The original Outdoor Research Helium Jacket came out back in 2011 and offered a fully waterproof shell for both Men and Women. I jumped on the opportunity to add this jacket to my gear collection because of it's weight and small packable size. Now that the Helium II jacket is out, we wanted to see if the successor was worth the upgrade.
The jacket itself is made from fully seam taped 100% nylon 30D ripstop fabric with Pertex Shield+. There is a chest pocket which is a handy space to stash your phone or a quick snack, but to minimize weight and space this jacket has no side pockets. I found this to be a disadvantage when your hands are looking for a temporary shelter from the elements, but in turn sheds space for its packability.
The Helium jacket stuffs into a pocket built into the interior of the jacket leaving a little loop for you to clip it somewhere handy. I always had mine packed up and waiting at the door (or ready to grab and go in my daypack) as my go-to jacket for camping, canoeing and hiking. Now it is 20 grams lighter than the previous generation (a size Large Helium II weighs 180 grams) and even more breathable.
While out camping with a large load on my back ordinarily you would want a jacket with pit-zippers, but I found the breathability of this jacket was so efficient, I didn't miss this feature. I simply regulated my heat with the front zipper. As long as you stick to proper layering techniques, this jacket will keep you protected Spring, Summer and Fall. It makes for an excellent wind-breaker and again, if you are properly layered, blustery days won't dampen your spirits.
The hood is adjustable at the back and it has a thicker brim but still stuffs up well when packing the jacket. At first I thought it was going to get bent out of shape like a baseball cap but it returned to form each time I unpacked it. It never obscured my view or covered my headlamp and always effectively blocked the elements.
The arms have elasticized cuffs which I didn't find constricting. As an improvement over the original, the top of the cuff does not have an elastic and lays flush against your skin, reducing possible irritation.
I really loved the original jacket, but with the noticeably better breathability of the new Helium II, and it's incredibly small packed size, it is a must-have for any adventurer.
So what have I done with my original Helium jacket? Well it's by the front door too... to loan to friends who might want to go for a hike when it's raining. I can't think of a better jacket that will not only make sure you will never get caught wet in the rain again... but with the Helium II, you will actually enjoy being out in it.