Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants: wonderful waterproof trousers for boating

After storm-testing the Helly Hansen HP Foil pants, we reckon these are the best trousers for sailing, yachting and other boat-based shenanigans

T3 Platinum Award
Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants
(Image credit: Ed Smith)
T3 Verdict

Helly Hansen’s HP Foil Sailing Pants are excellent, hard-wearing and reliably weatherproof trousers for any sort of boat-based adventure where you’re going to be confronted with rain and saltwater spray, including coastal and inshore sailing, competitive yachting, sea fishing and speed boating.

Reasons to buy
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    Super waterproof

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    Lightweight and breathable

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    Zipped pockets

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    Velcro tightening at the ankles

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    PFC-free and bluesign certified

Reasons to avoid
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    Limited colours

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    No recycled content

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    Care required when washing

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Norwegian brand Helly Hansen have a sea-soaked heritage that stretches back over 140 years to a time when the man himself, Captain Helly Juell Hansen, started experimenting with different methods of keeping himself as warm and dry as possible in the unforgiving environment of Norway’s storm-strafed coast. In 1877, with his wife Margrethe, Helly launched a business making and selling waterproof oilskin jackets, trousers, sou’westers and tarpaulins made from coarse linen soaked in linseed oil.

The HP Foil Sailing Pants are not soaked in linseed oil, but although technology and fabrics have moved on, these sea-going strides are a direct descendent of the original Helly Hansen trousers, designed for maintaining a good degree of comfort while never shying away from hard graft. These pants are beloved by sailors, who need to be able to trust their kit and clobber in some of the toughest conditions imaginable.

Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants: specifications

  • Sizes: Up to XL
  • Weight: 650g
  • Materials: Polyamide with Helly Tech outer membrane and mesh inner
  • Water resistance: HH 15,000mm
  • Colours: Grey fog / Black

Helly Hansen HP Foil Pants

Helly Hansen's HP Foil Sailing Pants feature lots of reinforced sections to cope with the rough-and-tumble of life at sea

(Image credit: Ed Smith)

Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants: features

Comfort levels are enhanced by the two-layer construction, which includes a mesh inner that facilitates ventilation and prevents your nether regions getting too hot and sweaty when you’re working hard on deck.

The HP Foil Pants are stacked with features that enhance the functionality and feel of the trousers. For starters, the water- and windproofing capability that is so crucial when you’re out on the waves is supplied by a Helly Tech Performance membrane, which can deal with even the most tempestuous conditions, but still allows your legs to breath. The trousers have also been doused with a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) treatment, and they are fully seam sealed.

Helly Hansen HP Foil sailing pants

Helly Hansen's HP Foil sailing pants feature a mesh inner layer throughout, plus Velcro ankle fastenings and waterproof zipped pockets

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

There are two generously deep pockets on the front of the trousers, both of which feature waterproof zips, and they are positioned to be accessible while you are wearing a PFD.

The waist is secured by a hook and two poppers, but it’s fully adjustable, and there are belt loops if you require them, as well as a double-stitched hanger loop. The trouser bottoms can also be tightened around your ankles with Velcro to avoid drafts getting in.

The pants are reinforced in all the areas that bear the brunt of the rough-and-tumble activity that sailing is, including the seat and the knees (on a pitching sea you find your self crawling around on all fours an awful lot).

Helly Hansen HP Foil sailing pants

My Helly Hansen HP Foil sailing pants were baptised in brine during an action-packed sailing adventure on the cusp of the Celtic Sea

(Image credit: Ed Smith)

Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants: on the water 

I first wore my HP Foil pants while sailing off the coast of Swansea on the edge of a storm with professional sailor Joan Mulloy, who was brilliantly skippering a Figaro yacht with a decidedly amateur crew consisting of me and several other journalists who were all pretty green in terms of experience and face colour be the end of the trip.

It was quite the maiden voyage for the pants, and me, with some very heavy weather testing the trousers (and our stomachs) to the max. For six hours, from the moment we got on the RIB that transported us to and from to the yacht from Swansea Harbour, across increasingly mountainous seas, I was constantly soaked in rain and sea spray, yet my legs remained dry and warm all day.

The trousers not only performed their protective duties well, they were also very comfortable to wear. And whether I was clambering around the deck on my knees, or sat winching in the main sail, I was very glad of the reinforced material, which not only provides some welcome extra padding, but also vastly improves the lifespan of the pants.

Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants

A rear view of the Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Helly Hansen HP Foil Sailing Pants: overall verdict

Despite the popularity of the brand spilling over on to the High Street in more recent years, Helly Hansen still really excels when it comes to developing innovative and high-performing specialist gear for use in extreme environments, such as in the mountains and on the oceans. The HP Foil Sailing Pants are a perfect example of how Helly combines excellent materials with clever design to come up with a product that doesn’t necessarily look super flashy, but does its job with real flair. The fabrics, features and style of these trousers simply make them the perfect pants for wearing while sailing, whether you’re a serious racer, a weekend wave warrior or a laid-back pleasure boater.

Pat Kinsella
Freelance outdoor writer

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat Kinsella has been writing about outdoor pursuits and adventure sports for two decades. In pursuit of stories he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked across the Norwegian Alps, run ultras across the roof of Mauritius and through the hills of the Himalayas, and set short-lived speed records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. A former editor of several Australian magazines he’s a longtime contributor to publications including Sidetracked, Outdoor, National Geographic Traveller, Trail Running, The Great Outdoors, Outdoor Fitness and Adventure Travel, and a regular writer for Lonely Planet (for whom he compiled, edited and co-wrote the Atlas of Adventure, a guide to outdoor pursuits around the globe). He’s authored guides to exploring the coastline and countryside of Devon and Dorset, and recently wrote a book about pub walks. Follow Pat's adventures on Strava and instagram.