Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie Review
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
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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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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