Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightest rain jacket tested, packs down really small.
Cons: The quest for helium weight means no hand pockets, no side zippered pockets.
Best Uses: Hiking, backpacking, ultralight backpacking, climbing.
Outdoor Research's Helium II was the most spartan, minimalist shell in our test group and wins our Top Pick award. It is well fitted to a outdoors woman’s closet. With its ability to pack down and compress to virtually snack bar size, then clip to your harness on a biner loop, this is our absolute choice for the unmitigated adventurer. This jacket is basically a crossover between a wind jacket and a rain shell, coupling the light-weight design of a windshell with the rain resistance of a rain shell. And it has a lifetime warranty. For more robust rain protection check out Marmot Oracle - Women's or the Patagonia Rain Shadow - Women's.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Comfort & Mobility
Testers really appreciated the comfortable fit of the Helium II. Despite its minimalist design it layers well and provides uninhibited movement during high activity. The jacket is so lightweight that it proved to be little burden no matter what application it was put to.
While the jacket does not provide any hindrance to active movement, it should be noted that there are really no comfort features on this jacket. It is minimalist in design to the max and has no fuzzy features or extra pockets to add comfort beyond the basic fit.
The Women’s Helium II is relatively slick looking, somewhat of a cut above. This shell is a simple, handsome choice for ladies. The well-built quality of the material and design recommend this jacket above some in the same price range, and maybe even some more expensive.
Female testers felt the Helium II is a great option for those tired of the sticky, new-tech fabrics that have inundated the rain jacket market. The Pertex® Shield fabric felt softer and less clammy against bare skin, making the jacket less of a sauna once your body heat radiates. Though the fabric had a better feeling to it, the lack of pit-zips or other means of increased air circulation prevented the jacket from breathing exceptionally well during high exertion activities. This shell, like many others reviewed, offers a version of breathability that is not at the same level you’d expect from an organic material but does offer rain protection, so we can’t quibble.
Pertex® Shield fabric advertises waterproof-ness, breathability and wind resistance. Helium II delivers to some degree on all those claims. It performs best as a contingency option when rain or winds threaten, but a strong storm isn’t necessarily imminent. From our testing it seems to be water resistant, not than 100 percent waterproof. We really like the super lightweight PU film laminated nylon, the taped seams and roomy hood that offer plenty of comfortable weather protection.
Weight and Bulk
One of the best features of this shell is how small it packs down and little it weighs. We weighed our women's jacket in at 5.8 ounces, making it the absolute lightest jacket in our testing group. The Helium II is the logical choice for serious backpackers, climbers or cyclists. It is the perfect choice for packable light wind and rain preparedness.
The Helium II is probably the one true, minimalist shell out of all the rain jackets we tested. It has pared down many of the features offered by the competition in favor of lightweight supremacy. Its true value lies in its absence of features: elastic cuffs, only one pocket located on the chest, one cinch for the hood, no mesh, no lining, no etceteras. This absence of features allows the jacket to weigh in at a scant 5.8 ounces and makes it the lightest jacket we tested by a long shot.
We understand what Outdoor Research was intending here and we really like the Helium II, but to be perfectly honest we do miss having side pockets. This is not a shell to spend a nice afternoon hiking in.
The hood is comfortable and roomy yet easy to adjust as it has just a single cinch on the backside of the hood. It has both a generous brim and inner dimensions for added protection - and a gal’s hair. We think your helmet will fit under your hood comfortably. The shell also provides fair rump coverage with its lengthened backside.
— Erisa Coppernoll
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Most recent review: November 28, 2012
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