My Outdoor Research Helium II became an essential part of my climbing day necessities. It’s received numerous mentions and awards, from Runners World to Outdoor Gear Lab. Here’s what the royal “we” at For the Love of Climbing think about this piece of gear:

Some of my favorite climbing is multi-pitch, which means you need to be prepared and have your shit together. Prepping water, food, and for the weather can sometimes feel like a daunting task. But the Helium II helped take some of the weight off of me—ironically, because it clocks in at an incredibly light 5.5oz.

The Technology + Specs

This layer consists of fabric constructed of Pertex Shield, 100 percent nylon, and 30D ripstop. What are these words, and what do they even mean? Well, it essentially means that this combination creates a waterproof jacket that is also compressible and lightweight. Pertex Shield is what makes this jacket waterproof but breathable so you won’t sweat to death in it. The ripstop fabrics are woven fabrics that use a special reinforcing technique that makes them resistant to tearing and ripping. Reinforcement threads are interwoven at regular intervals in a crosshatch pattern.

The stretch fabric will easily accommodate a full range of motion, which is essential when being active in the outdoors—especially when you are climbing and trying to clip that almost-too-high piece of gear. The hood is adjustable and doesn’t compromise visibility; fits well over my climbing helmet. The YKK Aquaguard center-front zipper and elastic cuffs both complete a seal between you and the weather outside and will help prevent water from getting in. This jacket packs into its own pocket with a webbing/carabiner loop that easily clips to any harness or pack.



I’m a smaller-than-average-sized human (AKA I’m the size of a large child), so fit is always a challenge for me. The Helium II fits true to its size, as do all of the OR products I have tried, which was a huge surprise to me. This isn’t true for most apparel companies, so taking the guessing out of the sizing made this easy for me. I’ve heard some complaints about not being able to wear a puffy underneath, but I don’t necessarily think it’s that kind of shell. There is plenty of room underneath for a single baselayer, and I anticipate not wearing the Helium II for colder weather, anyway.


It keeps me, works well for keeping the rain and wind out. This layer was created for flash-storm performance, and it lives up to its expectations (especially when I am mid-way up a route when a storm comes in—it’s perfect in a pinch!) Waterproof and windproof—what more do you need?

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The Helium II is a great all-year-round jacket, although I might consider something more heavy-duty for the winter months. This jacket makes a wonderful outer layer for my multi-pitch adventures, is durable, lightweight, kicks ass in the wind and the rain, and packs to the size of a bagel. The only thing it can do better is: be a bagel.

This jacket retails for $159. You can purchase your own Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket here.

Disclosure: I am currently an ambassador for Outdoor Research. These opinions are my own, are the result of thorough testing in the outdoors, and are no way influenced by the fact that the product was complimentary.

All photographs courtesy of Outdoor Research.

One thought

  1. Hey Kathy,

    The OR Helium II saved my butt last fall when I did a bike tour from DC to Pittsburgh. I think that over 200 of the some 330 miles that I rode that week on unpaved trail were in some kind of rain, from light drizzle to pouring rain. What that amounted to was every day I got wet from the sky above, and later the muddy ground below, on repeat.

    The only reason I threw that jacket in the bag (totally on a whim, the forecast was clear and sunny) was because of how light and small it is. Otherwise I was traveling light-is-right and I wasn’t going to take some heavy alpine shell. I wore the hood under my bike helmet, over a soaking wet merino beanie. I had the elastic cuffs pulled up my forearms when it was hot, and the waist cinched down tight when it was cold. I was drenched and muddy every single day and the Helium heroically staved off hypothermia.

    There MAY be “better” jackets out there, but not for the weight, durability, and price.

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