2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Gear Guide 2012

Gear Guide 2012: Outdoor Research Helium II Shell

Reliable weather protection in a light-weight package.

by: Ted Alvarez and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Outdoor Research Helium II (Courtesy Photo)
Outdoor Research Helium II (Courtesy Photo)

[featherweight bargain]

You always have room for an apple in your pack, right? That’s all you need to carry—size- and weight-wise—for legit storm protection with this wispy shell. “It kept me bone-dry in everything from a summer squall in Seattle to a cold November shower on Washington’s Tiger Mountain,” reports one tester.

The 2.5-layer Pertex Shield DS—a nylon face laminated to a polyurethane membrane—is lighter and cheaper than a three-layer fabric. And while it sacrifices some breathability, it delivers reliable weather protection with a barely-there feel. The Helium also saves weight with the oldest—and still one of the most effective—tricks in the book: less stuff. You get one chest pocket and one inner pocket, one hem toggle, no pit zips, and simple, nonadjustable elastic cuffs (which still sealed out drips and didn’t ride up when testers raised their arms).

Testers also praised the stay-put hood, which cinches tight and preserves excellent peripheral vision (but won’t fit over a helmet). “The hood never got floppy on me, even while I was bouncing around on a trail run,” says one tester. The athletic cut allows for layering with a light puffy, but this shell works best for milder temps, as the 30-denier fabric doesn’t seal out cold wind like burlier material. It also doesn’t have the tear strength of a heavier fabric, and the lightweight zippers might need TLC over time.

Bummer: We steamed up during highly aerobic hiking and trail running. Bonus: This is the lightest and least expensive shell here. $150; 6.4 oz.;

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Cute kissing snails!
Posted On: Apr 18, 2014
Submitted By: Montanalonewolf
The Political Arena
Homeless woman goes on an interview then
Posted On: Apr 18, 2014
Submitted By: KenV

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions