Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women’s Helium II Jacket

DISCLAIMER: As a participant in Outdoor Research’s #ORInsightLab, I am offered the opportunity to test seasonal gear in exchange for my honest review. This post is not sponsored but I did receive the gear for free.

This summer, I tested out 2 jackets from Outdoor Research as part of their #ORInsightLab team and I’ll be profiling them this week and next. First up, the Helium II Women’s Jacket!

This jacket has been heavily praised, winning awards like ‘Best Waterproof Running Jacket Winter’ from Runner’s World or ‘Top Pick Award Winner 2015’ from Outdoor Gear Lab so I was pretty pumped to pack this jacket for my summer adventures.

Unfortunately, my summer adventures were mostly hot and dry so I didn’t get much of a chance to put the waterproofness to the test too often but will be doing so this fall during rainy season in Pittsburgh.

But I will speak to the breathability and packability because both are excellent attributes of this jacket because both are outstanding. I’ve brought my Helium II jacket with me on every single hike and trip in the past several months and have worn it frequently when it’s windy and as a layer when the sun starts to sink lower in the sky and the air cools down in the mountains.

On cool morning hikes in Idaho, this jacket was the perfect layer over my shirt to keep me warm from the light breeze but, because of the breathability, I never felt uncomfortable, even when hiking up steep grades.

And as it relates to packability, can’t be beat with this one. It’s extremely lightweight, clocking in at 5.5 oz (less than half the weight of my Clairvoyant jacket) and packs down such that I can hold the entire jacket in my fist. It’s extremely easy to stuff into a 65L backpack for an overnight trip or a small trail running pack without giving up much/almost any retail space.

The tradeoff with lightweight is that there aren’t any exterior hip pockets. (There is an exterior chest pocket, though.) This did take adjusting on my part because I so frequently jam my hands, phone or snacks in the exterior pockets of my jacket that it felt strange to not have them. But after a few wears, my brain figured it out and I found alternatives.

Two additional features I really like about the Helium II jacket are the internal pocket and the drawcord hem to cinch the waist.
Outdoor Research Helium II Review //

As I adjusted to the loss of external pockets, I quickly found the internal pocket to be useful in carrying snacks or my ID/credit card. Again, not my first instinct so reach inside my jacket for key items but it was nice to have a place to put small items that I wanted on my person. This pocket also doubles as a stuff sack with a carabiner loop – great for clipping to a climbing harness! Most of my adventures kept my feet on the ground but the Helium II would be a great addition to any climbing trip.

Outdoor Research Helium II Review //

The drawcord hem is a feature I’ve really come to appreciate in my active jackets. When the temperatures dip or the rain is pouring, I like being able to cinch down my outerlayers to preserve warmth and keep moisture out.

Overall, really loved the lightweight and breathable Outdoor Research Helium II Women’s jacket. There’s no question that it will be a tagalong on outdoor adventures of all varieties for many, many years to come.


Outdoor Research Helium II Women’s Jacket, $159

Sizing: I am 5’11” and am wearing a medium; jacket runs true to size.

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