Outdoor Research Helium Down - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable, can go over other layers
Cons: Less loft, less warm for weight
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Outdoor Research Helium Down - Women's
|Price||$195.26 at Backcountry|
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|$288.75 at Backcountry|
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|$211.24 at Backcountry|
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$209.99 at REI
$99.95 at REI
|Pros||Durable, can go over other layers||Warm, lightweight, comfortable, length adds warmth||Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, packs into its own pocket, recycled||Durable, weather resistant, athletic cut, good movement, versatile||Inexpensive, lightweight|
|Cons||Less loft, less warm for weight||Expensive, not likely your single-quiver down jacket||No way to cinch the hood, lighter materials are more fragile||Narrower baffles compress down; slightly lower quality (recycled) 700 fill down||Less warm, lower quality down|
|Bottom Line||It's on the heavier end of jackets of similar warmth and does not live up to its name||An impressively warm option that offers top of the line performance, particularly for alpine adventures||It's as light as a ghost, or so we assume, and boasts incredible warmth for the weight||A durable, versatile, and very comfortable jacket that can handle many activities, from mountain to town||This is a very light, entry-level down jacket for moderate temperatures|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research He...||Rab Neutrino Pro -...||Mountain Hardwear G...||Rab Microlight Alpine||REI Co-op 650 2.0|
|Water Resistance (5%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research He...||Rab Neutrino Pro -...||Mountain Hardwear G...||Rab Microlight Alpine||REI Co-op 650 2.0|
|Down Fill||800+ fill responsibly sourced goose down||800FP European Goose Down, hydrophobic||800 fill goose down||Recycled 700 fill-power down||650 fill goose down|
|Main Fabric||Pertex® Quantum with Diamond Fuse Technology 100% nylon 15D x 30D ripstop, Pertex Shield with Diamond Fuse Technology 2.5L 100% nylon 30D ripstop waterproof hood / shoulder / upper sleeve||20D recycled Pertex® Quantum Pro||7D x 10D recycled ripstop nylon||Recycled 30D nylon Pertex® Quantum ripstop||Recycled nylon taffeta|
|Measured Weight||14 oz||18.5 oz||8 oz||13.5 oz||9.5 oz|
|Stowing option||Packs into pocket||Stuff sack||Packs into hand pocket||Stuff sack||Packs into hand pocket|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Outdoor Research Helium series is known for bringing consumers some of the lightest rain jackets and rain pants. However, the down jacket, which is also in the Helium product line, is not overly impressive, and it does not live up to the same lightweight standards we've become used to.
Outdoor Research states that their Helium down jacket is their most durable, lightweight, and technical down jacket. We agree, but it comes at a cost to warmth. Our first thought is that the baffles are underfilled, and it's not an incredibly puffy jacket; this is an indication of the amount of loft, which is what gives a down jacket its insulating properties. The Helium features high-quality 800+ fill down, making it light and compressible; however, since it just doesn't have a great deal of loft or warmth, it didn't earn high warmth scores in our metric.
The fit of the Helium Down, however, is more spacious than other similar jackets, indicating that it is meant to be layered over other insulating layers and jackets. This is confirmed by the use of burlier and waterproof materials — you can throw this on over other layers and worry less about inclement weather or abrasive terrain.
The Helium line of products carries a name that would imply it is lighter than air. While the rain jacket and pants certainly live up to this expectation, this down jacket struggles to compete in the broader lightweight down jacket market. At 14 ounces for a size small, the Helium Down is average in this competitive product lineup.
The tradeoffs in this jacket's design make it specific to particular climates. Outdoor Research is based in Seattle, and this jacket does well in the Pacific Northwest, where there is ample precipitation, rugged terrain, and mild temperatures. The Pacific Northwest is home to the impressive "power mist", which will challenge any waterproof/breathable fabric to the max. To be durable and waterproof, the Helium sacrifices warmth and compressibility and still ends up heavier than many models that fall in the broader category of lightweight down jackets.
In the same vein as the weight metric above, the Helium Down is not the most compressible due to the materials and fleece-lined pockets. We love cozy pockets, but they are bulkier and heavier, so they come at a cost to weight and compressibility. Additionally, the more durable fabrics and design make this jacket bulkier, as well as the ample pockets and adjustable hood and hem; if you're looking for durability and technical prowess (mostly this means adjustable enough to seal out stormy conditions), then this might be worth the compressibility penalty.
Our main gripe with the low compressibility score is that it seems that OR decided it would also come at a cost to loft — there is just not that much puff to this jacket. However, if you plan to layer, you may be able to overlook this.
The OR Helium is fully featured and adjustable for a variety of conditions. The helmet-compatible hood cinches with a single pull-cord in the back, and the bottom hem cinches similarly with a single cord. Elastic at the cuffs keeps heat in your arms, and cozy fleece lines the handwarmer pockets; there's a small strip along the zipper where it meets your face at the collar. Speaking of pockets, there are so many! Two handwarmer pockets, a chest pocket, and two internal bucket pockets are great for stashing gloves; this allows them to stay warm and dry when you take them off to tie in to your climbing rope, slice a piece of salami, or check your smartphone navigation app.
After features, durability is another top metric for the Helium Down. The Pertex Diamond Fuse fabric has diamond-shaped filaments that lock together and make the material highly resistant to abrasion and durable. The fabrics used in the Helium make it much more appropriate to wear this jacket over other layers — as your outermost layer — even in inclement weather.
Some jackets that are made of light, breathable fabrics wet out at the slightest hint of mist, making it imperative to wear underneath your hardshell layer. Based on OR's design, this jacket excels on technical climbing routes; logistical efficiency is likely what OR had in mind when declaring this jacket their most technical down hoodie. We appreciate this jacket for ice climbing in particular, where you climb in a shell layer to keep wind and dripping water at bay, and you probably don't want to take that shell off to add a warm layer at the belay station.
The durable fabrics used in the Helium Down are highly weatherproof. We have been testing jackets with Pertex fabrics for many years now, and we are huge fans. The Shield fabric lineup is also impressively waterproof but still supple and durable — an excellent choice for a down jacket. In our experience, these fabrics breathe better than other waterproof/breathable fabrics of the same thickness. We appreciate these characteristics, as a jacket needs to be able to pump moisture out, so the down can dry out quickly.
The Helium is a good value. It is most applicable to technical climbing in mild regions where it doesn't get too cold but it might be stormy or wet — think the Pacific Northwest, which is where Outdoor Research is based. It is also very durable and uses great materials, including responsibly sourced down. If this jacket suits your needs, it is a great investment.
The Outdoor Research Helium is a difficult jacket to recommend. It is well made, and we really dig that it uses responsibly sourced down and durable Pertex fabrics. But its utility is limited, especially when compared to other models in this review. It is not that light or compressible, and it is also not exceptionally warm. That said, if you're looking for a durable down jacket that won't start to fall apart when you climb a few pitches of rock or ice in it, and you have adequate warm layers to put on underneath, this might be the perfect jacket for you!
— Lyra Pierotti
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