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Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie Review

This weather and tear resistant down makes a great winter belay coat for inclement conditions and rough terrain
Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $279 List | $223.16 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 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
By Buck Yedor ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 20, 2020
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 10
  • Warmth - 30% 8
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Fit - 15% 6
  • Compressibility - 10% 7
  • Features - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The OR Helium Down Hood 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 a bit 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 a thicker nylon shell that is less prone to ripping. All these advantages come at the cost of an 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.

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Price $223.16 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
72
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77
Star Rating
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Pros Weather and tear resistant shoulders and hood, warm, easy to layer under, fleece lined hand pocketsIncredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, effective hydrophobic down900+ fill down, warm, lightweight, incredibly compressible, competitively pricedLightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratioWater resistant hydrophobic down, great DWR coating, well thought-out features
Cons Heavy, bulkier fitNo hood cinch, no chest pocketHood a little tight to fit over a helmet, no hood adjustmentExpensive, not super durable750 fill-power down is good but not as light or lofty as others
Bottom Line Designed for cold and potentially wet days in the mountains, this tear resistant option makes for an awesome belay coatOffers high versatility, comfort, accommodation of movement, and light weightThis no-nonsense performance model has everything you need in a lightweight packageIf you are looking for a warm, light layer for a trip where ounces count, this jacket is a great selectionPertex Microlight face fabric, Nikwax treated down, and a quality DWR coating make this one water resistant hoody
Rating Categories Helium Down Hoodie Ghost Whisperer/2 Feathered Friends Eos Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody Rab Microlight Alpine
Warmth (30%)
8
9
9
6
8
Weight (20%)
6
9
7
9
6
Water Resistance (15%)
8
8
7
7
9
Fit (15%)
6
9
8
9
8
Compressibility (10%)
7
9
8
10
6
Features (10%)
8
8
7
8
9
Specs Helium Down Hoodie Ghost Whisperer/2 Feathered Friends... Arc'teryx Cerium... Rab Microlight...
Down Fill 800+ fill goose down 800-fill RDS certified, down insulation 900+ goose down 850-fill goose down 700 fill recycled hydrophobic down
Total Weight 15.5 oz 8.5 oz 13 oz 7.6 oz 15.7 oz
Baffle Construction Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through Sewn-through baffles
Main Fabric Pertex Quantum Recycled polyester ripstop, DWR finish Pertex Quantum Arato 7 nylon Pertex Quantum
Compression Method Stuffs into pocket Zips into pocket Stuff sack Included stuff sack Stuff sack
Pockets 2 hand, 2 internal, 1 chest 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest
Hoodless Option? No Yes No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The OR 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 is a huge concern for you, there are lighter and more compressible options. However, not having to constantly worry about tearing your jacket offers peace of mind not often had with insulating layers.

Performance Comparison


The OR Helium Down Hoody is one the more water and tear resistant...
The OR Helium Down Hoody is one the more water and tear resistant puffys currently on the market.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Warmth


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 OR 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.

The OR Helium Down is a warm puffy perfect for throwing on during...
The OR Helium Down is a warm puffy perfect for throwing on during downtime in the cold.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Weight


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.

Water Resistance


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 letting 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 a 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.

The fabric used on the shoulder and hoods is waterproof while the...
The fabric used on the shoulder and hoods is waterproof while the bulk of the fabric is a more breathable nylon.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Fit


The fit on this puffy is on the large and bulky side of things. 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.

The waterproof shoulders and hood not only offer better protection...
The waterproof shoulders and hood not only offer better protection from water but also wind.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Compressibility


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. It does compress into a small enough package that making the choice to throw it in your daypack is a no brainer.

The OR Helium Down Hoody has surprisingly good compressibility...
The OR Helium Down Hoody has surprisingly good compressibility considering its weight and thicker nylon shell.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Features


This jacket 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 fiver separate pockets. Two zippered handwarming 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.

The large zipper pull tab is easy use while wearing gloves.
The large zipper pull tab is easy use while wearing gloves.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Value


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. While it's not a screaming deal, investing in high quality down that is protected by a more durable outer shell is an investment for your continued success in mountains with ever-changing conditions.

The OR Helium Down 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.

While it is a tad bulky, the OR Helium Down Hoody still functions...
While it is a tad bulky, the OR Helium Down Hoody still functions well enough for serious overhead movement.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Conclusion


The OR Helium Down Hood is ideal for mixed weather excursions into the mountains. 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.

Buck Yedor