The Helly Hansen Sailsafe inshore lifejacket - popularised by racing sailors the Helly Hansen brand often demands a premium price tag. We check if this simple red lifejacket is worth the extra.
Helly Hansen SailSafe
The Helly Hansen brand is well known and commands a premium price tag to go with it. In our test we looked at the SailSafe Inshore model.
The lifejacket is a basic model, though compliant with the relevant ISO rating for a lifejacket with a harness loop.
We wanted to know what you’re getting for that premium price tag.
The Helly Hansen SailSafe lifejacket feels quite nice to the touch. It has a soft, slightly silky outer casing. It weighs in at 995grams fully armed.
To the front there’s a traditional metal buckle closure, which some people love for its basic simplicity but others dislike because it can be fiddle with cold hands or with gloves on.
Initially we were all perplexed as to where the crotch strap was. No lifejacket, certainly not an ISO rated lifejacket these days will come as standard without one. After a moment turning it around and looking for it, we found it neatly stowed in a back panel.
I doubt very much that the crotch strap will be stowed back in there after every use, it’s quite a tight fit, but it’s a thoughtful detail on this lifejacket that others don’t have. Crotch strap stowage is a point of annoyance for many, including manufacturers who cringe when they see people walking around with it dangling around on the floor getting trodden on and the buckle potentially damaged in the process.
For the rest of our dry testing, we found the SailSafe to be fairly average scoring on all other aspects of user function and maintenance.
Repacking it was another matter. Whilst the casing is soft touch, the zips were really fiddly to get back into place. It took three of us (all seasoned sailors with years of practice repacking our own lifejackets) to finally wiggle and persuade this lifejacket back into its casing. Maybe with a little more practice it would be easier.
Satisfied it was repacked properly we took it off to the pool for a thorough dunking.
James comments from the pool test, “it’s very comfortable with everything to hand that needs to be. The lifting strop isn’t marked. It didn’t turn me over from face down (rudimentary non-laboratory tests conducted in our flat calm pool show that some lifejackets can be very slow to rotate their wearers, with some running out of breath while they waited. This in no way invalidates an ISO lab test and we have no doubt that this lifejacket would perform to the standard for which it is certified – Ed). The bottle positioning is on the inside of the bladder facing my body, but it works fine.”
The bladder is yellow not fluoro yellow like some of the others. Visiblity is good or adequate. The inflation tube is in a good position and the whistle is easy to find tethered to the oral inflation tube. The lifting strop was found under the lifejacket.
The Helly Hansen SailSafe soft casing allows it to pack away neatly into a kit bag.
Despite the difficulty rezipping the lifejacket for repacking, it is quite easy to unzip a small section to check on the trigger mechanism to check the arming status and CO2 bottle is secure.
Helly Hansen SailSafe Inshore Lifejacket
Price from £150
How our lifejacket scored on average out of 10 for each of our criteria
6 – Adjust speed ease difficulty
4 – Fastening buckle ease with gloves
7 – Comfort women body size (when tested by men 4)
3 – Practicality. bulk snagging
7 – Positioning of essential items
NA- Accessory attachment / kill cord loop
7 – Night view / reflectors / light (if fitted)
5 – Ease of checking bottle / trigger status
4 – Unpacking / repacking
5 – Style
8 – In water score
56% Total as a percentage
The Helly Hansen Sail Safe lifejacket is a lightweight coastal lifejacket with the ubiquitous HH branding. You get good performance all over but for the (relatively high) price it does feel that you are paying for a name and higher specified lifejackets are available at a lower price.