Outdoor Research Helios Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, packable
Cons: Poor ventilation, smaller than average brim, not very stylish
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Outdoor Research Helios
|Price||$37.95 at Backcountry|
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|$41.25 at Amazon|
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|$25.93 at REI|
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|Check Price at Backcountry|
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|$34.95 at Amazon|
|Pros||Lightweight, comfortable, packable||Lightweight, durable, great sun protection||Excellent protection, removable cape, good in the wind, good value||Great protection all around, especially on the back; brim is angled for longer protection, good ventilation, comfortable||Comfortable, very breathable, good color, great value|
|Cons||Poor ventilation, smaller than average brim, not very stylish||Not super stylish||Looks a little funny, can get hot on the back of your neck||Not stylish, brim is not crushable, shows stains easily||Not very stylish, brim could be wider|
|Bottom Line||This comfortable, durable hat has a wide brim and provides great value||This hat wins our Editors' Choice for Technical Use for being the highest performing and most versatile of the bunch||This super protective hat is lightweight, versatile, and an excellent value, winning our Best Buy Award||This hat has great coverage and is a good choice for any sunny activity, although it is not the most stylish||One of our top choices for a full brim hat that is extremely comfortable and breathable and a great value|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research He...||day Afternoons Ultr...||Outdoor Research Ru...||day Afternoons Adve...||The North Face Hori...|
|Specs||Outdoor Research He...||day Afternoons Ultr...||Outdoor Research Ru...||day Afternoons Adve...||The North Face Hori...|
|Weight (ounces)||2.3 oz||2.6 oz||2.8 oz||2.6 oz||2.9 oz|
|Size of Brim (inches)||2.75"||3.25", with 6" neck cape||2.75 brim, 7.25" neck cape||3.75", 7.25" neck cape||2.9"|
|Material||86% nylon, 14% polyester||88% nylon, 12% polyester dobby||100% Supplex nylon||100% nylon with 100% polyester mesh insets||Nylon Ripstop, 97% recycled polyester mesh lined|
|Packable/compressible||Yes||Yes||Yes||No - do not fold or compress the brim. Packs Flat||Yes|
|Size tested||L||L||L||M 21" - 23"||L/XL|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Outdoor Research Helios is a super comfortable, durable little hat that's a great value. It is comfortable and lightweight, it packs down to almost nothing, and it holds up to endless folding and stuffing into packs and pockets. If maximum sun protection is your top priority, you'll probably be happier with a cape-style hat. But if you want a comfortable full-brim hat that won't break your wallet, read on to see if the Helios is the one for you.
The Helios is a full-brim hat, and in general, we found the full-brim hats we tested to be less protective overall than the cape-style hats. The Helios scored in the middle of the pack in the protection category. This hat has a 2- 3/4-inch brim all the way around. This is one of the narrower brims in our test group, which means this hat doesn't keep as much sun off your face and neck as wider-brimmed hats. But on the upside, the Helios's brim is narrow enough that it doesn't interfere with a loaded backpack as much as the wider-brimmed hats. And, it doesn't obscure the view as much. This means that you're more likely to keep this hat on your head when wearing a pack. A hat you'll wear is much more protective than the one you won't.
We wore the Helios in a variety of weather, including light rain. We were impressed that this lightweight, breathable material was able to keep the rain out as well as protect us from the sun.
Thanks to its simplicity and its lightweight material, the Helios shines here, scoring toward the top of the pack. This model comes in three sizes and is adjustable via a cinch cord in the crown, which makes it easy to get a perfect fit. Even when the cinch cord is pulled quite tight due to windy conditions, the pressure is evenly distributed and we didn't find any points of pain or discomfort. The only tiny gripe we have with the Helios is that the front of the crown is quite straight, rather than curved to fit the shape of a forehead. This caused us to notice the fabric on our foreheads, even if it didn't dig in. This was a really small issue, but it's one we didn't have with other hats.
The Helios is made of lightweight material that feels good against the skin and doesn't chafe. This was one of the lightest-weight hats we tested, too.
While not the most breathable hat we tested, the Helios performed well enough here that we didn't mind wearing it on really hot days. This hat has no mesh panels, air vents, or any other design features to encourage air to flow through the hat. Most of the other hats we tested have some kind of ventilation mechanism.
Even though it lacks ventilation, the Helios is made of super lightweight material, so it is fairly breathable. We also found that because the crown is slightly squared off, rather than curved to perfectly conform to the forehead, air was able to flow through the hat from underneath. Tightening the cinch cord eliminated this benefit. But, given that we mostly tightened the cinch cord in windy conditions, we weren't as concerned about breathability then. If breathability is a key issue for you or if you are someone who overheats easily, you might find the Helios to be a little stifling.
Given its lightweight stature, we were impressed with the durability of the Helios and gave it high marks in this category. We used this hat a lot during our test period, from hikes in all weather to ski tours, to mucking about in the garden. Dozens of times, we folded this hat and shoved it into a backpack or a pocket. But by the end of our test period, the Helios showed almost no wear and tear. In spite of its lightweight material, this hat can hold its own against typical outdoor abuse.
Like all the other hats in our test, we subjected the Helios to a crush test in which we shoved the hat into a small Ziplock for 30 minutes and recorded the results. The Helios was easy to pack down into the bag, unlike bulkier hats we tested. After 30 minutes, its brim was significantly creased, but these creases relaxed quickly and all but disappeared after a couple of wears.
The Helios isn't the ugliest hat in our test group, but it's also not the most stylish. In general, we found the full-brim hats in our test group, like the Helios, to be more stylish than the cape-style hats. Still, among the full-brim hats, the Helios is one of the dorkiest in our opinion. The brim on this hat is very flat, which gives it a slight Canadian Mountie feel. Its main material and detailing definitely make it look like a piece of outdoor gear, rather than a stylish piece of clothing.
The Helios is one of the least expensive hats in our review, and it performs well above its price point. Given that you can use this hat in a variety of rugged outdoor pursuits and that it will likely last for many years, we think the Helios is a great value.
The best sun hat for you is the one you'll wear, and we found the Outdoor Research Helios to be one of the most wearable hats we tested. It's great in conditions from hot sun to light rain, super comfortable, low-profile enough to wear with a pack or a lifejacket, and durable enough to get crammed in a pack or a pocket time and again without getting trashed. While we wouldn't call this hat stylish, we think it'll get a lot of use, and its price point is hard to beat.
— Joanna Trieger