Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket
One of the most refreshing ways to run is to do so outdoors. Whether it’s on a running track, along a road or sidewalk, or along a hiking trail, many running enthusiasts extol the virtues of outdoor running in comparison to simply running on a treadmill. The benefits of increased exposure to warm sunlight and fresh air can be mentally and physically reinvigorating, which is why neighborhood joggers are such a common sight. However, the consequence of outdoor running is exposure to the elements. A bit of road running can be pleasant during a sunny day but the mood can quickly turn sour if rain begins to fall. This is especially true with the popular pastime of trail running, where rain can potentially lead to debilitating injuries if a runner is ill-prepared. In order to mitigate the potential damage and discomfort that comes with running in the rain, many popular running shoes are designed with waterproof materials. However, this is only one part of the problem since the rest of a runner’s body is still exposed. As a solution, companies such as Mountain Hardware have designed waterproof running jackets like the Helium II, which provide excellent protection from wind chill and rain while storing easily and weighing very light.
- Excellent water protection
- Reflective materials for safety
- Fantastic heat retention
- Portable and lightweight
- Comfortable and adjustable hood
- Inconvenient pocket placement
- Unreasonable price
- Ineffective at layering
A very thin layer of ripstop nylon makes up the majority of this wind jacket, offering a surprising level of durability and wind protection despite its incredibly modest design. A few pockets have been implemented to the jacket as well, with one being located on the front as a Velcro breast pocket and the other being located near the collapsible hood as a storage pouch. Neither of these pockets are particularly useful as far as jacket pockets go; having some form of storage near the bottom in a position that is more easily accessible to the hands would have been preferable. Still, these pockets can be used to store valuables such as a smartphone, mp3 player, keys, or various survival tools. Finally, the entire Helium II is collapsible and can be stored in a very small pouch. This is the most convenient feature of this product since it can be easily stowed conveniently in tinier areas, such as the glove box of a car or in the corner of a suitcase.
Customers who may be concerned about overheating while wearing this Outdoor Research product can take solace in the fact that it is so lightweight. The fact that it only weighs around 5 ½ ounces means that it manages to avoid the negative sensations otherwise associated with an article of clothing that lacks breathability. Simply put, this jacket wasn’t designed for providing airflow and doesn’t suffer from its exclusion.
Customers who have purchased this Mountain Research windbreaker and left reviews online have stated that this is a comfortable option for runners, hikers, and casual walkers in environments with temperatures around 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. One aspect of the Helium II’s design that a few people found uncomfortable is the lack of substantial storage in either of its pockets. As previously mentioned, the lack of substantial lower pockets within easy reach of the hands makes the other pockets and pouches provided feel like an afterthought. Another uncomfortable design aspect is the tighter fit; this isn’t an issue when wearing this jacket on its own but anyone in snowy conditions trying to use this windbreaker for layering will have difficulties.
Another positive aspect of this jacket’s sizing is the manner in which it can be stored. Aside from its protection from the elements, the most impressive feature of the Outdoor Research Helium II is how it can be condensed into a much more portable size. This isn’t a feature that is exclusive to this product since many other windbreakers offer this ability. However, it’s still incredibly convenient for individuals who don’t have a lot of storage space since they can shrink this product down to roughly the size of a wallet. This may go without saying but this isn’t possible while storing objects inside one of the two pockets.
Customers have remarked that the Helium II does an admirable job handling abrasions from falling or coming into contact with foliage during a trail run. However, one aspect of this rain shell’s design that left one customer unsatisfied was the Velcro used to fasten the front chest pocket. After a while, this customer remarked that they had a difficult time getting this pouch to remain closed. This is unfortunate but the good news is that Velcro is very easily and cheaply replaceable, so any runners who experience this issue but still love the Helium II should have no problem mitigating the damage.
While no accessories are included in the package, this windbreaker offers a decent level of compatibility with accessories in general. For example, the zippered chest pocket and collapsible hood pouch are good for storing valuables and tools. In particular, the chest pocket is at the ideal spot for a music player of some kind; leaving the zipper partially unzipped could help to feed the earbuds to the wearer’s ears. In addition, a small loop near the bottom of the Helium II is compatible with carabiner clips. Aside from keys, this makes it easy to clip many other objects to this jacket such as a survival knife, firestarter, or other camping tools that can be clipped. Finally, the waterproof nature of this jacket’s construction means that it can double as a rain trap or water storage bag in a true survival situation. Although this is not very likely to be an issue for the majority of trail runners and hikers, the knowledge that this Outdoor Research product can be used in this way should bring some comfort.
The style in which this jacket fits on the wearer’s body is tight in order to prevent rain or other moisture from leaking under the Helium II and coming into contact with the wearer’s torso. While this is a positive feature and a major selling point for this Outdoor Research product, the tightness of this windbreaker makes it difficult to use in for layering. Because of this, individuals in very cold and snowy environments may not want to use this jacket for that purpose, finding a thermal sweater or something from Under Armour to be more effective.
Some discounted rates observed for listings of this jacket on retail sites such as Amazon show discounts of roughly 30 to 40 percent. Others show a price cut of almost 50 percent off the initial price. Unfortunately, despite these increasingly drastic discounts, the Helium II is overpriced. When compared to other windbreakers and rain shells that feature a similar design, this product costs more even with a sharp price decrease. It’s true that Outdoor Research did an excellent job designing this jacket to perform all of its intended functions but the fact remains that the cost is unjustifiable. It is most likely a better idea for runners on a budget to invest in a cheaper windbreaker or thermal sweater, depending on their specific needs.
- Ripstop nylon material
- Reinforced zippers on front
- Variety of color options with reflective elements
- One zippered breast pocket for storing valuables
- Collapsible hood with additional storage pouch
- Can be compressed into a highly portable size
However, there are some features of the Helium II that are problematic. One of these is the inconvenient and frankly annoying placement of its pockets. Neither of the two pockets included in this product are placed in a convenient location and essentially feel like they were added as an afterthought. Another minor concern is the fact that this jacket fits too tightly to the body for it to be viable as one of multiple layers. In a product that is so versatile already, it’s strange to see this conspicuous absence in its design. Finally, the most concerning negative about this Outdoor Research product is that the price is way too high. There is simply no justifying the Helium II being sold at the price it currently boasts. However, none of these issues get in the way of this windbreaker’s incredible positives, so it is still wholeheartedly recommended for runners who worry about wind and rain.