Ounce-conscious, multi-condition, and blizzard-proof: Black Diamond’s three-in-one Helio glove system aims to tackle the worst weather and adjust to the not-so-bad.
Black Diamond Equipment released the Helio Three-In-One Gloves in fall 2017. With it, the brand promised a lightweight, waterproof system for alpine adventurers focused on trimming gear weight.
The Helio system consists of insulated Dyneema rip-stop shells with goat-leather palms and fleece liner gloves. Each component can be worn separately to handle wet or shoulder-season weather. But combine them, and you’ve got a serious winter alpine glove.
We’ve been testing a production sample in the North Cascades of Washington. The gloves sell for $200, and weigh 8.2 ounces per pair (size medium).
In short: The Black Diamond Equipment Helio-Three-in-One Gloves provide alpinists and backcountry skiers a lightweight and waterproof system that keeps hands warm in all but the most frigid conditions. The interchangeable system worked well in mild, cold, and wet weather. The liners’ touchpad fingers did not work on phone screens in our test.
Black Diamond Helio Layering System
Each Helio outer shell has 40 grams of PrimaLoft Gold insulation and Gore-Tex inserts to provide a waterproof-breathable barrier. Inside, fleece and tricot provide next-to-skin comfort. Dyneema ripstop houses these layers, while goat leather lends grip and dexterity to the fingers and palms.
Captive cord locks and elastic drawcords seal the gauntlets, and rubberized Velcro straps on the backs and elastic on the wrists tighten those junctions. Hang/pull loops sit on the back of each middle finger, suede patches along the thumbs ease the pain of nose rubbing, and reflective logos help keep the gloves visible in the dark.
And while the shells can clip to each other, they cannot clip to their matching liners.
Meanwhile, the fleece liners can be worn separately for less intense weather. These gloves have soft shell backers and grippy laminations on the palm sides. There are patches sewn on the tips of the index and thumb, presumably for touchscreen use. But, as previously noted, these proved difficult.
Elastic secures the wrists, reflective logos aid nighttime searches, and – like the shells – the liners clip to one another.
Black Diamond Helio Shell and Liner Review
I tested the gloves during an avalanche safety course in the North Cascades of Washington during December. The course involved snowshoeing into backcountry with plenty of snow-digging. The activities and conditions varied greatly over the three-day course, so I used Helios in every manner: liners by themselves, shells by themselves, and as a united system.
I opted for liners only when actively moving between class sites. Temps then typically ranged in the 30s. Here, they proved breathable and warm during low-intensity aerobic activity. And they provided good grip on the poles, offering great dexterity when accessing buckles, zippers, and avalanche beacon controls.
Plus, any built-up perspiration dried quickly. Though light rain beaded up on the backs, anything more would eventually soak through. Unfortunately, I never could operate my phone with the patches on the index and thumb tips.
I used the shells by themselves when we had to dig in the snow for burial search-and-rescue drills. Again, the temperatures hovered in the 30s, and again the Helio provided ample warmth. I noticed great dexterity when assembling a probe and good grip on shovels.
I could still operate avalanche beacon controls, and most zippers and buckles, without removing the shells. Threading webbing through smaller buckles or working with laces, however, required me to remove the shells. Warmth inside the shell alone was impressive, as my hands were in contact with snow repeatedly for long periods.
The fleece and tricot liner that’s part of the shell never left my hands feeling clammy, even with moderate perspiration – thank you, Gore-Tex. I appreciated that the inner layers of the fingers didn’t easily pull out when removing the gloves, which is a common frustration with other shells, especially with sweaty hands.
Black Diamond Helio Three-in-One System Review
I employed the entire Helio Three-In-One Gloves system when the temperatures dipped into the 20s. The system was warm, even when standing still listening to class lectures in the field.
On the last day of the avalanche class, the group of five headed higher up in search of avalanche zones. That afternoon brought steady rain with temperatures hovering around freezing. So I kept both shells and liner gloves in play to gauge the waterproofing of the entire system. When it was all said and done at the trailhead, I was the only one with completely dry liner gloves.
To be sure, there was a tangible loss of dexterity and feel, obviously due to the added thickness. But this also resulted from the liner gloves sliding inside the shell at the fingers.
Overall, my primary issue with the Helio system was the absence of a clip between the liners and their matched shells. This would make removing and donning shells for added dexterity simpler and would help eliminate dropped or lost shells (easily modified with a single clip).
Black Diamond Helio Gloves: Final Impressions
The Helio glove system has proven durable in our tests. Digging by hand, handling sharp snowshoe crampons, shoveling, probing, and poling during the avalanche class didn’t cause any visible damage.
If keeping weight low in your alpine glove system is a priority, the Black Diamond Equipment Helio Three-In-One Gloves offer a versatile option.