Outdoor Research Helium Pant Review
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Outdoor Research Helium Pant
|Price||$77.97 at Backcountry|
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|$38.49 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Ultralight, super compact, good mobility, extremely comfortable elastic waistband, stows nicely in a reversible pocket||Lightweight, stormworthy, quiet fabric, good breathability, 3/4 length side zips, effective elastic cuffs||Mega stretchy fabric, best breathability in the review||Best inexpensive pant, above average durability, excellent storm-worthiness||Fantastic price, very light, impressively small compact volume, solid storm protection, respectable breathability|
|Cons||Lower durability, feels clammy, hard to pull on over most boots||No zip fly, one marginally useful pocket||Not quite as abrasion resistant as other models, so-so weather-resistance||No pockets, low breathability and ventilation, not easy to put on without removing footwear||Not as breathable as other models, not as durable or as long-lasting, no ventilation options|
|Bottom Line||Hard to beat for any trip where weight and packed space are at a premium||Highly protective pants that are light and compact for tucking away in your backpack||A fantastic all-around pant with rad stretchy fabric that offers exceptional freedom of movement and the best breathability||A killer pant for the price, offering better than expected feel and weather resistance||A simple, lightweight, and compact rain pant that excels at a range of outdoor activies at a price that's tough to beat|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research He...||Outdoor Research Fo...||Mountain Hardwear S...||Columbia Rebel Roamer||Marmot PreCip Eco Pant|
|Water Resistance (25%)|
|Comfort and Mobility (20%)|
|Breathability and Venting (20%)|
|Packed Size (10%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research He...||Outdoor Research Fo...||Mountain Hardwear S...||Columbia Rebel Roamer||Marmot PreCip Eco Pant|
|Measured Weight||6.5 oz||10.2 oz||10 oz||12.5 oz||8.5 oz|
|Waterproof Fabric Material||2.5L Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse||2L Gore-Tex with PacLite Technology||2.5L Dry.Q Stretch Ripstop||Omni-Tech Waterproof/Breathable||NanoPro Eco|
|Face Fabric and Layer Construction||30D 100% nylon ripstop||100% polyester 50D||100% recycled polyester||70D 100% nylon||100% recycled nylon ripstop|
|Side Zips Length||1/4 length ankle zips||3/4 length||3/4 length||None||1/4 length|
|Put On Over Hiking or Mountaineering Boots||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Stows Into Pocket||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Waistband Closure||Elastic with drawcord||Elastic + shock cord||Nylon Belt + Elastic Band||Elastic + shock cord||Elastic + shock cord|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Outdoor Research Helium is the lightest rain pant in our review and the best super-light rain pant on the market. More and more ultra-minimal pieces of rain protection are released each year, though the Helium remains at the top of our list. Most ultralight models aren't very waterproof or are too fragile to the point where it affects their functionality, but this isn't the case with the Helium. Sure, it's not the absolute toughest and doesn't boast totally bombproof storm protection, but it offers enough to make it a very functional option.
The Helium was a common companion on our testing trips. It was so lightweight that it never seemed like a problem to throw it in to compare it to other another model. That's the highlight of this pant: it is just so light and tiny. No other pair can disappear in the bottom of your pack like these can.
The Outdoor Research Helium uses Pertex Sheild fabric for its weather resistance. Pertex Sheild is a PU film coating laminated to a nylon shell in a 2.5-layer construction. With the Helium Rain's ridiculously low weight, we didn't have very high expectations for their weather resistance, as most ultralight pants tend to wet out pretty quickly. These performed better than expected.
There is no front fly and only ankle-length zippers, so there aren't a lot of weak points for water to leak in. The Pertex Shield fabric did a solid job holding up in real-world use and in our shower and garden hose tests. The exterior face fabric of these pants would wet out faster than higher-end models, but they actually performed quite similarly to heavier but more price-pointed 2.5-layer options.
Comfort and Mobility
With all this weight-focused talk, it's easy to assume that this model wouldn't be very comfortable, but other than a slightly clammy-feeling interior, that simply isn't the case. Our entire team loved the feel of the low-profile elastic waistband, particularly when worn with a backpack, as it didn't pinch or chafe. The shock cord inside the waistband was a breeze to tighten and kept our pants from slowly inching down, a common annoyance with rain pants. Lastly, since there are no full-length side zips and no front fly, there are no flaps to rub or become uncomfortable if you find yourself wearing these for hours on end.
That these pants fit a wide range of users but run slightly on the smaller/slimmer end of the spectrum. For folks that are forced to size up, there are three built-in elastic loops to accommodate suspenders.
The Helium's range of motion was above average among models tested in our review. They feature decent articulation and moderately loose legs that help with mobility and minimize restriction. We used these pants for many different applications, including alpine rock climbing, nordic skiing, trail running, and backpacking. After extensive use, we found that these pants performed well for activities requiring a fair amount of mobility.
Breathability and Venting
The Pertex Shield fabric performed about average in the breathability metric, and there are no ventilation features of any kind.
Outdoor Research improved the feel of the internal fabric and texture, which certainly helped with the clamminess feeling of older versions of these pants. However, several members of our testing team noted that they still felt similarly clammy to most more basic 2.5-layer models.
At 6.5 ounces, these pants are super light and offer the lowest weight of any model in our review. Heck, at 6.5 ounces, these are easily one of the lightest options currently on the market. It achieves its incredibly low weight from a range of design features (or lack of features) and an ultra-lightweight fabric.
This contender is made of the lightest external fabric in our review and has minimal-width seam tape, low gauge 1/4-length zippers, and a narrow lower-profile elastic waistband. They might not be as durable and feature-rich as many other options (there are no pockets), but as far as excellent pants for backpacking and hiking—or as a just-in-case layer—the Helium is tough to beat.
The Helium pants are the most compact pant we tested by a fairly sizeable margin. Even its closest competitors are still roughly twice the packed volume, with several options being even larger. Despite its minuscule size, this layer that practically disappears in your pack will leave you more than prepared (and willing to carry it) in the event of an unexpected afternoon thundershower.
The Helium's main feature is really its lack of features, which is to thank for its extremely light weight and compressibility. It stuffs into its reversible back zippered pocket, which has a clip-in loop, should you want to carry it on a climbing hardness or clip it to something else.
Another nice feature is the loops under the pant cuff; when attached with cord (and passed under the arch of the boot), they allow the pant cuffs to more or less function as gaiters.
We used this feature on two separate trips (one on snow) and found that this "built-in gaiter" created an exceptional seal around our boots, keeping snow and brush out. This feature gives the user the option to leave behind a separate dedicated pair of gaiters, further reducing their pack's overall weight.
This competitor features a 30D nylon shell, which is the thinnest in the review, though not by heaps. We found them durable enough for most backpacking and hiking trips, but if you do much bushwhacking or off-trail travel, these lightweight pants might get destroyed or torn up quicker than other models.
Should You Buy the Outdoor Research Helium?
For its combination of exceptionally low weight and packed volume and respectable storm protection, the Helium is the best super-lightweight rain pant we've seen. If you prioritize packed size and low weight, the Helium is unbeatable. It certainly isn't as durable or feature-rich as many other options, but it is extremely functional in design and its comfort and low weight make it a winner.
What Other Rain Pants Should You Consider?
If pockets are a non-negotiable for you, nearly every other pant we tested has them. The Marmot PreCip Eco Pant is a great option that will save you a few bucks and only tacks on a couple more ounces. If you want to save even more money and you don't mind some extra weight, the Columbia Rebel Roamer is our favorite budget option and are very protective and durable, too.
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