Outdoor Research Men's Helium II Jacket
|Price:||$67.84 - $294.46|
|Sale:||Lower price available on select options|
- Fully seam taped
- Stuff pocket w/ webbing loop
- Zippered chest pocket
- Reflective trim on hood
- Adjustable hood
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Outdoor Research made the Helium II a jacket you simply can't afford to leave at home. At only 6.4 ounces, it packs down to the size of a granola bar. It's also incredibly waterproof.
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FIT: I ordered my Helium II one size too large with the intention of layering it over a down jacket while hiking. Even with this in mind, the fit is very nice. The jacket doesn't balloon out the way some other lightweight windbreakers / rain jackets do. However, this is really only true when the jacket is zipped at least halfway. Anything less than that, and the fabric is too slick / the jacket too light to stay in place.
COMFORT: With regards to comfort, this jacket is fantastic. It is very lightweight, so you don't really notice it too much when layered over a t-shirt. While the fabric does feel a little clammy, it isn't as bad as other plastic / wax rain jackets I've owned in the past.
ADJUSTABILITY: This is one area where I wouldn't mind a few extra ounces. The Helium II was designed to keep it as lightweight as possible. In this endeavor, Outdoor Research took out the wrist adjustment straps in favor of elastic wrist openings (only half of each opening is elastic). You do still get a waist adjustment strap (hidden on the right hand side), and a hood adjustment bungee (hidden at the back of the hood), but that's about it.
I haven't found that I really need any other adjustments, but they would certainly be nice to have. For instance, the wrist openings are just a little larger than my wrists, so I get water running in if I have my arms angled upwards. This hasn't proved to be too big of an issue so far, but I would much prefer dry(er) arms.
CONSTRUCTION: I have been fairly impressed with the construction of the Helium II so far. It uses Pertex Shield+ 2.5L 30D ripstop nylon and all the seams are well sealed. What this means is a lightweight and thoroughly weatherproofed jacket.
DESIGN: The design of the Helium II includes a lot of nice features. The hood and waistband have adjustable bungee cords. The sleeves include partially elastic wrist openings. There is a zippered pocket on the chest and a velcro pocket inside the left-hand side of the jacket body. The internal pocket also includes a small loop for attaching your keys. All in all, the Helium II is very well outfitted for a minimalist rain jacket.
WATER RESISTANCE: I have worn this jacket a few times on the trail when it started to spit, but nothing too serious. Then, a few weeks ago, we got hit with a rainstorm the likes of which I haven't seen since I left Kansas. Much to the surprise of my coworkers, I grabbed my Helium II and asked if anyone wanted drinks from Starbucks (about .75 miles away). The rain was coming down so far that you could hardly see across the parking lot, so I figured this would be a perfect test!
After walking to Starbucks and back, my torso (with the exception of my forearms — I was carrying a tray of coffee) was perfectly dry. My pants could have been wrung out and used to create a small reservoir, but all told I was very impressed with my new rain jacket's weather resistance abilities.
BREATHABILITY: Unfortunately, the water resistance of the Helium II does come at the cost of breathability. While the Helium II is more breathable than the plastic ponchos I used to use when I first started hiking, it doesn't breath as well as heavier, more feature-rich jackets out there. I don't notice this too much as mine is a size larger than I would normally wear, but it does become apparent while hiking in the rain.
In spite of the fact that the jacket keeps the rain out, I end up getting a little damp from perspiration. In the end, the tradeoff of breathability for weight is worth it in my eyes. I have never found a jacket that allowed me to stay 100% dry while walking in the rain. This one does about as good a job as any, but at a fraction of the weight, which makes it easier to carry and makes me more comfortable when it's packed away.
WIND RESISTANCE: The Helium II has proven itself to be virtually wind-proof. It won't keep you warm (given how thin 30D fabric is), but by cutting out the wind, you can dramatically improve the performance of other layers.
LAYERING: Outdoor Research sizes the Helium II for "normal fit". By ordering mine one size up, I got a jacket that layers perfectly over my down jacket. I went out yesterday in ~40°F weather with 12mph winds. While my down jacket was warm enough by itself, adding the Helium II on top of it really boosted the warmth! When layering, the Helium II's collar zips high under the chin to keep water from getting in and soaking your other layers.
PACKABILITY: The Helium II weighs in at 6.4oz, so it's easy to find a space in your pack for it. If you like keeping everything nice and neat in your pack, you can also stuff the Helium II into its own pocket. To do this, you have to turn the pocket inside out and pull the rest of the jacket into it. The zipper is a little awkward when the pocket is turned inside out, but it works well enough as a storage pouch. Even when packed, the jacket has plenty of room for further compression.
Its small, its light, no-nonsense and it has already seen adventure without any leak or holes for me.
The zipper is a waterproof zipper and the jacket is all around comfortable.
The adjustable hood is well made and won't move around even in windy conditions. The cuffs aren't adjustable but they're just fine and stay in place.
The only con would be the price: when this is not on sale, its a little expensive for what you get - but at the end of the day its a nice reliable and packable jacket.
Finally, this is my experience using this while both mountain biking (for a few days in Scotland, 14h/day and it's been raining 60% of the time), and sailing (windy, no rain). It breathes just as well as any other "breathable" waterproof jacket, which is, it's neither great or horrible. Heck, if I can mtb with it for hours it's certainly better than a sealed polyurethane 15usd jacket!
Great in a layering system....can take it with you all the time.
Only negative is that there is only a single pocket....but then again that's why it's so light and compact.
Be aware that the fit is a little narrower profile than standard raingear.
That's why it looks so good when traveling.
As others have mentioned, you need to be careful to not crease the visor on the hood,
so I roll it up into the hood, and purchased a small Sea-to-Summit stuff sack that is
just a little larger than the jacket stuff pocket. I just used it on a month long trip to Europe
and it's still in mint condition.
I have the XL and it's tricky to fit over an armored XL motorcycle jacket. It's fine once it's on, doesn't restrict movement. but it's a little tight. An XXL would have fit better over the moto jacket, but would have been huge to wear around town while not riding the bike.
The Helium is a pricey product but if you're counting grams for overland travel, it lives up to its billing.