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OR Helium 2 vs Rohan Helix
After taking the Outdoor Research Helium 2 over 200 miles on the PCT and beyond, it’s definitely time for a full review of how it coped with the unusually wet, cold and windy weather in the southern Californian desert. So, why the OR Helium 2?
Why the Helium 2?
When I arrived in San Diego, I heard Walmart stocked full sets of Frogg Toggs rain suits and so the hunt was on. I went to a number of Walmarts before starting the Pacific Crest Trail to get hold of them and couldn’t find them anywhere. So, I went to the REI in San Diego in search of an alternative. After checking out a number of jackets in-store, the OR Helium 2 was the lightest, most packable rain jacket they had at that price point. Made of coated Ripstop, taped seams, an integrated stuff sack and weighing just 182g I couldn’t resist.
How did it do?
The first week of Pacific Crest Trail was incredibly wet, cold, windy and icy. An unusual weather front had early-starters of the trail in its grip with many hikers ducking off the trail at Mt Laguna to wait out the snow. The jacket for the first 100 miles was working great. Cutting the wind, keeping me dry and quite warm with my Patagonia Micropuff Hoodie underneath as a mid-layer while walking to keep warm. The rain would soak into the shell and then run down after reaching the waterproof coating inside.
Further up the trail, the San Jacinto mountains had begun and the higher I got, the more the cloud began to roll over and before I knew it I was in the grip of a really heavy storm with driving sleet and rain. I noticed my shoulders and cuffs were getting pretty soaked under the jacket and my Micropuff was taking in a fair amount of moisture. My front and back were still really dry. I arrived in Idylwild after almost 200 miles of hiking and almost continuous use of the OR Helium 2 and decided to have a thorough inspection. Some of the coatings inside the shell had started to wear off under my shoulder straps and the seam tape had started to come loose in areas of high abrasion. I was a little disappointed, but for such a lightweight jacket it hadn’t done too badly considering how terrible the weather was. Still, I reckon I could have done the entire thru-hike with it as long as the weather improved until Washington state.
How breathable is it?
It’s not too tight-fitting so I was able to get a fair amount of ventilation through the jacket, but the actual fabric isn’t as breathable as other jackets on the market. Some residue was collecting on the inside when hiking uphill and working up a sweat.
Will you continue to use it?
To keep the weight down in my pack and if the weather looks promising then absolutely. It’s perfect for keeping light drizzle off and for cutting the wind while also being a tiny shell jacket, but for more dramatic weather conditions I’ll be wearing my Rohan Helix Jacket.
Value for money
For $159 it’s not a cheap jacket, but this shell is for an ultralight backpacker who’s likely to be hiking north later in the season and with fewer chances of heavy and consistent rain. This would be a good investment for such a hiker, but for more dramatic conditions it’s not going to hold up as long as one would hope.
- Durability 40% 40%
- Comfort/fit 70% 70%
- Waterproofing 60% 60%
- Breathability 40% 40%
- Quality 50% 50%
- Value to weight ratio 80% 80%
- Value for money 60% 60%
- Highly packable
- Seam taped
- Integrated stuff sack
- Waterproof coating doesn’t last long
- Some poor stitching
Coated Pertex® Shield+ 2.5L, 100% nylon 30D ripstop
- Fully Seam-Taped
- YKK® AquaGuard® Center Front Zipper
- Fully Adjustable Hood
- Single-Separating Front Zipper
- Zippered Napoleon Pocket
- Internal Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack
- Carabiner Loop
- Elastic Cuffs
- Drawcord Hem