Weighing in at a mere 5.5 ounces, Outdoor Research’s Helium II 2.5-layer waterproof jacket makes the perfect gift for the gram-counting outdoorsy-type on your gift list.
This wispy topper has most of the features you’d expect from a much-heavier piece: a full-length zipper, drawcord-adjustable hood, and a chest pocket. It lacks handwarmer pockets, though in addition to saving weight, this non-feature makes the jacket lower-profile, and, therefore, more comfortable to wear under a pack. This takes a little getting used to (I have several jackets that don’t have pockets) but it’s worth it in terms of comfort and weight saving.
I’m generally not a fan of 2.5 layer jackets, (they tend to lack breathability) but the Helium II never felt clammy, even in hard rain. It did not wet out, and provided bombproof protection through a long rainstorm in Eastern Oregon. A standard cut fits thicker builds properly, with no pulling across my chest (I am a D cup.)
The steepish pricetag’s a reflection of the Pertex Shield + fabric, a highly packable, moderately breathable material that wears like iron. If I could change one thing about the Helium II, it would be the elasticized sleeve cuffs. Brands often skimp on cuffs to save weight, but I missed the adjustability and additional comfort of a small Velcro tab.
Men’s sizes S-XXL, Women’s XS-XL.
Bottom line: This lightweight classic is worth the extra money. I enjoyed fantastic rain protection in an ultra-lightweight package.