AO Review: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – “5 Years Later”
Patrik Orcutt 09.22.22
Outdoor Research is a Seattle-based manufacturer of technical apparel and gear for outdoor sports, They were formed back in the 1980s after a climber was attempting a summit of Mt. Denali when he and his team had a failure of a set of gaiters that sent them packing back down the mountain. That climber was Ron Gregg and after just over a year, Ron would have started his outdoor brand, Outdoor Research (OR). Back in 1980, their flagship product was an improved pair of gaiters, fixing the problems Ron had with older pairs. Today OR’s product line includes everything you would need for alpinism, rock and ice climbing, backpacking, paddling, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. This particular review will focus on their ultralight Helium Rain Jacket.
This product we privately purchased and there was no money exchanged between the manufacturer and the reviewer.
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – Specs
- MSRP- $159
- Weight – 6.1 oz (Men’s Medium)
- Waterproofing- 2.5L Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – How It was Tested
This jacket has been through a lot of use over the last five years of use, you name it, it’s done it. Here are just a few, climbing, running, boat rides, kayaking, hunting, hiking, biking, many gun range sessions, and travel.
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – Water and Wind Protection
Like with all aspects of gear, there are some products that can do one thing well and others that can do another thing better. When it comes to weatherproofing and wind protection the Helium jacket leaves a lot to be desired but again we are talking about a 6.1 oz jacket here. OR has chosen to create the lightest jacket they can that still offers decent weatherproofing overall.
The Helium is primarily constructed of 2.5-layer Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse which allows for decent water resistance in lighter rain but will quickly start to absorb moisture and press against your body in heavier rain. Wind protection is great for its size and will block the most wind. With that being said given the weight of this jacket, its overall protection is great. Think of the Helium as a great emergency jacket that you can put in your bag just in case the skies are looking a little less than optimal at your trailhead.
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – Breathability
The breathability on the Helium jacket is nothing to write home about, go for a late fall morning run or hike in this jacket and you will quickly find a lot of moisture building up on the arms of the garment. This can be attributed to the Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse fabric used throughout. The sides of the jacket have a stretcher venting fabric to keep some of the hot air from staying inside but it’s usually not enough. I know it would increase weight and cost but id love to see a set of arm-pit zippers on a future model. I think this could solve some of Helium’s current breathability problems.
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – Weight and Packability
As mentioned previously the weight on the Helium is incredible. OR claims the jacket weighs around 6.3 oz but my jacket clocks in at 6.1 oz. With a weight like this, the packability of the jacket is also very high. I found myself very often just keeping this at the bottom of my bag in case some wet weather might find me or if the temperature was going to be a bit colder. OR did not specifically design the front pocket of the jacket to act as an internal stuff sack, but you can do this with the Helium like on some Patagonia jackets. This makes for even better compactness when traveling.
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – Build Quality and Durability
I have owned this version of the Helium for over 5 years now it has stood up to a lot of abuse that it did not deserve. The durability of this jacket is amazing coinciding again that it is an ultra-lite garment. There is some minor wear on the softer parts of the jacket and most of the DWR treatment is gone now but everything else is still in great shape. I have no doubt that the amazing durability comes from the Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse fabric that boosts tear resistance from prior models. The overall build quality on the Helium is what you would expect from OR, great! All zippers, seam tape, and cords are functioning flawlessly and don’t feel overly thin or compromised.
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – Fit and Sizing
I’m five foot nine and weigh 170 pounds and I find that the size medium fits me perfectly on the shoulders and chest. The sides of the jacket have some flex to them giving the garment an overall nice fit for all applications.
Philosophies of Use
Emergency rain jacket for Hiking, Running, Kayaking, Travel, and Firearm shooting.
- Priced well below is competition and can be often found on sale
- The Hood has a great fit and is easily adjustable
- Incredibly lightweight
- Very tough and will last for many years
- Poor breathability
- Not great in downpours
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – Wrap up
Overall, the Helium Rain Jacket is a no-brainer for those who love to be outside. It’s light and packable meaning you can carry it anywhere you go and not notice it taking up a lot of room in your bag. It’s definitely not a heavy-duty rain jacket for downpours but it’s worth having in my opinion.