Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket Review
Compare to Similar Products
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket
|Price||$99.95 at Evo|
Compare at 4 sellers
|$119.25 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
$117.93 at REI
|$100.00 at Evo|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$70.00 at Amazon|
Compare at 3 sellers
|Pros||Insanely lightweight, tiny compressed size, stows tightly in a reversible pocket, hood design maintains great peripheral vision, respectable stormworthiness||Stretchy material, great freedom of movement, pleasant cut, solid storm protection, lightweight, compresses into its pocket, good value||Solid weather protection, excellent hood design, relatively low weight and packed volume||Lightweight, breathable, inexpensive||Better breathability than others in its price range, decent ventilation, roll away hood, nice pit zips, affordable|
|Cons||Average breathability, minimal hood, only one pocket, not as versatile in the traditional sense||So-so breathability, hood doesn't fit very well over a helmet||Wets out quicker than other Gore-Tex models, two-layer design isn't as long-lasting, clammy interior||Zipper isn't waterproof, fabric wets out faster, thin material is less durable||No chest pocket, not quite as breathable as models that use a non-coated membrane|
|Bottom Line||Light and compressible, this jacket is ideal for trips where low weight is paramount||A solid all-around option for the price, with great mobility and respectable storm protection||One of the best values you can get for a piece of rain gear, this Gore-Tex jacket is packed full of functional features||This affordable rain jacket will keep you dry enough in most situations and has many of the same features as more expensive models||A great jacket with an excellent price tag that offers above-average breathability|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research He...||Black Diamond Storm...||REI Co-op XeroDry GTX||Helly Hansen Loke||Marmot PreCip Eco|
|Water Resistance (30%)|
|Comfort and Mobility (20%)|
|Weight and Packability (15%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research He...||Black Diamond Storm...||REI Co-op XeroDry GTX||Helly Hansen Loke||Marmot PreCip Eco|
|Measured Weight||6.5 oz||11.5 oz||12.3 oz||9.5 oz||13.5 oz|
|Waterproof Fabric Material||2.5-layer Pertex Shield||2.5-layer propriatary BD.dry||2-layer GORE-TEX Paclite||HELLY TECH||NanoPro|
|Pockets||1 zippered hand||2 hand||2 zippered hand||2 hand||2 zippered hand|
|Hipbelt Friendly Hand Pockets?||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Helmet Compatible Hood?||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Stows Into Pocket?||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
An extremely lightweight and compressible shell, the OR Helium is ideal if you're after a rain layer that takes up as little space as possible. Whether for use as a just-in-case layer while out on an afternoon hike, a long-distance backpacking trip, or a challenging alpine climb, this jacket disappears in your pack like no other.
This jacket kept us dry in several short downpours, and the fabric resisted wetting out reasonably well. As you might imagine, this super lightweight jacket wouldn't be our first choice for trips where you expect rain all day, day after day. Still, the DWR treatment applied to the Pertex Shield+ fabric held up well during our field and side-by-side testing and outperformed several thicker, heavier models in its price range.
The main shortcomings with the storm-worthiness of the Helium are the wrist/cuff design and minimal hood. There's only elastic on half of the wrist opening and no means to tighten it; this means water can run down your forearms when reaching overhead into rainy weather. The hood offers good peripheral vision and cinches down nicely to help it stay on in the wind, but it barely covered our entire head and didn't hang over our face or forehead; almost always, our face would still get rained on during storms, even if our body stayed dry. While this is a bummer, it's not a dealbreaker, and we were impressed with the performance, especially considering this jacket weighs about the same as two energy bars.
This jacket has no ventilation features, save the loose-fitting wrist cuffs (if you can call that a ventilation feature), which fit our lead tester's wrists with some room to spare, allowing some moisture to escape. However, the Helium does boast respectable, albeit average, breathability compared to other models in the budget-friendly range. Its fabric is more breathable than several of the proprietary coated 2.5-layer fabrics like TNF's DryVent or Patagonia's H2No.
The Pertex Shield+ fabric on the Helium was breathable enough to keep us comfortable when generating some heat and sweat, but we had to be diligent when layering; this included stopping and adjusting what we were wearing to ensure we didn't overheat. The Helium is fine for cold or drizzly early morning runs and can be a great option to carry in your trail vest. However, because of the lack of venting options and average breathability, if you're a sweaty person or looking for something you can regularly run in, we'd recommend something more breathable, though it's difficult to match the weight of this one.
Comfort and Mobility
Despite a minimalist design, the Helium doesn't give much range of motion or mobility. In the traditional sense, it's a little lacking compared to most of the jackets in this review, as it doesn't feature small nods to comfort, like a micro-fleece chin patch, and its thin fabric is slightly more clammy-feeling than most.
The Helium delivers a hood with an excellent fit, albeit a little on the minimalist side as far as coverage goes. The toggle on the back of the hood (to take in or release slack) is easy to operate, even with gloves on. It features a single toggle on the rear of the hood, which connects the crown-line elastic-cinch to two half-length pieces of internal elastic located near your cheeks.
Despite its minimal design, this jacket offers decent peripheral vision. While it's a popular alpine or rock climbing model, it does not fit over a bike or climbing helmet, though you can always wear the hood underneath the helmet if you are desperate and it's storming.
Continuing with the minimalist design, the Helium offers one Napoleon-style chest pocket. This isolated pocket is very functional and fits a larger-than-average smartphone or similar-sized item. The pocket also reverses and becomes a stuff sack for the jacket, complete with a clip-in loop for climbers to hang from their harnesses on multi-pitch routes. While not having a pair of pockets to put your hands in is a small disadvantage, we think folks looking for an insanely low weight and minimal packed size won't find this missing feature to be a dealbreaker. It also makes this jacket very comfortable to wear with a waist belt, as there are no zippers to pinch your hips.
A Note on Fit and Sizing
The Helium runs snug and is one of the slimmer fitting jackets in our review. However, for most people, we still recommend your usual size — unless you find that you are typically in-between sizes. In this case, we would recommend sizing up.
Weight and Packability
At 6.5 ounces, this is the lightest model in our review; as a result, it has countless applications. Since most people carry their rain jackets in their packs, the minuscule weight makes the Helium even more inviting. It provides average storm-worthiness, and no other jacket can touch its weight and packed volume.
The Helium packs away in a reversible chest pocket, which turns into a stuff sack and is easy to compress down. Outdoor Research did a great job sizing this pocket, making it small enough to compress without being so small that it is a pain to stow the jacket. Since it packs down so tiny, this is the perfect model to keep in the bottom of a hydration, daypack, or multi-pitch pack so it's always there. If you encounter unexpected rain, wind, or cooler-than-anticipated weather, this little secret weapon can handle it.
The lightweight 30D ripstop nylon face fabric stands up to abrasion better than expected, but to call the Helium durable would be a stretch. We wore it while rock and alpine climbing for several months, and the forearms started to show some wear from the rough granite. After using this jacket for a summer and fall guiding season and not expecting much from the superlight fabric's ability to withstand the abuse, we were impressed that it held up as well as it did. However, we did take care when wearing it.
As one of the lightest and most compressible jackets on the market, this model remains reasonably priced. This makes it a spectacular value, as no other contender in our lineup weighs less or is more compressible for the same or less cost.
Fine-tuned for light and fast activities that take advantage of its tiny size and minuscule weight, this jacket simply disappears in your pack. It's the perfect piece of foul-weather protection for trips where every ounce matters or as a just-in-case layer on more casual outings. The Helium fits a lot of people's needs; on trips when you aren't using your rain jacket, it is hardly noticeable in your pack or clipped to your harness. It offers decent durability, ventilation, and versatility for hiking or backpacking.
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More