Monday, November 28, 2016

Outdoor Research: Helium II Jacket Review

It’s been raining hard here in Northern California for the past few weeks and getting outside to do my runs is sometimes a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, treadmill is one way to get it done but for some reason I’m not a big fan of it. I prefer to be outside, see my surroundings and breath fresh air. My mind is more relax and I truly get the satisfaction from being outside. The only caveat is that I have to have some protection from pouring rain and other elements. This is where Outdoor Research comes into play.

Ever heard of the Outdoor Research? If you’re into outdoor adventures, then you probably heard of this company a lot. Outdoor Research (OR as known by many) is an American company located in Seattle, Washington founded in 1981 by a guy named Ron Gregg. He’s a physicist turned outdoor adventurer. OR was founded on the idea that life is an adventure and the best gear makes it more fun. I guess watching this video will do more justice than me telling you the story. So sit back, enjoy and know the company’s history on this short video:

Outdoor Research offers plenty of gears and apparels, so depending on your needs and the location of where you’ll be needing it most, guaranteed that they have something for you. Since Northern California is being pounded with some heavy rains lately, I opted to test the Helium II Jacket. It’s waterproof and extremely lightweight:

Let’s go down with all the details and see what this jacket is made of.

·   Waterproof
·   Breathable
·   Fully seam tape
·   Laminated construction
·   Windproof
·   Lightweight
·   Adjustable hood
·   Aqua guard zippers
·   Zip chest pocket
·   Internal pocket (serve as a stuff sack)
·   Reflective logos
·   Elastic cuff and draw cord hem

Fit and Functionality
The Helium II is a very lightweight, waterproof and windproof jacket that is cut accordingly based on the industry standard. I wear a medium in nearly every shirt and jacket I own, and the Helium II is consistent with that sizing. It is a Standard Fit which basically means that it is tailored in a way that the sides go straight down from under the armpits, basically like a T-shirt.

Now, that we get the sizing out of the way, let’s get to the meaty part.

The Helium II has received many accolades and recognitions last year from:
·      Outdoor Gear Lab: “Top Pick Award Winter 2015”
·      Runner’s World: “Best Waterproof Running Jacket Winter 2015”
·      Canoe and Kayak Magazine: “Best Cold-Weather Kayaking Gear Winter 2015”

1.     First thing that really caught my attention was the weight of the jacket. We all know that most waterproof jackets are somewhat heavy and it goes with some bulkiness as well. The Helium II is not as beefy as the Gore-Tex and it weighs 6.4 ounces only. It is extremely lightweight and packable.

2.     The jacket has two pockets in total. The outside zippered chest pocket located on the left-hand portion is large enough to fit even the biggest phone in the market today. I just bought a new phone that measures 6.5” (outside to outside) diagonal and it fits perfectly. The other pocket is located inside the jacket that is secured by Velcro. This pocket also serves as a stuff sack for the jacket, easily converts your full jacket into a small packable bag that you can clip to your carabiner or throw in your bag.  

3.     The semi elastic cuff. It’s roomy enough that you can put this over the glove when it’s really cold. I like this better than the full cuff as it gives me more breathability since this jacket doesn’t have any vent holes like other jackets.  

4.     The draw cord along the hem of the jacket that you can easily tighten with just one hand. This hem is also a bit longer than the front to give you some added protection from water splashing into your bun.

5.     The hood is equipped with a brim that doesn’t block my peripheral vision even as I turn my head. Yes, it is roomy! this can easily go over a helmet if you decide to wear this during a bike ride or rock climbing. Unlike other jackets that have an elastic cord along the side of the hood, this doesn’t have any. But it has a more intuitive draw cord located at the very back that is connected to the front / side area of the hood giving it more secure hold and tight fit when needed.

6.     The zipper area is truly waterproof and bonded very well with the rest of the material. It also has a long textured cord attached to the zipper that you can pull easily even while wearing a thick glove.

7.     Lastly is the reflective materials to keep you visible during low light conditions. The thing that I noticed was that it doesn’t have any reflective materials at the back. I suggest that you carry some extra light (a headlamp or an LED Vest) to give you more visibility.

I have tested this jacket over some nasty rains and strong winds with a temperature between 40oF and 50oF. This jacket is equipped with Pertex Shield + that enabled me to stay warm and kept the rain and cold wind from getting in. It is extremely lightweight and it moves along with my body as I move and swing my arms. The adjustable hood is a snap when I pulled it over to secure my cap and it stayed perfectly in place. I put my phone inside the chest pocket with a piece of paper towel to test the waterproofness on this area, well true to what they advertised, even the inside is waterproof. I tend to sweat a lot and the material of this jacket is extremely comfortable to my skin, it didn’t give me that clammy feeling.

The jacket is extremely breathable on the conditions that I have tested it but as I mentioned on the above, it doesn’t have any venting holes or zipper along the arm pit for a quick ventilation. This is the only thing that I would recommend if they decide to do some upgrade, but other than that, this is a perfectly well-done jacket that you can depend on. There’s no reason to leave the house without it.

Before and after 9 miles of running
My Verdict
The Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket is one of the best jackets that I have tested. The waterproofness, wind blocking protection, breathability and comfort are truly remarkable. The fact that this jacket is rated to be waterproof, OR still manage to deliver this jacket with a mere weight of 6.4 ounces. This is unheard of for a jacket with this caliber!

If you’re still on the fence, and have some thoughts about the durability, Outdoor Research gears and apparels are backed with their Infinite Guarantee. They strongly believe on the quality of their gears will last forever and if by any reason that the product fails to meet your needs, OR will be happy to replace it. Their primary goal is your total satisfaction.

This jacket comes with a price tag of $159.00 which I believe is pretty reasonable for its quality, its price is comparable with other jackets in today’s market. I would highly consider this jacket if you’re looking for some upgrade this season and for any activities that you plan on doing under the rain or even if the sky decides to open up…you’ll be glad that Helium II Jacket got your back!

Thanks for reading and feel free to post below if you have any comments or questions.

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