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July 2015 Issue
Home / Gear reviews / Rain jackets

Outdoor Research Helium HD



Our Rating:

From the moment you pick it up and put it on, the Helium HD is a tactile experience and its unique qualities never fail to surprise.

Packing into its own pocket, it’s superlight and compact, weighing a mere 260g (w:233g). The 2.5-layer ripstop Pertex Shield+ fabric is translucent and feels even lighter than its 30 denier rating suggests. While rain shells are never intended to provide warmth, they should allow the wearer to remain dry. A water head rating of 20,000mm provides perfect rain resistance, but with a moisture vapour transfer rate (MVTR) of 7000g, it can, in some conditions, feel a little cold and clammy.

Opening the pit zips will help remedy this, but Pertex Shield is so light the zips are almost impossible to work without removing the jacket or pinching a sleeve cuff against your palm and holding your arm out tight.

The main zip is water resistant, while conventional zips grace the hip pockets and pits. Both storm flap-covered hip pockets are mesh-lined to improve the jacket’s breathability when left open.

The Helium is designed with a Raglan sleeve to remove the risk of wear across shoulder seams from pack straps. There’s plenty of room inside for extra layers, and with its climbing heritage the Helium’s hemline stays put when arms are lifted. The hood will accommodate a helmet and doesn’t pack away. It gapes below the chin and won’t pull up sufficiently to keep out wind and moisture from around your face. Although the hood moves freely with your head, the wired peak sits low and blocks your upward field of view.

The Helium HD is designed for rock climbing and light backpacking, and priced at $300 is a great option for those wanting a lightweight, good-for-everything jacket – unless you’re up against some gnarly bush lawyer.