Helite Zip’In 2 Airbag
- Comfortable and not restrictive
- Compatible outers to suit leisurewear or competition
- Outers are machine washable
- The airvest plus an outer is a significant investment
Price as reviewed:
£469.00 for adult equestrian sizes
Helite Zip’In 2 Airbag
The discreet and close-fitting Helite Zip’In 2 Airbag is designed so it can be worn alone, or under an approved outer layer. It has a lanyard trigger system that you attach to your saddle via a supplied strap, which slips over the stirrup bars. This provides a D ring in front of the pommel that I could quickly and easily attach the lanyard clip to using one hand, while holding my reins in the other.
The air jacket is activated when you are separated from the saddle by sufficient distance and velocity to extend the elasticated lanyard to its full length, pulling the keyball out of the trigger, which leads the vest to inflate in less 0.1 second.
*Update: 30 April 2023* I have now tested the air vest when parting company with my horse during a jump training session. The vest inflated as expected, and I was able to remount and continue with my jumping lesson after my fall. I felt the air vest protected my torso from bruising when I fell directly on to the jump. I did not feel winded by the air vest activating.
Starting with the vest on its own, I was impressed with how lightweight and comfortable it was to wear. My previous experience with an airvest has been wearing a body protector and airvest together, so this feels much less restrictive and far lighter by comparison. However, if you are intending to compete in cross-country competitions, you would need to wear an approved body protector, then you can add an airvest over the top for added protection if you wish. For dressage and showjumping competitions, the airvest can be worn without a body protector. Airvests are also becoming a popular option for the hunting field.
The air canister that inflates the airvest when triggered is concealed into the vest on the right-hand side under a zip (shown below) and, although there is a little weight to it (about 150g for the 50cc cannister), once I was wearing the vest, I didn’t notice it.
The vest is fastened with a front zip and has elasticated mesh sides for a neat fit. It is made from a lightweight technical fabric with a breathable mesh lining, containing the inflatable airbags.
I am a UK size 8 and I am testing the XS size, which carries the 50cc canister. Other size vests require different sized canisters. The canisters are the screw-in type. I found it straight forward to replace the canister following the instructions in the user guide. I recommend keeping both the Allen key and a spare canister to hand so you can replace it as needed following an activation.
For the purpose of this review, I have also been supplied with a selection of outer layers to try. Some of these are designed so the airvest and the outer can be quickly and easily integrated into one garment, via the Zip’In system, which makes them both comfortable and very easy to wear.
Helite Airshell Prestige Vest Outer
This gilet is made from a softshell material, which is water repellent and windproof. I am testing the navy gilet with red/white trim, but it is also available with a black/white trim, and in sizes child L to adult XXL. The RRP starts at £117 for child L.
It has an attractive, sporty appearance that makes it ideal for daily wear outside the competition environment, whether riding at home or out training. I have received positive comments from fellow riders in both situations. It has a soft collar with matching material around the hips and smart piping over the shoulders. There is a discrete opening that the lanyard can be passed through to secure it easily to the saddle.
As one of Helite’s own brand outers, the airvest zips quickly and easily into the gilet, making it a breeze to use as a single piece of clothing. The gilet provides external protection to the airvest and is washable at 30°, which the airvest is not. The gilet has washed well in my washing machine, coming up looking as good as new.
I have worn this outer with the airvest combined for showjumping training, flatwork schooling and hacking. It was very comfortable in all cases. At no time did I feel impeded by the lanyard, or restricted by the vest/gilet. I liked the smart appearance and felt confident knowing that were I to part company with my horse, I would have the protection of the airvest to help me avoid injury. This helped me to remain relaxed in the saddle on occasions when my horse felt a little more spicy than usual!
It was far less restrictive than wearing a combined body protector with airvest and after riding I was cooler than I typically was having had a similar ride while wearing the combined option. I have also worn this outer with the airvest over my body protector while cross-country schooling successfully.
Helite Airjump Jacket Outer
This smart Helite-branded black show jacket is also designed so the airvest can be quickly and easily zipped inside to make it into a single item of clothing. It’s available in black, in child L to adult XXL, with an RRP of £320.
The jacket is fastened with a hidden zip, plus three H-branded brushed silver buttons/press studs in front, with a small disk on the back of the collar.
The jacket has pipped edges, two outside pockets with discrete zip fastenings, and there are two riding vents at the rear. There is a perforated section of material under the arms to improve breathability. It also has the small opening on the front to allow the airvest lanyard to pass through.
My initial impression is that it looks smart and is comfortable to wear. It is machine washable at 30degrees. I have not yet tried it in the saddle.
LotusRomeo for H show jacket
This stylish ladies show jacket is made from an extremely stretchy and lightweight soft mesh material. It is designed to be worn over the top of the Helite Zip’In 2 Airvest, but is not attached to it, leaving two separate garments.
The jacket is fastened by a concealed zip behind four plastic buttons. It has open-topped pockets on the front on both sides, double vent to the rear and the all-important opening to the front to allow the lanyard to pass through.
The fashionable cut is very close fitting, which is further accentuated by the material, meaning it is an attractive choice for a slim figure, but it is less flattering for anyone with natural lumps or bumps that they prefer not to show to the world. It also shows the slight extra bulk of the air jacket more than the black jacket with the thicker material.
I expect this jacket will be a great option for the summer months, thanks to its excellent breathability. It can also be worn on its own without the air jacket if you wish. Although Helite recommend that you wear the same size outer to the air vest, as this jacket is worn as a separate outer, I would recommend sizing up if you prefer a less closely fitted jacket.
H&H Approved – Even without the outers, the Helite Zip’In 2 Airbag is a stylish option for anyone wanting extra protection while riding with the minimum of bulk and no restriction. The range of outers, which is far more extensive than those outlined above, makes it a great option for both leisure and competition riders. The only downside I can see is the price, but I believe it is an investment that will pay back in spades when it comes to rider confidence and safety.
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Who tested the Helite Zip’In 2 Airbag with outers?
Carol Phillips is Horse & Hound’s website editor, who has ridden since childhood. She has an Irish Sport Horse kept at livery, who she is training with grassroots eventing in mind and rides most days.
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