Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie Review
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Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie
|Price||$118.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Abrasion resistant, ample room for layering, underarm ventilation||Low price, simple and effective design, tiny packed-size, impressive DWR coating||Superlight, tiny packed size, unique perforated back for improved breathability||Affordable, PFC-free DWR, elastic hood||Breathable, surprising water repellency, stylish and comfortable|
|Cons||Poor water resistance, lack of articulation||No feature to stow away the hood, thin material can feel clammy during high-output activity||Short cut torso, perforations allow water in during rainstorms||Stuff sack instead of zippered stuff pocket||Wind cuts through elastane mesh, no storage pocket, specific fit|
|Bottom Line||Despite its flashy appearance, this is a technical windbreaker and is further reinforced with abrasion-resistant fabric||The best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standard||An impressively packable, highly-technical jacket that is perfectly designed for light and fast missions||A lightweight, versatile, DWR-coated nylon shell, all at an affordable price||This running-focused shell isn’t the most wind resistant, but features an appealing balance of breathability and water resistance|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research He...||Patagonia Houdini -...||The North Face Flig...||Rab Vital Hoody - M...||Salomon Agile Full-...|
|Wind Resistance (30%)|
|Breathability and Venting (30%)|
|Weight and Packability (20%)|
|Fit and Functionality (10%)|
|Water Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research He...||Patagonia Houdini -...||The North Face Flig...||Rab Vital Hoody - M...||Salomon Agile Full-...|
|Measured Weight (size M)||5.0 oz||3.9 oz (size L)||3.7 oz||4.8 oz||5.6 oz|
|Material||100% Pertex Diamond Fuse (100% nylon ripstop)||100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish||94% recycled nylon, 6% recycled polyester with non-PFC DWR finish||20D Atmos woven nylon with fluorocarbon-free DWR||100% polyester upper, 88% polyester / 12% elastane lower|
|Pockets||1 zip chest||1 zip chest||None||2 zip hand||2 zip hand|
|Safety Reflective Material?||Yes, reflective logo||No (company states reflective logo on left chest, too small to really be visible)||Reflective logo on chest and back||Yes, reflective logo on chest||Yes, reflective inserts|
|Stowable Pocket?||Yes: chest pocket||Yes: chest pocket||Yes: collar pocket||No; included stuff sack||No|
|Cuff Style||Half Elastic||Half Elastic||Quarter Elastic||Half Elastic||Half Elastic|
|Hood Fits Over Helmet?||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Helium Wind Hoodie looks and feels very much like the corresponding rain jacket, but is much more breathable and much less water resistant. The Diamond Fuse ripstop offers an impressive level of wind-stopping power for such a thin shell, making this packable jacket an intriguing option for most alpine adventures.
While other top-performing models are also designed with 100% nylon ripstop for a superior ratio of weight-to-wind resistance, the OR Helium Wind Hoodie stands out when looking closely at the design. The unique interlocking weave of the Diamond Fuse ripstop practically eliminates any gaps between fibers, radically improving wind resistance while still maintaining the fabric’s famous strength-to-weight ratio.
Even on a very windy spring mission to the top of a 14,000 foot peak in the northern San Juan mountains, our lead tester was very comfortable hanging out on the summit layered up in merely a thin base layer, sun-hoody, and this impressively wind-resistant shell. We particularly appreciate the substitution of a normal cord lock for webbing and strap-adjuster to secure the hood. It is lighter weight, lower profile, and locks down the hood extraordinarily well without cinching down the hood around your face — which impedes your view, and leaves us feeling a bit like Kenny.
Breathability and Venting
On the other side of the seesaw, highly wind-resistant ripstop jackets tend not to fare very well in terms of breathability — oftentimes, these shells have the plastic-like feel of a tarp, and can be notoriously clammy when working up a sweat. Indeed, the Helium Wind Hoodie falls victim to this trade-off, but makes an honest attempt at improving upon an otherwise sticky situation. Laser-perforated underarm vents help to dump heat when your arms are above your head when climbing, or in particularly windy locations, but rarely is heat an issue in alpine climbing — the vents are much less effective when running or ski touring, when your arms aren’t necessarily extended. A mesh-backed chest pocket helps improve ventilation somewhat in these situations, but this jacket is not quite as breathable as other options designed to be more running specific.
Weight and Packability
Helium is the second lightest of all gases (behind hydrogen), and the Helium Wind Hoodie certainly lives up to its namesake. In terms of scale weight relative — relative to other options in this review — this 5.0 ounce jacket is actually more average than outstanding. But on your body, its simple design and ample fit feels lightweight and airy, especially when directly compared to other slimmer cut, highly technical models. It packs up easily into its own chest pocket, and features a carabiner clip so that it can be comfortably hung from a harness for quick deployment on the wall.
Fit and Functionality
At first, we found the fit of the Helium Wind Hoodie a bit awkward — a little too short in the torso, and a little too broad in the shoulders. While our 5-foot, 10-inch, 160-pound head tester is used to the slim fit of Euro-inspired technical clothing, we certainly appreciate the ample fit in accommodating different body types. And for a skinny mountaineer, this extra room allows for extra layering ability — we were more than surprised when we were able to layer our full-sized down puffy, albeit with a bit of fluff protruding from the bottom.
Like many technical offerings, this windbreaker may be a bit more minimal than non-alpine climbers may be accustomed to. Limited features help cut down on weight, but it also limits functionality. The single chest pocket actually offers a lot of storage space — compared to other direct competitors — and a low-profile, brimmed hood is just large enough to pull over a helmet. Although the Helium Wind Hoodie is certainly alpine-inspired, the lack of articulation makes it less agile for climbing than other jackets we tested. However, we’re willing to sacrifice a bit of reach for significant improvements in abrasion resistance, thanks to the Diamond Fuse fabric.
For all of the superficial similarities to the award-winning Helium Rain Jacket, the Helium Wind Hoodie is the furthest thing from waterproof. The ability of the Diamond Fuse to shed water stops at anything more than a light rain, and even this is stretching this jacket’s ability a little bit. In our shower test — which simulates a passing, heavy rainstorm — water quickly ran through this thin shell. We also noticed that the longer water rested on the surface, the quicker it absorbed into fabric, much like a single-wall tent. If you plan on venturing into the high-country with this jacket, it would be worthwhile to apply even a thin coating of a supplementary DWR treatment to help at least shed water. The mesh-backing of the chest pocket has the added benefit of making the stow-away pocket half-mesh, which helps this jacket (only partially) dry out while packed away.
Though more slightly more expensive than other technical jackets made of nylon ripstop, the Helium Wind Hoodie improves its status considering that the Diamond Fuse fabric enhances abrasion resistance. Though we weren’t able to necessarily see during our limited testing period, the interlocking fabric is also supposed to improve longevity through regular washing — improving durability and ultimately adding to value.
For climbers and other hard-charging mountain athletes, the Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie is an ideal combination of wind resistant and durable, while maintaining core principles of lightweight packability. Though not as weather-proof as other options, this is still an excellent companion for alpine adventures where every ounce counts.
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