Brand: Outdoor Research
Model: Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket
Our take Designers use hybrid construction to maximize waterproofing where you need it (the hood, shoulders, upper arms, front, and back) and breathability where you don’t (underarms and side panels) in this exceptionally light softshell. The Helium Hybrid’s one-two punch comes from a Pertex Shield+ fabric for weatherproofing and stretch-woven nylon patches that let heat escape. The combo impressed us on sweaty climbs in Japan, drizzly hikes in Thailand, and everyday bike commutes. Choose this shell for aerobic pursuits in weather up through moderate wind and rain (more than the average softshell can handle). You’ll want a hardshell in truly terrible conditions, though, since the breathable panels on the jacket will soak through in direct, wind-blown precip, and you can’t seal it up airtight in the gustiest weather.
The details Simple features keep weight down, including a one-way adjustable hood (fits under a helmet), elastic cuffs, a cinchable hem, and hand pockets. The hood brim also has a small, stiffened section, which kept fat rain drops off our noses.
Trail cred “A mid-afternoon squall in warm and humid Thailand would have soaked most softshells,” says a tester, “but the hardshell body and arms kept me dry, while the super-breathable side panels kept me from getting soaked from sweat.”