Review: Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie

Water-Resistant Down Jacket
Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie
$299, 15.4 oz./437g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-3XL, women’s XS-XL, plus sizes 1X-4X

The wind blew strong and steady and the temperature sat just several ticks above freezing on our mornings and evenings backpacking the three-day loop through Owl and Fish canyons in southern Utah in early May. I was happy to have not brought an ultralight insulated jacket on that trip—as I often do in spring in the Southwest—because my Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie had the heft to keep me warm in that below-freezing wind chill. And it delivers rare protection from wet weather—at a price lower than most high-quality down jackets.

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The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie.
The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie.

Impressively, I felt warm wearing it over just a lightweight, short-sleeve T-shirt at our camps in Owl and Fish canyons—where, of course, tall canyon walls gave us hours of shade every evening and morning.

That’s because the Helium Down Hoodie is stuffed with 800+-fill down (responsibly sourced and sustainably processed), giving it a high warmth-to-weight ratio: At under a pound, it packs enough warmth for temps below freezing, enabling you to push the edges of peak seasons in the mountains and desert. People who get cold easily will like this jacket for typical morning and evening temperatures in the mountains in summer, too.

Pull the jacket out of the left hand pocket that it stuffs into—packing down to well under two liters—and it lofts up immediately, like an internal fan was inflating it.

The shell consists of wind-resistant, lightweight and packable, 41 percent recycled, 15-denier by 30-denier Pertex Quantum nylon fabric with Diamond Fuse technology for greater durability and snag resistance. And the jacket sets itself apart from many down jackets for the waterproof ripstop fabric at the hood, shoulders, and upper sleeves, giving it much more resistance to precipitation.

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The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie.
The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie.

The adjustable, under-the-helmet hood lets you find a comfortably snug fit to trap warmth efficiently and enable the hood to turn with your head and stay put in strong winds. The front zipper comes up to your chin and doesn’t tend to snag and the elasticized cuffs and adjustable hem seal in body heat.

The jacket’s trim fit provides enough space for a couple of base layers underneath, allowing full freedom of movement, and easily fits under a shell jacket. Good shoulder articulation paired with enough sleeve length prevents the cuffs from sliding up your forearms when reaching. And few brands offer as wide a range of men’s size and women’s sizes as OR.

The two zippered hand pockets feel quite warm and have space for three-season gloves and the zippered chest pocket easily fits a smartphone with room to spare. Plus, two wide and deep, internal stash pockets are spacious enough to warm up gloves inside them.

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The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie.
The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie in southern Utah’s Fish Canyon.

Lastly, try to find a high-quality down jacket at this price point today. There are very few.

The Verdict

Warm for its weight and very packable, with waterproof fabric on the hood, shoulders, and upper sleeves, the Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie is a versatile choice for backpacking, climbing, and other outdoor activities even when temperatures slip below freezing and as a layering piece for winter in the backcountry.


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See all reviews of outdoor apparel at The Big Outside, including “The 12 Best Down Jacketsand “The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry,” as well as “How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry” and “12 Pro Tips for Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See the Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all reviews and expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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