t keep you dry in light rain or snow for hours. The Teflon repellent finish plays a key role in providing wind and water resistance without impairing the feel or breathability. In one of our trips, we’ve been walking for more than an hour in light rain and there was no problem whatsoever – the water beaded on the outside of the garment and rolled off the surface without permeating the fabric. Still, a waterproof breathable jacket is recommended when it’s pouring rain.
The jacket also offers a good wind resistance sufficient to ward off even high winds.
The main negative aspect related to DWR-treated garments is valid and for the Blizzard StormStretch jacket – you’ll need to be prepared to reproof the water repellent coating regularly to keep the level of weather resistance intact.
Breathability, ventilation, and drying speed
Good ventilation and proper moisture management are critical for staying dry from the inside. Totally wind-resistant and breathable (or air-permeable) are two terms at the opposite end of the scale. Unlike summer pursuits, traveling in winter conditions doesn’t require air permeability. Still, obviously, you’d need to avoid overheating by releasing the accumulated heat out. Here comes ventilation. The Helikon Blizzard provides great ventilation thanks to the underarm ventilation zips, mesh-lined pockets, the non-restrictive cut of the jacket, two-way front zipper, and custom-molded cuff tabs. All of these improve airflow to regulate body temperature and prevent overheating during longer and more intense tours.
The drying time of the jacket is pretty fast because of the Teflon-treated fabric as it repels most of the water other fabrics would soak in. The excellent ventilation and fast-drying properties allow using this jacket in a range of conditions and environments including relatively warm weather.
Weight and packability
A key factor to consider, weight is especially important for ultralighters and all those who prefer to travel lightweight. The Blizzard StormStretch weighs around 650 g (22.9 oz), which places it in the mid to lighter all-around softshell hooded jackets suitable for cold and winter days and pursuits. It’s also compact and fairly compressible for easy storage in your hiking pack.
Fit & Comfort
The black jacket pictured in this post is size XL and fits well a 186 cm (6’1″) person who weighs approximately 95 kg (210 lbs) and wears two to three technical base and mid-layers underneath. As the idea is to facilitate layering, the jacket has no lining other than mesh and it’s true to size (some may feel that it is a bit bigger than expected). The adjustable hook-and-loop cuffs, drawstring hem, and hood as well as the extended cut ensure that the garment can fit most body types very well. The adjustable features also allow for getting the proper fit according to the user’s preferences.
Except for the color ‘Black’, this model by Helikon-Tex is also available in five more colors (‘Adaptive Green’, ‘Coyote’, ‘Mud Brown’, ‘Shadow Grey’, and ‘Taiga Green’) to choose from plus one camouflage pattern (PenCott WildWood, a modern camouflage with an effective pattern geometry optimized for the mixed forested areas of Central and Eastern Europe). The availability of sizes (seven in total ranging from XS to 3XL) and colors (also seven) more than allow finding the proper combination for your needs.
The jacket is very comfortable and flexible without being unnecessarily stretchy. This allows for the needed freedom of movement for active people without risking the construction become too baggy with time. The comfort-enhancing features and cleaner silhouette ensure a good balance between all-day comfort and unrestricted mobility on the trail.
Style and appearance
The Helikon Blizzard StormStretch looks great and the jacket’s appearance only hints at its versatility. The thoughtful design is streamlined to make sure that the jacket’s functionality is real, not on paper. The well-designed features are typical for high-quality hiking and tactical jackets. On the other hand, the stylish and somewhat urban look makes the Blizzard jacket perfect for town (well, the ID panels on the shoulders aren’t among the most typical features of non-military jackets but that’s all). ‘Versatility’ is one of the words that best describe this multifunctional softshell jacket.
Good fit, garment design, and functional details are key factors that determine the overall functionality of outdoor clothing. Here’s what you can expect from the most important technical features of the Blizzard StormStretch jacket:
Hood: with a couple of drawstrings and cord locks (three cord locks in total – one on the back of the hood and two on the left and right sides), the stowaway hood is easy to fit even if you’re wearing a warm hat underneath. Additionally, there’s a hook-and-loop overlay tape on the back of the hood, which can expand the volume of the hood significantly. The hood has an integrated visor to keep your face away from wind and rain.
Pockets: the Helikon Blizzard jacket comes with six mesh-lined pockets in total where you could store some essentials such as maps, documents, keys, wallets, etc. Zippers with zipper pull secure four of them (two chest pockets and two bicep or shoulder pockets). The last two don’t have a zipper but they are situated inside each of the chest pockets plus the opening is smaller so don’t worry – your personal belongings should stay in place.
Each of the two chest pockets comes with a guard flap and a two-way YKK zipper. The pockets are large enough to accommodate lots of stuff. That’s the good news. The problem is that it isn’t very comfortable keeping more than a couple of small items or a map or documents there (we’ve tried with a pair of gloves and a warm hat in the left and right pocket respectively but they made a bulge under the jacket and it felt a bit strange and uncomfortable). Most people don’t carry lots of things in their jacket’s pockets when on the trail so it shouldn’t be a big problem.
Each of the two smaller pockets inside the Napoleon pockets can accommodate a modern smartphone or something similar. Stashing your phone there is convenient. The main problem with these pockets is that they’re too narrow for a standard wallet. So you’ll have to keep your wallet in your back pocket or in your backpack.
The two bicep zip pockets serve to provide added storage. They can be used for easy access to small accessories.
Hem and cuff closures: there’s an adjusting drawstring with cord locks to fit the bottom hem when necessary. The sleeves are the right length without being too long or too short. It’s easy to adjust the cuffs as they have hook-and-loop fasteners. Generally, if you need to tighten or loosen the fit, both the hem and cuff closures might come in handy.
Zippers: all the zippers are sturdy YKK zippers with a pull tab for easy grip. They are also easily operated with gloves on.
Articulation: anatomic cut with articulated sleeves promotes enhanced mobility so there’s no constriction. Since this feature is relevant to movement, this feature will be appreciated by outdoor enthusiasts who prefer participation in more extreme pursuits where movement is essential for performance. There’s also a slight drop in the back hem (the so-called “elongated” back) for comfortable coverage.
ID panels: there are two 9 x 11 cm (3.5” x 4.3”) hook-and-loop patch panels on the upper sleeves for detachable identification patches.
The Helikon-Tex Blizzard StormStretch Jacket is made with performance in mind combining good weather protection with well-designed features. It works really well in various environments and conditions making it a preferred choice for those who look for a functional and versatile jacket suitable for all kinds of outdoor activities.
We definitely consider the Blizzard StormStretch jacket to be a great choice for active people who’d need protection from the elements during their travels.
Disclaimer: Valentin Shekerov (Camotrek.com) received a sample jacket for this review.
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