Hiker wears outdoor research helium jacket

Outdoor Research Helium HD vs Helium II

The best thing about Outdoor Research is that this brand takes the latter part of its name quite seriously.

It’s one of the few outdoor apparel companies that are not afraid to dive into experimentation and create truly innovative outerwear. Sometimes, the results are not so great, and sometimes the brand manages to produce jackets and other clothes that effortlessly outclass the competition.

OR’s Helium HD is a product of one such experimentation. Inspired by the brand’s extremely popular Helium II jacket, this garment comes with a couple of additional features but also weighs more than its cousin that inspired it. Are these bonus features worth the extra weight (and price)?

If you’re looking for an answer to this question, you’re in the right place. In this Helium HD vs Helium II comparison, I’ll be taking a detailed look at both of these Outdoor Research jackets and try to help you determine which one of them is a better choice for you.

About Outdoor Research

A Seattle-based brand, Outdoor Research was established in the early 1980s by Ron Gregg, a nuclear physicist with a love for the Great Outdoors. After one of his trekking partners suffered an injury due to inappropriate equipment, Ron decided to quit his job and devote his life to solving the backcountry’s biggest challenges.

Today, Outdoor Research is a renowned brand that designs, manufactures, and sells apparel and gear for activities such as snowboarding, skiing, paddling, alpinism, and, of course, hiking. It’s among the most respected companies in the industry and one whose products are on par with those offered by all other top-of-the-line brands.

If you are interested in brands similar to OR, read my Outdoor Research vs Patagonia comparison as well.

Helium HD vs Helium II – An Overview

Outdoor Research Helium HD Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium HD Jacket

Specifications: 

  • Material: 100% nylon
  • Weight: 9.6 oz
  • Dimensions: 15” x 11” x 2”
  • Sizes Available: 5
  • Colors Available: 2

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Pros:

  • Two front hand-warmer pockets
  • The hood is more adjustable
  • Equipped with pit zips

Cons:

  • Heavier than Helium II

As I’ve already said, the Helium HD jacket was inspired by its older cousin – Helium II. Therefore, this model adds a few extra features to an already existing design, such as pit zips or zip hand pockets.

And these are just some of its perks – Helium HD is yet another feature-rich, lightweight, and weatherproof Outdoor Research jacket.


Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

Specifications: 

  • Material: 100% nylon
  • Weight: 6.4 oz
  • Dimensions: 14” x 11” x 2”
  • Sizes Available: 5
  • Colors Available: 18

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Pros:

  • Proven durability & comfort
  • Available in more colors
  • Lighter than Helium HD

Cons:

  • No hand pockets & pit zips

While it lacks some of the features found on its newer and more experimental cousin, the Helium II jacket weighs less and is available in more colors.

It’s one of OR’s most popular garments to date and for a couple of good reasons. Due to its laminated construction, it is fully waterproof and windproof but also lightweight at the same time.


Helium HD vs Helium II – The Comparison

Durability

Orange rain jacket

OR’s highly popular Helium II jacket is surprisingly durable once we take into account that it consists of just one thin layer of fabric.

However, keep in mind that this garment was made to protect its users from foul weather, so it definitely makes sense that it was built to last. A lot of people tend to forget that nylon is actually a very strong material – they even use it to make parachutes.

The model does a very good job at handling abrasions caused by foliage or falling. Even after heavy use, you won’t notice any marks or scratches on it, let alone holes in its material – it’s a great choice for backpacking and rock climbing.

I think I can safely say that the resilience of this jacket’s nylon fabric has far exceeded my expectations.

What about Outdoor Research Helium HD? Just like its older cousin, this model was also made out of 30D ripstop nylon with Pertex Shield+, which means that it’s just as hard-wearing and long-lasting.

However, even though both of these garments can and will handle daily wear and tear, one should still keep in mind that none of them is as durable as a full Gore-Tex hardshell.

Weather Protection

Hiker wears a rain jacket in rain

The most important feature of jackets such as Helium II and Helium HD is weather protection – these are, after all, rain jackets. So how do they fare when it comes to keeping rain and wind at bay? Are they just as stormworthy as the market’s best lightweight rain jackets, such as Arc’teryx or Patagonia?

Despite its relatively modest design, Outdoor Research Helium II does a good job at protecting its wearer from downpours and high winds.

It sheds snow and rain in a pinch thanks to its PU-based membrane called Pertex Shield+, which I have already mentioned above. Furthermore, it has small and fully taped seams and it comes equipped with AquaGuard zippers, which are water-resistant.

Outdoor Research Helium HD, on the other hand, fares even better in this department.

While it comes equipped with all of the features I mentioned above, such as the Pertex Shield+ membrane or the water-resistant main zipper, this jacket also has a wire brim in its hood. This simple feature makes its hood far more adjustable, so it’s even better at keeping the elements out.

Breathability

Hiker in a rain jacket

Due to the fact that it’s is made out of 100% nylon, I can’t really say that Helium II offers a high level of breathability. After all, this particular garment wasn’t made to provide its wearer with cool and fresh air, but rather to trap body heat and keep the wearer warm.

That doesn’t mean that wearing Helium II in warmer weather is something you shouldn’t do, however, especially if you’re trying to lose more weight through sweating.

Potential buyers who are thinking that they may experience overheating while wearing this article of clothing can take solace in the model’s exceptionally low weight.

Since it weighs just a bit over 6 ounces, Helium II effortlessly avoids the negative sensations that are typically associated with not-so-breathable jackets. To put it simply, this garment was not made to provide airflow, but it surely doesn’t suffer from its exclusion.

In terms of breathability, Helium HD is undoubtedly a better choice as it comes equipped with pit zips. The extra-long zippers beneath each of the jacket’s arms add additional weight to Helium HD, but they also allow its wearer to let the perspiration out.

In my opinion, the presence of pit zips is this jacket’s biggest advantage over Helium II and the main factor that should decide whether you should go with this model or with its older cousin.

If you want a jacket that’s both weatherproof and breathable, check out my post on the best waterproof 3-in-1 jackets for men.

Comfort

The comfortable aspects of the Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket are its insulating properties and low weight.

These features turn it into a phenomenal option for a special type of runners – the ones who do not like heavy jackets, which would weigh them down while they’re running, and who, at the same time, live in windy areas. Furthermore, Helium II is a great choice for runners living in the Pacific Northwest and other rainy regions – this jacket is, after all, a rain shell.

I think that it’s pretty safe to say that Helium HD is just as comfortable as its older cousin. One could even say that it’s more comfortable due to the fact that it features pit zips – these can have a massive effect on comfort when you’re feeling too warm inside the jacket.

However, one thing I didn’t like is the hood’s wired peak. While it’s true that the HD’s hood is more adjustable than the one found on Helium II, its wired peak sits quite low and can easily block one’s upward field of view.

The last thing worth mentioning here is that, unlike Helium II, Helium HD comes with hand pockets. If you already own the former model and you’ve always had problems with having no place to tuck your hands into when it’s freezing, you’ll be pleased to know that Helium HD has front hand pockets that are quite deep and which have mesh innards. Always a big plus in my book!

Helium HD vs Helium II – The Verdict

Man in a blue jacket

So, in the end, which one of these two Outdoor Research rain jackets is a better choice? Should you go with Helium II, a proven product with thousands of happy users everywhere around the globe? Or is Helium HD a better choice, with its quality-of-life features such as mesh front pockets or pit zips?

As you can already guess, this question doesn’t really have an answer – it all depends upon your personal needs and preferences. A lot of folks prefer Helium II for a couple of good reasons, some of which are verified comfort, weather protection, and durability.

Furthermore, this Outdoor Research jacket is a better choice for all those searching for the ultimate portability. And lastly, some people may choose this jacket over Helium HD just because it’s available in (significantly) more colors.

Outdoor Research Helium HD, on the other hand, stands as a better option for folks looking for a decently lightweight rain shell that packs some of the features typically found on much larger jackets.

In my opinion, this garment is yet another successful Outdoor Research experiment and one that will surely find its place in the wardrobes of many outdoor enthusiasts all around the world.

If you like Outdoor Research rain jackets, you also might like what Arc’teryx has to offer. Be sure to check out my Outdoor Research vs Arc’teryx comparison. And if you are not sure whether a rain jacket is the right type of garment for you, check out my Poncho vs Rain Jacket post.

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