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Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoody - Women's Review

An interesting jacket that's fitted sweatshirt on the bottom and windbreaker on the top
Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoody - Women's
Photo: Outdoor Research
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Price:  $119 List
Pros:  Water resistant top portion, unique fit, vented midsection, useful pockets
Cons:  Odd look, bottom portion less protective
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 23, 2021
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 15
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 6
  • Breathability - 30% 6
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 10% 5
  • Water Resistance - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoody is a windbreaker unlike any other we've ever tested — and we're not totally sold on its unique combination of traits. The top portion is like many other windbreakers we tested in fit, feel, and function. But the bottom part wears like a fitted hoody — and performs like one too. It does have a vent all the way around the midsection of your torso and some unique pockets we love to use. The hood has a brim, and the whole thing packs into the single zippered pocket, easily clipping to the outside of your bag or harness. It's certainly a unique jacket that you may love the feel of.

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Pros Water resistant top portion, unique fit, vented midsection, useful pocketsHelmet compatible, lightweight, extremely packable, dries quicklyMany pockets, more waterproof, excellent wind protection, snap to allow unzipping during wearSuper breathable, comfortable, convenient pockets, great reflectivityDecently wind resistant, moderate precipitation protection, lightweight, less expensive
Cons Odd look, bottom portion less protectiveNot the most waterproof, can see through thin fabricElastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed sizeStinks easily, gets wet quicklySleeves a bit short, small pockets, sloppy construction
Bottom Line An interesting jacket that's fitted sweatshirt on the bottom and windbreaker on the topA true featherweight model that continues to impress, combining excellent performance with great valueA blend of minimalist design and technical features, this jacket offers solid protection from the elements at a reasonable priceThis extremely breathable jacket with perfectly placed vents is a great choice for high output activities like runningA simple, casual jacket that's best for mild days and small budgets
Rating Categories Helium Wind Hoody Patagonia Houdini -... Rab Vital Hoody - W... Merino Sport Ultra... Waterproof Hooded
Wind Resistance (30%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
5.0
Breathability (30%)
6.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
4.0
Weight And Packability (20%)
6.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Versatility (10%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Water Resistance (10%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
4.0
5.0
Specs Helium Wind Hoody Patagonia Houdini -... Rab Vital Hoody - W... Merino Sport Ultra... Waterproof Hooded
Weight (oz) 6.6 oz 3.1 oz 4.3 oz 4.9 oz 6.6 oz
Material 100% nylon ripstop upper body, 86% nylon 14% spandex lower body 100% nylon ripstop with DWR (durable water repellent) treatment Hyperlite and nylon outer 100% recycled nylon exterior, 54% merino wool/46% polyester trim/lining, ripstop, DWR treatment 95% polyester, 5% spandex
Pockets 2 stretch stash pockets, 1 zip front pocket 1 chest 2 hand, 1 inner zip and 2 inner open-top 2 hand 2 hand
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuffs Half elastic Half elastic Half elastic Half elastic Elastic
Stuffs Into Pocket Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Safety Reflective Material Reflective logo on front and L cuff Reflective logo on front and back Reflective logo on front and back Reflective back and lines on sleeves None
Fit Slim fit Slim fit Regular fit Regular fit Relaxed fit

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoody is a full zip hooded windbreaker comprised of a 100% nylon upper portion and 86% nylon/14% spandex lower portion. It's a slim-fitting jacket with a stretchy waist portion and features two elastic-topped pockets and a single zippered pocket.

Performance Comparison


We love how this jacket feels but we're less stoked on the...
We love how this jacket feels but we're less stoked on the versatility of its performance.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Wind Resistance


The Helium Wind Hoody fits, feels, and performs like two halves of totally different garments sewn together. The top half is another excellent specimen from Outdoor Research's Helium line. Their proprietary Diamond Fuse technology is very effective at blocking wind. However, the bottom section is like a stretchy fitted sweatshirt. It's thicker, which helps in the breeze, but the material itself doesn't actually block serious winds. Half elastic cuffs are longer on the backs of your hands, and the hood has a brim and adjusts on the back to keep it out of your eyes while still protecting you. The bottom hem is adjustable with a single toggle, though we almost never found ourselves using it on this already fitted section.

Moving in this jacket feels good, but only the top section offers...
Moving in this jacket feels good, but only the top section offers much protection.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Breathability


Hidden under the flap of the Diamond Fuse nylon upper portion, a two-inch-wide fine mesh strip provides a vent all the way around your waist before the jacket transitions into the sweatshirt-like bottom portion. While this vent helps, this jacket is not as breathable as we expected based on its features. The actual material on top is a bit too protective to breathe very well. The material on the bottom is a bit too thick and too fitted to breathe or allow much airflow inside the jacket. This interesting fit helps it stay put very well while we move, but it's only okay in terms of actual breathability.

The hem has a toggle, but is also rather fitted, so we never really...
The hem has a toggle, but is also rather fitted, so we never really needed to use it.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Weight and Packability


Weighing 6.6 ounces, the Helium Wind Hoody is just above the average weight among windbreakers we tested. Holding up the jacket, you can easily feel that almost all of its weight is concentrated in that thick, stretchy fabric the hugs your hip bones. The whole thing packs up quite easily into its single zippered pocket, and a small loop allows you to easily attach it with a carabiner. While the upper half of the jacket is ripstop material, the bottom half is not, and its soft fibers aren't as abrasion-resistant as the rest of the jacket.

Packed up into its single zippered pocket.
Packed up into its single zippered pocket.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Versatility


Outdoor Research advertises the Helium Wind Hoody as made for active endeavors. And when it comes to being able to move in this jacket, we'd have to agree. It's comfortable and feels secure and pleasant to wear. However, in terms of protection versatility, the lower section really lets this jacket down, both in the wind and in the rain. This two-tone design is also a unique fashion choice and not one all of our testers were happy to make. It has one zippered pocket that opens on top, to the right of the main zipper. Two additional elastic-topped pockets, one on either hip, hold additional items and are big enough to accommodate a large smartphone.

Two elastic pockets proved very useful and larger than we thought.
Two elastic pockets proved very useful and larger than we thought.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Water Resistance


Once again, the top portion of this jacket does well, while the bottom portion does nothing much. The Diamond Fuse lighter section on top does a great job beading water and protecting you from more rain than many other windbreakers we tested. Yet, the bottom section is the exact opposite. It quickly soaks up water, and its added thickness stays wet for far longer than most other windbreakers.

The top portion is great in the rain. The bottom gets soaked almost...
The top portion is great in the rain. The bottom gets soaked almost instantly.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


This jacket isn't cheap and is well above the average price of the models we tested. We're not convinced that the great fit and security of the bottom portion is worth the total letdown of protection — or the cost of this windbreaker.

Conclusion


The OR Helium Wind Hoody is certainly a unique windbreaker. While we like how it feels to wear, that comfort and security of the bottom portion come with a severe dropoff in actual protection from the elements. If you don't need serious protection and want a jacket that fits more like a shirt, this may just be the hybrid for you.

While we love how it feels to wear this jacket, it's not quite as...
While we love how it feels to wear this jacket, it's not quite as protective as we want it to be.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg