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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
Credit: Outdoor Research
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Price:  $279 List | $189.73 at REI
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
By James Lucas & Buck Yedor  ⋅  Aug 21, 2022
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 12
  • Warmth - 30% 8.0
  • Weight - 20% 5.0
  • Water Resistance - 15% 6.0
  • Comfort - 15% 6.0
  • Compressibility - 10% 7.0
  • Features - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $189.73 at REI
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Check Price at REI
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$359 List
$359.00 at Amazon
$209 List$119 List
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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 downLightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratioInexpensive, fully featured adjustabilityLightweight, inexpensive, excellent for layering
Cons Heavy, bulkier fitNo hood cinch, no chest pocketExpensive, not super durableModerate warmth, noisy material, no internal zip pocketsNo 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 terrainThis high scorer offers high versatility, warmth, comfort, accommodation of movement, and light weightIf you are looking for a warm, light layer for a trip where ounces count, this is a great selectionThis down offers the warmth and quality of more premium choices at an approachable price pointA 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...
Warmth (30%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Water Resistance (15%)
6.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
3.0
Comfort (15%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Compressibility (10%)
7.0
9.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
Features (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
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
Hoodless Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

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.

Performance Comparison


Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie down jacket - the or helium down hoody is one of the more water and tear-resistant...
The OR Helium Down Hoody is one of the more water and tear-resistant puffys currently on the market. The reinforced shoulders help significantly with keeping the weather at bay.
Credit: James Lucas

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 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.

Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie down jacket - 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.
Credit: James Lucas

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. And, if weight isn't at the top of your priority list, this jacket might be just the ticket.

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 to let it soak through in the first place. This piece accomplishes this by using two types of nylon for the outer shell.

Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie down jacket - 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.
Credit: Buck Yedor

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.

Comfort


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.

Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie down jacket - 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.
Credit: 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. Since it does compress into a small enough package, the choice to throw it in your daypack is a no-brainer.

Features


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.

Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie down jacket - the large zipper pull tab is easy use while wearing gloves.
The large zipper pull tab is easy use while wearing gloves.
Credit: Buck Yedor

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.

Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie down jacket - 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.
Credit: Buck Yedor

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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