Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket
- Fully Seam Taped
- YKK® AquaGuard® Center Front Zipper
- Fully Adjustable Hood
- Single-Separating Front Zipper
- Zippered Napoleon Pocket
- Internal Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack
- Carabiner Loop
- Elastic Cuffs
- Drawcord Hem
- Standard cut
- Pertex® Shield+, 2.5L, 100% nylon, 30D ripstop
- 6.4oz / 180g (L)
- Back Length: 28 1/2in. (L)
Reviewer: 5’11”; 160 lbs
Days tested: 40
Locations tested: High Sierra, CA; Moab area, UT; Black Canyon of the Gunnison & Sawatch Range, CO
The Outdoor Research Helium II jacket is a fast and light rain shell designed for emergency storm protection. It is not a beefy Gore-Tex Pro layer designed to keep you dry even when the weather nukes on you for days on end, or you’re immersed in snow or ice.
The Helium II is similar to the Patagonia Alpine Houdini (a benchmark shell for this category), in that it isn’t highly breathable, it doesn’t have pit zips, and it doesn’t have extra niceties like large chest pockets or a powder skirt.
It is minimal, ultralight, and very packable.
The Helium II is a very light layer and is cut accordingly. I wear a Medium in nearly every shirt and jacket I own, and the OR Helium II is consistent with that sizing.
The arms and torso are long enough to not ride up when I reach above my head.
The hood is also large enough to fit over a climbing helmet, though I wouldn’t say it’s as roomy as the hood on a beefier storm shell like the Black Diamond Sharp End or Wild Things Alpinist.
The Helium II’s fit is fairly svelte. I was able to easily put it on over a mid-weight synthetic puffy jacket, but I lost a bit of mobility in my arms due to the tightness.
Compared to the Patagonia Alpine Houdini, the Helium II is definitely cut slimmer, making it less ideal for cold-weather pursuits since there is less room for layers underneath. But as a summer climbing shell, the fit is perfect.
The jacket has a single front chest pocket that is large enough to fit a small camera or Clif Bar, and a velcro pocket on the inside that doubles as a stuff sack for the jacket.
The hood has a single elastic pull-tab to cinch it down, and as I said above, it is large enough to fit over a helmet. But it is definitely a tighter fit than some other hardshells.
The cuffs have a thin piece of elastic around half the circumference of the wrist that keeps the sleeves in place. I have found this to be more comfortable than the full circumference wrist elastic found on the Patagonia Alpine Houdini.
I also like the waterproof zippers on the Helium II and the exterior chest pocket more than the storm flap and interior chest pocket found on the Alpine Houdini. I think the zippers are more appropriate given how water resistant the rest of the jacket is, and the exterior pocket is easier to use.
Weight and Packability
Compared to a full, heavyweight hardshell, the Helium II certainly falls in the lightweight or even the bantamweight category. At a feathery 180 grams, the Helium II is approximately half the weight of most Gore-Tex Pro shells (e.g., the Black Diamond Sharp End shell is 455g and the Arc’teryx Alpha AR is 385g).
And for those who want to get obsessive about it, the Helium II is actually lighter than the Patagonia Alpine Houdini, which weighs in at 187 grams.
The Helium II packs down to a comparable size to other ultralight shells, including the Alpine Houdini. When stuffed into its internal pocket, the Helium II packs down to about the size and shape of a hamburger; the pocket is approximately 3x3x2 inches and square-shaped.
And although the Alpine Houdini stuffs down to a marginally smaller package, I actually prefered using the Helium II since it is easier to stuff into its own pocket.
NEXT: Perfomance, Durability, Etc.