Gear Review: Bergans Helium Hardshell

The breathability of this hardshell from Bergans provides comfort in all conditions.

[breathable bargain]

Yo-yo conditions like intermittent rain and on-and-off gusts often force backpackers to choose the lesser of two evils: Stay in a shell even when the weather eases and steam up, or constantly stop to juggle layers as conditions change. Happily, the Helium presents another option: Keep your shell on and stay comfortable. “On a long day with strong crosswinds in California’s Granite Chief Wilderness, my partner was forced to keep taking off and putting on his shell,” reports a PCT-hiking tester. “But the Helium prevented my core temperature from redlining—I just kept it on.”

Credit the 2.5-layer Dermizax, a hydrophilic, monolithic (read: no micropores, as with Gore-Tex, eVent, and NeoShell) membrane that works by absorbing sweat and wicking it through to the outer fabric to evaporate. Testers could actually see the process with the naked eye: “I watched droplets being pulled through to the outside of the shell,” says one. Testers also gave props to the shell’s supple, four-way stretch, relaxed fit (there’s room for a slim puffy), and durability: “It’s one of the toughest shells in this weight class.” Nitpicks: Some testers wished for a more substantial hood brim. Bonus: Sweet price. $199; 12.3 oz.; bergans.com