By Christophe Noel
Even the most bluebird summers are visited by periods of rain and foul weather. Depending where you live and travel, the inverse may be the norm. When I lived in Haines, Alaska my typical summer could see continuous weeks of liquid sunshine punctuated by teasing moments of actual sunlight. We lovingly called those breaks in the clouds, sucker holes. Needless to say, in those environs a technical jacket was like second skin and even now I rarely leave home without a proper rain layer. Over the years I’ve found plenty of jackets to keep the rain at bay, but few have impressed me as a proper travel piece. That is until I met up with the Helly Hansen Ask Weather jacket.
The eponymously named Helly Hansen brand was founded in 1877 providing sea farers and land lubbers of the Pacific Northwest with protective garments made of fine oiled canvas. This is to say, they’ve been at it a very long time and it shows. Time and technology have advanced in lockstep and Helly Hansen now provides adventurers worldwide with an extensive array of weather ready options for all seasons. The Ask Weather Jacket is their answer to those in search of a lightweight, fully featured summer rain layer. I think it’s brilliant.
The first thing to catch my attention was the soft hand of the Helly Tech® Protection fabric. Unlike other jackets, the Ask Weather isn’t stiff and noisy. It’s supple and light, tempting me to doubt it’s ability to fend off even mild precipitation. Dubious in my advancing years, I find myself proven wrong with increasing frequency. The Ask Weather has kept me bone dry throughout several months of storms. Not to dismiss it’s primary purpose to keep me dry and happy, it is the Ask Weather’s many other features that have made it my favorite shell layer.
If I were to distill my impressions of the Ask Weather to one word it would be – pockets. It has lots of pockets. I’m not a chronic organizer, but I do have an affinity for a fine assemblage of pockets, and the Ask Weather has plenty. Four bellowed pockets swallow keys, phone, wallet, and more with ease. The two lower pockets are backed with zipper-enclosed secondary pockets and an internal Napoleon pocket keeps critical items tucked safely away. The draw string waist pulls the jacket in close and the stowaway hood creates a tall collar capable of protecting my neck from blowing wind and spray. Reflective accents at the cuff and neck pay homage to the nautical heritage of the Helly Hansen brand, but serve a practical purpose when out and about in the low visibility of a rainy night. One of my favorite aspects of the Ask Weather jacket its trim and tailored cut. Many rain jackets fit like a spinnaker wrapped around a busted mast, to use nautical lexicon. The Ask Weather is sleek and lean. No bat wing sleeves or boxy torso, it’s a sharp looking jacket.
Summer may seem like an odd time to review a jacket, but not all summers are sunshine and sunscreen. You may not Ask Weather to bring you buckets of rain, but rain it may. When it does rain, I know which jacket I’ll reach for.