Responsible Everlasting Water Repellency: LIFA INFINITY PRO™
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
– Arthur C Clarke
Humans have always looked for ways to guard against rain and snow, and the methods have been plentiful, often ingenious, like the Inuits’ use of seal and whale intestines. In recent decades, we’ve relied mostly on waterproof synthetics that derive their waterproofing from chemical treatments. This season, the evolution of water repellency takes an important step forward with the introduction of Helly Hansen’s LIFA INFINITY PRO™.
Many of the ski and outdoor professionals we’ve worked with expressed the same wish: a waterproof and breathable jacket that doesn’t need re-waterproofing. For years it was just a pipe dream, so we are extremely proud to announce that as of this season, the dream has turned real – in a responsible way.
LIFA INFINITY PRO™ is a new technology that provides professional-grade waterproof/breathable performance with everlasting durable water repellency, achieved without any added chemical treatments during production. In plain English, this means that you will stay dry and never have to reproof your garment with chemical treatment.
The world of yesterday
Most ski jackets and pants have a hyper-thin Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating on the outside face fabric; this coating is what causes water droplets to bead up and roll off. The downside of DWR treatments is that they must be washed often to maintain performance – that can also require re-treatment.
There are various types of DWRs, but most often, when your ski apparel “stops working” it is simply because its DWR layer has faded away, flaked off, or been soiled by dirt, grime, or other agents (food residue, other liquids, campfire smoke, snot, etc.).
Once a jacket’s face fabric starts absorbing water rather than repelling it (this is called “wetting out”), the breathability of the jacket also stops functioning properly. If you lose breathability in a jacket, your body heat and sweat vapor cannot escape, creating more moisture vapor, leading to a “leaking” feeling of moisture against your skin. This is referred to as “sweating out” from the inside. In summary, if your technical ski jacket is “wetting out”, it is time to clean it.
No matter how careful you are, the DWR coating on waterproof/breathable fabrics fails over time and certain steps are needed to revive the water repellency. You know the drill: Tech wash, rinse, dry, revive, spray test, if water doesn’t bead up, reapply DWR (preferably wash-in DWR aftercare treatment), dry. (Here’s an article on how to do it.)
This process is not only a question of convenience, it is also a matter of a garment’s durability, life cycle, and ecological footprint.
“I have been skiing more than 70 days with the jacket last winter, from casual piste days to mountaineering, hiking, and freeride powder days, and the jacket is still perfect.”
– Aurélien Ducroz
One of Helly Hansen’s major focus areas is to prevent leakage of chemicals into the environment and our waters. Traditionally, what’s known as PFAS chemistry has been the standard in many DWR treatments. However, this has been proven harmful for nature and living organisms, so we are therefore phasing out PFAS chemicals from our products.
During the last three years, we have experienced a large improvement in PFAS-free DWR development from chemical suppliers and also from our manufacturers in the application process. We have developed 56% of the sportswear fabrics in PFAS-free DWR, and all kids’ products are now made with PFAS-free treatments. With LIFA INFINITY PRO™, we are unlocking a new era in chemical-free water repellency without compromising on performance.
Using LIFA® technology, a proprietary Helly Hansen fiber that is lightweight and hydrophobic, we created a fully waterproof/breathable membrane and durable water repellent performance without the use of chemicals. Combining the LIFA INFINITY™ membrane with 100% LIFA® hydrophobic face fabric, LIFA INFINITY PRO™ is a groundbreaking technology, meeting the extreme waterproofness and breathability of HELLY TECH® Professional construction. The result is professional-grade, everlasting water repellent protection that never needs to be reproofed with chemical treatment after use – all you need is tech wash, no tumble drying or reactivation is needed.
Behind the tech
Issam Yousef, Technical Expert in the Product & Development department at Helly Hansen, led the fabric team on the development of the LIFA INFINITY PRO™ technology. His team’s work has already gained attention, receiving the ISPO Award Gold Winner recognition and the Red Dot 2020 award for innovative products.
“We are thrilled that our new responsible waterproof/breathable technology has been rewarded with these awards,” says Yousef. Philip Tavell, Category Managing Director for Ski at Helly Hansen, adds, “We worked tirelessly to bring a new technology to market that was truly revolutionary, and we are honored to receive this recognition.”