Product Review: Helium II Jacket by Outdoor Research

Run Oregon sometimes receives products to review. We recently received a lightweight jacket from Outdoor Research to try out.  Here are our impressions of the Helium II Jacket: Company: 

At Outdoor Research®, we built a company from a feeling: the urge to get out. It's what drives us. We love coming to work every day and inventing ever better solutions to what nature throws our way. But we're more than just the gear we build. We're part of a community of friends whose lives are connected by our common need to be outside. Our tribe is devoted to exploring our outdoor passions and challenging ourselves in the mountains, water and deserts of the planet we love so much. In 1981, a brilliant scientist and adventurer named Ron Gregg watched his frostbitten partner get airlifted off a glacier on Denali. He'd spent months planning a new route in the purest style, skiing 100 miles from the road to the base of the climb. Barely halfway to the summit, their trip ended with the failure of a simple pair of gaiters. Stubborn to the end, Ron refused a seat on the helicopter and descended alone for two weeks, pondering what had happened. Somewhere along the way he realized he could both fix the gear problem and devote his life to pursuing his passion for adventure. By the end, he knew one thing for sure: He wasn't going back to his old job. Ron Gregg built Outdoor Research on the idea that life is an adventure, and the best gear makes it more fun. Though he died tragically in an avalanche more than a decade ago, his legacy remains at our core. In our world, it's not about chasing heroes; It's about being on the journey. It's not how often we get out as much as how often we want to be out that makes us who we are. Our goal is to do all we can to expand the tribe of people who share our belief that progress is spiritual and life is unimaginable without the quest.

Matt: Helium II Jacket ($159): We have all had those runs – the ones where you look up before you leave and ponder bringing a jacket or not. On one hand, it doesn’t look that much like it’s going to rain and you don’t really want to wear a jacket for nothing. On the other, it would suck to be caught out in a “flash” rainstorm and be kicking yourself as your shirt becomes soaked. Whichever you choose, you will get lucky half the time and pissed at yourself the other half. The Helium II Jacket is a pricy top, but man – you are bringing home a piece designed for long-term durability and usefulness. It is made from nylon with a Pertex shield that is the latest and greatest in wind and waterproofing. Now that the weather has started featuring some rain, I have been able to take it on some runs. Using this jacket while running in the elements between 30-90 minutes has allowed me to stay dry. Even times when the rain quit and I could have taken it off, the breathability of the construction has made it so I haven’t felt overheated.

And if you end up deciding that you don’t need to wear a jacket, boy does this thing compress. It is so lightweight, that you can fold it up and basically stick it in your pocket (if you wear gym shorts like me). If you aren’t a pocket person, it’s easily small and light enough to run with it in your hand until the next downpour happens. The hood has this neat feature where it’s hood has a stiffer material to make it like the bill of a hat – effectively staying firm and keeping the rain out of your face while still offering full visuals. While the hood is adjustable it is not removable, so you will have to roll it up if you don’t plan to use it. Also be cognizant not to bend or crush the “bill” too much or you may risk permanently deforming it (I did not attempt this, but just something I thought had a potential of occurring).

Some runners have mentioned that Outdoor Research has a tendency to run small in sizing, though I had no issues with this. I am 6’1 and hover around 190, and I found the Large to fit how I like it – not too tight and not too loose – a solid fit for wearing a running shirt underneath. The sleeves were also a solid length. Depending on how you like your fit, the bottom may (or may not) be shorter than you want. You may need to size up if you want some extra length.

One thing that was a little bit of a negative was the fact that there were no pockets for your hands. There is a velcro pocket on the underneath side and the zipped pocket on the upper chest is designed to double as a stuff sack. Adding pockets undoubtedly means added weight, so I understand their reluctance to have them. However, if you are a used to pockets for your hands, you will be without.

Speaking of zippers, I found them to be a little stiff, making zipping almost a two-handed job – which can be a pain (first-world problems I know), with wet and cold hands. I’m not sure if this is a design need or not, but I didn’t have any zipper leakage, so that’s a plus.

Overall, this is an amazing jacket for all things Pacific Northwest. It worked great on my runs, but would also be a perfect addition to any hiking pack, cycling bag, or just something to wear when walking through the rain during a pub crawl in the Rose City. Highly recommended.

Specs:

  • Fully Seam-Taped
  • Pertex® Shield+ 2.5L, 100% nylon 30D ripstop
  • Avg. Weight: 6.4oz
  • Center Back Length: 28½”
  • 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

About Matt Rasmussen (1599 Articles)
Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching the Olympics, sampling craft beers, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.
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