Helly Hansen’s Enigma jacket is not only the most expensive piece of outdoor clothing I’ve ever tested — it retails for $700! — but it also is one of the more feature-loaded and unique. The Norwegian brand is known for building high-end adventure wear and pieces tough enough to be used by guides and professionals who work outdoors. This jacket is no exception.
But beyond quality manufacturing, the jacket is a unique winter creature: It looks and functions like a hard shell jacket, including a waterproof/breathable fabric. But unzip and look inside: Those are pillows of goose down insulation that polka-dot the interior.
In all, Helly includes 15 hexagonal, down-filled pillows scattered throughout the interior. Air fills in between the pillows, Helly touts, adding warmth but also helping with airflow and breathability if you vent the jacket when things heat up. There’s PrimaLoft insulation in the shell, too, making the Enigma one super cozy coat.
But in testing, my best experiences in the jacket were in more active moments. The Enigma lacks the warmth of a full-down puffy, so standing around in the cold is not its best use. It’s tailored to move, and specifically move with a skier who is shredding the white on a high mountain run.
Indeed, this is a ski-specific jacket, and with that you get the many bells and whistles that often accompany jackets of this ilk. There are several stowable or removable features like the hood, powder skirt, and a balaclava. Everything that could be made adjustable is in fact adjustable. Got foggy goggles? Just reach into the chest pocket and use the goggle-swipe. It’s attached to an alligator-clipped, stretchy leash. No kidding.
The ensconcing wrist gaiters have thumb loops. Long vertical zippers on the chest open to provide airflow, and anywhere the jacket touches the skin it is lined in a soft, felted fabric.
With all the extras and its bulk of insulation, slipping into the jacket I immediately noticed its weight. At about 3.75lbs this is a heavy coat! But, of course, it’s not just any coat, as the build of the Enigma is made to stand in for at least a “normal” ski jacket and a couple layers.
But again, how about that price tag?! Can any single ski jacket be worth $700? Beyond its versatility and its potential to eliminate the need for multiple jackets or layers, the Enigma is a very nice and impressively well-made piece. Zippers pull smoothly, its fabrics feel expensive, and even the logos are silvery badges that scream “high-end.” It creates an experience of luxury for sure, right down to friends exclaiming “Nice Jacket!”
For me, that price is still a very tough sell. But if you long for one single jacket to meet your skiing needs and have an affinity for the nicer things in life, the Enigma could be a fit. Women’s version also available, tiny pillows of goose down included in all.
—T.C. Worley is a contributing editor.