Outdoor Research Helium Pant Review
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Outdoor Research Helium Pant
|Price||Check Price at REI|
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|$112.49 at Backcountry|
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$79.95 at Backcountry
$59.95 at REI
|$38.49 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||By far the lightest and most compact pant in our review, great mobility, elastic waist band is extremely comfortable and functional||Mega stretchy fabric, best breathability in the review, built in belt is the bomb||Compact, light, affordable||Inexpensive, lightweight, excellent packed size, reasonably weather-resistant, baggy cut makes it easy to wear over other layers, low profile waistband doesn't pinch under a backpack||Best pant among $50 and under options, above average durability, excellent storm worthiness|
|Cons||Less durable than most, hard to pull on over boots||Not quite as abrasion resistant as other models, so-so weather-resistance||Thin fabric prone to tearing, limited breathability||Not especially breathable, clammy with moderate aerobic activity, no front hand pockets, below average articulation||No pockets, breathability, ventilation, not easy to put on without removing footwear|
|Bottom Line||Hard to beat for any trip where weight and packed space are at a premium - as long as there isn't too much off-trail travel, where their lower than average durability could be an issue||A fantastic all-around pant with rad stretchy fabric, which offers exceptional freedom of movement and the best breathability||Budget, lightweight pants totally suitable for occasional use||Perfect for those who want to bring a pair of rain pants but aren't likely to use them very often||A killer pant for the price, offering better than expected feel and weather resistance, but does not offer much in the way of features|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research He...||Mountain Hardwear S...||Marmot PreCip Pant||REI Co-op Essential||Columbia Rebel Roamer|
|Water Resistance (25%)|
|Comfort and Mobility (18%)|
|Breathability and Venting (18%)|
|Packed Size (12%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research He...||Mountain Hardwear S...||Marmot PreCip Pant||REI Co-op Essential||Columbia Rebel Roamer|
|Measured Weight||6.5 oz / 184g||10 oz / 283g||8 oz / 225g||9.5 oz / 271g||12.5 oz / 354g|
|Waterproof Fabric Material||2.5 Layer Pertex Shield+||2.5 Layer Dry Q Active Stretch||Nano Pro||2.5-layer REI Proprietary waterproof breathable fabric||Omni-Tech Waterproof/Breathable|
|Face Fabric and Layer Construction||30D 100 Nylon Ripstop w/ Pertex Shield+ Waterproof Breathable Insert||40D Dry Q Active Stretch||NanoPro100% Nylon Ripstop 2.2 oz/ yd||40-denier nylon ripstop||70D 100% Nylon|
|Pockets||1 pocket||1 pocket||3 pockets||1 pocket||None|
|Side Zips Length||1/4 Length Ankle Zips||Full Length Side Zips||1/4 Length||1/4 Length Ankle Zips||None|
|Put on Over Hiking or Mountaineering Boots||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Inseam Length, Size Medium||31 in||30, 32, 34 in||32 in||31.5 inches||30 or 32 in|
|Stows Into Pocket||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Waist band Style||Elastic + Shock Cord||Nylon Belt + Elastic Band||Elastic + shock cord||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 options are released each year, though the Helium remains at the top of our list. Most ultralight models offer very poor breathability, aren't very waterproof, and cross over the point of functionality because they are too fragile. This simply isn't the case with the Helium; it gives up a little bit in some of these categories to other much heavier models, but overall, it offers respectable durability, breathability, and storm worthiness - especially considering how crazy light and small they are.
We took the Helium pant out on a dozen or so trips using them for a little over 3-weeks. All of our testers were impressed with how tiny and light these pants were yet still provided pretty decent weather protection.
The Outdoor Research Helium uses Pertex Sheild+ fabric for its weather resistance. Pertex Sheild+ is a PU film coating laminated to a Nylon shell that coupled with the Helium's design, offers respectable weather resistance. Despite its impressively low weight, these pants performed above average in our hose and shower tests, as well as in real-world use.
The Helium gives up a little in the way of storm worthiness when compared to burlier models like the Outdoor Foray Pants or the Marmot Minimalist Pant, but they performed comparably to other heavier models like the Marmot PreCip Full Zip, Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, earning an 8 out of 10 in this metric.
Comfort and Mobility
When you first pick up this pair of rain pants, you immediately want to categorize it as a super lightweight pant that might not offer comfort or a functional design in exchange for saving weight. Our review team found that this was not the case. Our entire team loved how the low-profile elastic waistband felt, particularly when worn with a backpack. It proved to be one of the most comfortable contenders; the elastic waistband and shock cord was a breeze and kept our pants from slowly inching down. We found that these pants fit a wide range of users, but certainly run a little on the smaller/slimmer side of the spectrum. For folks that are forced to size up, there are three built-in elastic loops to accommodate suspenders.
Despite the slimmer than average fit, the Helium's range of motion was among the best in our review, featuring a solid design and excellent articulation. After extended use, our testing team found that these pants performed well for activities that demanded a fair amount of mobility, whether alpine rock climbing, Nordic skiing, trail running, or similar type activities.
Breathability & Ventilation
This contender does not offer any additional features to help with ventilation, though the Pertex Shield+ fabric proved to perform slightly above average in the breathability metric. In our side-by-side testing, we found these pants to be more breathable than some, like the The North Face Venture or Columbia Rebel Roamer, but not quite as breathable as the OR Foray.
We liked the internal fabric and texture. Several members of our testing team noted that it felt less clammy than other options, particularly the Marmot PreCip and The North Face Venture Half Zip.
The Helium doesn't provide much in the way of "extra" features; instead, its exceptionally low weight and compressibility are its main attributes. It does have a handful of additional features, making it easier to use and possibly allowing its wearer to save weight. It stuffs into its reversible back zippered pocket and is complete with 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, which can be found 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 felt 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.
The Helium pants are the most compact pant we tested - by a fairly sizeable margin. The design ensures the pant is lightweight and extremely packable. Even its closest competitors are about twice the packed volume, with several options being two-thirds larger. This light layer, which will practically disappear in your pack, will leave you more than prepared and willing to carry it in the event of an unexpected afternoon thundershower.
At 6.5 ounces, the Helium offers the lowest weight of any model in our review and is 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).
A few of these features include sporting one single pocket. This contender is also made of the lightest external fabric in our review and has minimal-width seam tape, low gauge 1/4-length zippers, and a lower-profile elastic waistband. These pants might not be as durable and do not offer as many features as many other options, but as far as an excellent pant for backpacking and hiking, or as a just-in-case layer, the Helium is tough to beat.
This competitor features a 30D nylon shell, which is the thinnest in the review, though not by heaps. We found them plenty durable for most backpacking and hiking trips, but do think that if you end up doing much in the way of bushwhacking or off-trail travel, these lightweight pants might be destroyed quicker than other models. The Marmot Minimalist proved to be the most durable contender in our review.
Ease of Use
The Helium pants are slightly below average in the ease of use category. The 1/4 length ankle zippers marginally assist in pulling the pants over low-profile tennis shoes; however, anything that is more substantial will prove to be nearly impossible, requiring you to remove your footwear. For folks with larger feet, it's likely that you'll always have to remove your shoes to don or remove these pants, as the pant legs are slimmer than average and the ankle length zippers do not provide much assistance. These pants feature one rear pocket and no hand warmer style pockets; overall, our testers did not find this to be a significant issue and most of our review team felt that carrying items in jacket pockets was generally more comfortable, regardless of the option.
These pants run small. We don't think you automatically need to buy the next size up, but if you tend to be in between sizes, we'd certainly recommend it.
The Helium pants are best for any application where pack space and weight are at a premium, whether that be backpacking, day hiking, mountaineering, or as a top layer for colder cross-country ski days. These pants are rad for what they offer, weighing in at 6.5 ounces. We love them for any backpacking or hiking trip when bad weather is in the forecast as long as the trip doesn't involve much bushwhacking, where the relatively low durability score might become a disadvantage. We'd use them while mountaineering or on snowshoeing trips, or for cold poor weather trail runs.
At $120, the Helium slightly tiptoes onto the more expensive side of rain pants, though are still affordable, especially if you're a weight weenie. For $20 more than many similarly designed pants, the Helium saves you 5-7 ounces, and is roughly half the packed volume of say, the 14 ounce Marmot PreCip Full Zip Pant, the 11 ounce Marmot Minimalist, or the 10 ounce Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic.
For a combination of storm worthy functionality and minimal weight, the Helium is the best super-lightweight rain pant we've seen. If minimal packed size and weight are the most important factors driving your rain pant purchase, then this competitor is tough to beat. It isn't as durable or feature-rich as many other options, but it is extremely functional in design. It keeps you dry, is comfortable throughout, and offers excellent freedom of movement, blowing the competition away in the weight and packed size categories.
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