Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Jacket Review
- Great weight & packability
- Best in class breathability
- Great mobility with stretch panels
- Versatility extends beyond storm shell
- Not as waterproof as others in test
- Fitted style too snug for some applications
It may seem unfair to line the Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid up against full 2.5 layer jackets. It is missing two big strips of waterproofness under the arm in favor of breathable soft shell panels. The mostly waterproof jacket can deflect light showers for ages and will shield a thunderstorm downpour reasonably well.
The hybrid construction of the Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid matches waterproof Pertex Shield+ fabric in exposed areas and OR’s soft shell Ferrosi fabric on the sides and under the arms. After three hours into a rainy hike, the water had slipped into the more protected soft shell areas and soaked through. A tester was wet down to their base layer. But in shorter and less intense rains a solid DWR coating and the Pertex Shield+ fabric kept the wet out. The large hood fit over a cycling helmet and adjusted easily.
While the hybrid design was a sacrifice in the weather shedding department it was a category winner when it came to breathability. The Outdoor Research’s Helium Hybrid Pertex Shield+ membrane is on par with the Sherpa proprietary membrane in this category, but with the soft shell panels in the hottest spots this jacket dumped heat better. Even charging uphill in misty weather our tester never got sweaty.
A tester using the Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid as a commuter shell in the city wouldn’t stop talking about how great this jacket wore. The soft shell panels added tons of stretch for long reaches or when he was hunched over the handlebars. His wrists and back stayed covered. Two hand pockets carry plenty of stuff without getting in the way of waist straps. And the fit is beautiful, sitting trim but without odd billows or buckles, even in the saddle. Be warned, it’s a trimmer fit than some shells.
The lightweight waterproof portions and soft shell panels both detract from the Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid’s toughness, but testers had no issues with this jacket. We found it best suited to day trips and short overnight excursions.
The soft shell panels add almost no bulk and weight to the Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid. It’s one of the lightest jackets we tried at 8.5 ounces and packs down to the size of a large orange.
How We Tested It
The Gear Institute’s hiking expert conducted a thorough test of this season’s 2.5 layer storm shells. With 2016 being the rainiest fall in more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest, testing conditions were ideal for this test. A group of testers hiked, biked, and backpacked while wearing the jackets in pounding rain, steady mist, sideways blowing storms, and every other possible way to describe liquid precipitation.
For more reviews beyond this 2017 test, check out our Best Hard Shell Jackets of 2017, Best Hybrid Jackets of 2017, Best Soft Shell Jackets of 2017, along with other related hiking and camping gear tests.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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