Outdoor Research Helium Down Jacket Review
I recently added the Outdoor Research Helium Down Jacket to my winter apparel selection and it has quickly become my go-to for cold evenings in camp or around the backyard bonfire.
Growing up in the mountains of Northern California, my puffy down jacket was always one of my favorite winter apparel items. From building backyard snow parks to sliding down steep snowy hills ‘penguin-style’, that puffy kept me warm and cozy throughout some of the best winters of my youth.
Unfortunately, as an adult, I don’t spend quite as much time frolicking in the snow as I used to. And what I’m looking for in a down jacket has also shifted slightly. Nowadays, I want something that’s going to keep me warm but also look stylish around town.
In this Outdoor Research Helium Down Jacket review, I’ll provide my findings on the warmth, fit, comfort, durability, and packability of this men’s winter jacket.
Outdoor Research Helium Down Jacket At-a-Glance
- MSRP: $229
- Weight: 12.6 ounces (358 grams)
- Packed Dimensions: 11” x 6.5” x 4.5” (L x W x H)
- Fabric: Pertex® Quantum ripstop nylon with Diamond Fuse technology; 20D ripstop nylon lining
- Insulation: 800+ fill power, responsibly sourced goose down
Who Is This Best For
This jacket would be best for cold-weather use by thru-hikers, weekend backpackers, and car campers that don’t mind having a down jacket without a hood. It’s also a stylish option as an overcoat for evenings out on the town during the winter months!
Circumstance of Review
I received this jacket on my final day in Truckee, California back in October 2020. I quickly wore it every day on the road while exploring hot springs along the Eastern Sierras, climbing the highest point in Death Valley National Park, and lying in my tent watching shooting stars in Mojave National Preserve.
I had been wearing another down jacket from a different brand, and it was instantly clear that this OR down jacket was a major upgrade. To date, I haven’t actually been caught in any heavy rain or snow in this jacket. So, to be clear and honest, my jury is still out on the weatherproof characteristics of this particular down jacket.
- External Chest Pocket: Great for a Clif Bar or folding map.
- Brushed Tricot Knuckle Side of Hand Pockets: Super comfortable on the backs of your hands when air temperatures start dropping.
- Dual Internal Stash Pockets: Keep your backpacking flask or other items secretly stashed in these pockets.
- Left Hand Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack: This makes it super easy to pack this jacket in your pack without it taking up too much space.
- Carabiner Loop with Key Clip: Avoid losing your keys or spending five minutes trying to dig them out of the bottom of your pack when you get back to the car.
- Clean Finish Elastic Drawcord Hem: Easily snugs the bottom edge of the jacket in to keep more heat inside.
- No-Snag Webbing Behind Center Front Zipper: Helps to avoid annoying (and potentially damaging) zipper snags.
Outdoor Research Helium Down Jacket Review
Over the last three months, I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for what makes this jacket a great choice for thru-hikers and backpackers. So here are my thoughts on several important factors you’d probably do well to consider when evaluating any down jacket.
I had previously been wearing another down jacket that I thought was pretty warm. I had no idea what I was missing until I wore the Helium jacket for the first time. So far, I’ve worn it as my primary outer layer on nights with freezing temperatures and it has kept me plenty warm.
Comfort and Fit
I love the comfort and fit of this jacket. I usually wear a large in T-shirts and sweatshirts, but I chose a medium for this jacket after utilizing OR’s sizing chart. This slightly smaller size is still large enough for me to wear a couple of layers underneath.
The brushed tricot fabric on the inside of the pockets is a great touch. It’s super comfortable on my hands and it provides an extra layer of insulation against the cold exterior temperatures. Perhaps the only thing I’d change about the comfort and fit of this jacket is to add an insulated hood.
The major purpose of Outdoor Research’s patented Diamond Fuse Technology is to add significant durability to the outer shell of this jacket. It adds abrasion resistance to protect the inner down fill and minimize the risk of tears and rips.
While I didn’t exactly want to put it to the test too much while I was hiking through the Cholla Cactus Gardens in Joshua Tree, I have definitely been impressed with its durability for campsite use.
Superb! I usually roll my jackets into their own hoods, but this one doesn’t have one. So, at first, I was a little skeptical of how well it would pack up. But with its pocket stuff sack, this jacket actually packs down to a smaller size than my old down puffy.
In fact, I just stuffed it into that left-hand pocket and measured its packed dimensions to give you a little more info. When stuffed, it packs down to measure 11” long, 6.5” long, and 4.5” high.
- Warmth: The difference in insulation between this jacket and my lower-priced model is night and day.
- Comfort: I love the plush feeling of the Tricot material on the inside of the pockets.
- Stash Pockets: I’ve made great use of these for transporting secret gifts during this recent holiday season.
- Style: Not gonna brag, but I’ve already received several compliments on this jacket when I’ve worn it out and about.
- Drawcord Hem: I personally don’t like my jackets to flop around at the bottom hem, so this drawcord is right up my alley.
- No hood for extra wind and weather resistance (OR does sell a hooded version of this jacket though).
- A bit pricey. I’m not sure I would personally pop for a jacket this expensive under other circumstances.
Overall, the Outdoor Research Helium Down Jacket has kept me warm and comfortable on some cool Eastern Sierra nights. While I might not have spent the extra money to buy a jacket of this caliber for myself, I’m darn happy to have it keeping me warm this winter. The only thing I’d add to this jacket would be a hood but, to be fair, Outdoor Research does make a Helium Down Hoodie as well.
A Few Comparison Items
For comparison’s sake, here are a few other men’s down jackets that you might also be interested in:
- Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater
- Fjallraven Expedition Pack Men’s Down Hoodie
- REI Co-op Stratocloud Men’s Down Hoodie
This product was donated for the purpose of review.
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