The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie isn't your typical lightweight down that will inevitably snag on something minor and start bleeding feathers or immediately soak through at the first sign of precipitation. Built to be more rugged than the average down jacket, this piece thrives in tough backcountry conditions. It's easy to layer under, has waterproof arms and a hood, and has a thicker nylon shell that is less prone to ripping. All these advantages come at the cost of increased weight and a bulky fit. This jacket is ideal for backcountry adventures where you might find yourself wading through brush or getting caught in the rain.Editor's Note: We purchased and retested the Helium Down. Our review was updated on August 21, 2022, and reflects our new analysis.
Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Weather and tear resistant shoulders and hood, warm, easy to layer under, fleece lined hand pockets
Cons: Heavy, bulkier fit
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Compare to Similar Products
Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie
|Price||$189.73 at REI|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Check Price at REI|
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$359.00 at Amazon
|$209 List||$119 List|
$119.00 at REI
|Pros||Weather and tear resistant shoulders and hood, warm, easy to layer under, fleece lined hand pockets||Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, effective hydrophobic down||Lightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratio||Inexpensive, fully featured adjustability||Lightweight, inexpensive, excellent for layering|
|Cons||Heavy, bulkier fit||No hood cinch, no chest pocket||Expensive, not super durable||Moderate warmth, noisy material, no internal zip pockets||No hood cinch, no hem cinch, loses feathers|
|Bottom Line||This weather and tear-resistant down makes a great winter belay coat for inclement conditions and rough terrain||This high scorer offers high versatility, warmth, comfort, accommodation of movement, and light weight||If you are looking for a warm, light layer for a trip where ounces count, this is a great selection||This down offers the warmth and quality of more premium choices at an approachable price point||A good basic and affordable lightweight down jacket for moderately cold temperatures|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research He...||Mountain Hardwear G...||Arc'teryx Cerium SL...||MontBell Superior Down||REI Co-op 650 Down...|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research He...||Mountain Hardwear G...||Arc'teryx Cerium SL...||MontBell Superior Down||REI Co-op 650 Down...|
|Down Fill||800+ fill goose down||800-fill goose down||850-fill goose down||800-fill goose down||650-fill goose down|
|Total Weight||15.5 oz||8.5 oz||7.6 oz||8.7 oz||10.4 oz|
|Baffle Construction||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles|
|Main Fabric||15D & 30D ripstop nylon||10D ripstop nylon||100% nylon||10D nylon||100% nylon|
|Compression Method||Zips into pocket||Zips into pocket||Stuff sack||Stuff sack||Zips into pocket|
|Pockets||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest||2 zippered hand||2 zippered hand||2 zippered hands, 1 internal||2 zippered hands, 1 internal|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie is a beefy weather and tear-resistant option that can withstand some real abuse. The durable nature of the fabric adds a fairly significant amount of weight, and in turn, at 15.5 ounces, this isn't the lightest jacket we tested. If weight concerns you, there are lighter and more compressible options. However, not having to constantly worry about tearing your jacket and spreading feathers everywhere offers solid peace of mind.
Whether you're giving long cold belays or taking a rest after laying pre-dawn skin tracks, having a warm and wind-resistant layer is crucial for your success and happiness. The Helium Down Hoodie is on the warmer end of the spectrum for light to mid-weight insulation. A big part of this comes from the nylon outer shell being so wind resistant. It doesn't take a lot of wind to make the ambient air temperature feel a whole lot colder. The 800 fill down is certified to be responsibly sourced and acts as a terrific insulator.
This jacket's biggest weakness is its weight. Designed more as a sturdy belay coat than as a piece of ultralight backpacking gear, this purpose-built down is more specialized than your average ultralight insulation layer. The extra weight is a trade-off for more weather resistance and other features useful for cold days adventuring in the mountains. At 15.5 ounces, this isn't light by modern standards, but the warmth to weight and weather resistance to weight ratios are actually quite good. And, if weight isn't at the top of your priority list, this jacket might be just the ticket.
Down insulation is historically horrible at dealing with wet conditions. Wet down loses considerable amounts of its insulating properties and is slow to dry. While hydrophobic down does exist, your best bet is never to let it soak through in the first place. This piece accomplishes this by using two types of nylon for the outer shell.
The hood and shoulders, being the most susceptible to rain, are made from waterproof nylon that beads water right off. This won't protect you from long and continuous downpours but will certainly keep you dry in short, pass-over storms. While we recommend bringing a rain jacket or hardshell to wear alongside your down should you experience weather, the OR Helium Down performs significantly better than other options in the review.
The OR Helium feels large and bulky. The waterproof panels on the shoulders and hood give the coat an extra puffy look. The torso is a little longer than your average jacket, which is ideal for maximizing your coverage and the ability to layer over other layers — and your climbing harness. The shoulders have an athletic fit and don't seriously impede overhead movement. While the jacket generally fits well, it could be a bit more comfortable if it was slightly lighter and less bulky.
Given the weight and bulky nature of the jacket, it has surprisingly good compressibility. It stuffs into its own hand pocket and includes a built-in clip-in loop. It just straddles the line of feeling too big to actually want to clip to your harness. Since it does compress into a small enough package, the choice to throw it in your daypack is a no-brainer.
The Helium comes complete with all the features you'd expect from a modern belay coat. It has a cinchable hood and waist. Both help with keeping the cold out and your body heat trapped inside.
The down is also equipped with five separate pockets. Two zippered handwarmer pockets, one zippered chest pocket, and two internal drop pockets. All three of the external pockets are fleece lined and easy to slide your hands in and out of.
Should You Buy the Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie?
All in all, this is a fairly valued piece. For the warmth and weather protection it offers, it is priced comparably to other similar options. The OR Helium is best suited for climbing and adventuring in cold and inclement weather. The extra weatherproofing adds some weight but affords you the ability to get caught in the rain or wet snow without immediately having to worry about your down soaking through. The jacket is warm, feature-laden, and durable. It loses points for its weight and bulky fit, but overall, is a worthy puffy that can stand up to the abuse of climbing or skiing in the backcountry.
What Other Down Jackets Should You Consider?
The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie is ideal for mixed-weather excursions into the mountains. Similarly performing jackets include the Rab Microlight Alpine and Patagonia Down Sweater. All three of these jackets ring in at around the same price point.
— James Lucas & Buck Yedor
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