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View Full Discussion Our review...http://engearment.com/gear/outdoor-research-helium-ii/
Good jacket, light weight, compact, and packable. Looking back, though, there's a reason it won all its awards in 2015. It still holds its own, especially at this price, but there are some interesting alternatives out there now that weigh the same or less and offer better function and more features. Patagonia's Storm Racer is one - similar weight and features, but stretchy. Arcteryx Norvan SL and North Face Hyperair, both using Gore Shakedry, are two others - no DWR on them, but possibly fragile. Again, all more expensive ($249-$299).
For under $100, the Helium kills it. If function trumps keeping your wallet full, consider others!
Have you tried the REI Rhyolite? I just grabbed it on sale instead of this, to use as my packable do-everything jacket (I do a lot of unplanned adventure travel so my stuff needs to be multi-purpose rather than specialized).
I'm tempted to return the Rhyolite and grab this jacket now that it's on sale (since it's lighter and more packable for my carry-on), but outdoorgearlab's review made it sound like the Helium was targeted more at being an emergency piece for runners/bikers/climbers than for regular use. I'm worried that it might not survive being used as a top layer on a snowboarding trip, for example. They also mentioned it doesn't have wrist traps and can sometimes let water in if you reach above your head.
Have not tried the Rhyolite. At 12 ounces, I'd agree its in a different class than the options I mentioned. The Helium, Storm Racer (which we have in house for testing now), etc. are exactly as you describe them - something to keep in your pack for afternoon thunderstorms and not a full-time outer layer. Although, having used the Storm Racer for a few weeks, I'd be ok using it as a shell in almost all situations.
Back to the Rhyolite - I really like eVent (and NeoShell) and think that would be a great, light-weight shell for most any conditions. Only downside for snowboarding would be that (I'm guessing) the hood is not helmet compatible. For the price, it's a steal. But if it doesn't have the function you need, it's worthless.
Thanks for the quick answer! The Rhyolite fits over my bicycle helmet just fine (I actually just gave it a spin before sitting back down), but it does restrict side-to-side rotation somewhat... I haven't tried a jacket yet that doesn't, though (I have a huge head =[ ). REI describes the Storm Racer's hood as "close-fitting," did it work with helmets for you? The stretchyness and fit sure sound nice
http://www.switchbacktravel.com/reviews/outdoor-research-realm I'm looking at this thing now, the reviews for it are positively glowing. This is a total rabbit hole, lol. It takes so long to get a feel for outdoor gear that none of you guys have tried everything, so it's tough to get one-to-one comparisons from the same author.
Bike helmets (and alpine helmets) are smaller than snow helmets, so don't necessarily use that as a barometer. The Patagonia website has a photo of the Storm Racer being used with a bike helmet. It's been too hot and dry here for me to even think about wearing a jacket on a ride, so I can't officially report.
I've been trying to get OR to let us try out AscentShell for months. No dice. On paper, the Realm does look awesome. From the video they have, it looks like the Realm hood may also be bike/alpine helmet compatible, but not snow. One of my pet peeves is when companies don't differentiate between the two. "Helmet-compatible" is a useless term when helmets are different sizes! Let me see if I can find out for you.
Yup - Realm hood is climbing and biking helmet compatible, but not snow.
Aaaaaugh. Well, I really appreciate you looking. Are snow hoods on shells just not a thing?
On lightweight shells? For the most part, yeah. You can get one on jackets like the Patagonia Refugitive (15 oz - we reviewed the pants) or the Arc'teryx Alpha FL (11.1 oz - have and love) or Sphene (15.3 oz and wtf bad name!) but then you're spending $500+. I used to have an OR Axiom, which is a bit lighter, less expensive, and has stretch and a snow hood. I got rid of it because it lacked pockets. OR has since added a couple.
Looks like a slight redesign on the hand pockets.
Let me double check for you on the hood - pretty sure I'm right, but I'm going off memory of my own jacket from about five years ago.
Bad news - Axiom is also bike/climbing helmet only. Who decides this shit? Can I use profanity in Massdrop comments?
Hahaha, apparently we can. That's disappointing as hell, but thanks for checking yet again! REI has that wonderful one-year return policy, so I guess I'm just going to keep the Rhyolite for now and keep an eye out for a sale/drop on the Arc'teryx Alpha FL. =( Steep price for something I never really know when or how much I'm gonna use, but it seems to be everyone's favorite and it does check all the boxes.
My travel crew is going to Costa Rica next (we just did Quebec and we alternate destination types), but that photo you posted has me ready to go back to the mountains already... can't wait for next year.
Whatever a travel crew is, it sounds awesome.
OR says that some snow helmets can fit under the Realm and Axiom hoods, but it's tight and not designed for it.
The FL will last for a long time. Even though it's only 11 ounces, it's Gore Pro with N40p-X face fabric, which is 40-denier and surprisingly burly for its weight. I picked it up (on sale at sub-$300 from Backcountry) to replace a Beta SL hybrid, which was ok, but used Paclite, which sucks.
Haha, it is awesome. There's 4 of us who don't have kids and make it a point to travel as a group to one or two new places a year. Usually we drag at least one new person with us. It's a blast.
And now I'm even more jealous of your FL, that's a steal. I'll have to keep a close eye on Backcountry I guess. And thanks for the SL mention, that's been popping up a lot in lieu of the FL and I was curious what the difference was. I'll continue avoiding Paclite, lol
For your use case, I'd stick with the Rhyolite. It's far more versatile and I would absolutely not wear it snowboarding (at least as someone who snowboards 20+ times a year). I think the cut sucks for snowboarding (I think it's likely to ride up and not deal with that much motion), but the material should hold up ok.
I picked up both a Rhyolite and a Helium 2 in the past few months. I've not put either through a major downpour, but have worn them enough to get a sense of them and realize they're very different jackets. The Rhyolite is almost 2x as heavy, much burlier, has exceptional breathability (plus hand pockets that double as ventilation), and is fully featured. It's light enough and compact enough that it doesn't bother me if I know I'll need it, but bulky enough and heavy enough that it would piss me off if I brought it on a trip and didn't need it. I think the cut sucks, but YMMV.
The Helium 2 packs down to nothing and weighs nothing, but it only has 1 chest pocket, no cuff adjustment, really the bare basics. It's also not terribly breathable and lacks pit zips to boot, so ventilation sucks. It's an emergency piece and I wouldn't trust it when things gets real bad.
I was originally considering returning the Rhyolite when I picked up the Helium, but I got good prices on both and have used cases for both. The Rhyolite's for when I know weather's going to suck-- but it's not quite light/compact enough that I'll take it with me everywhere. The Helium 2 is light enough that I keep it in my work bag at all times and during spring/summer hikes, just in case weather turns. But I realize its limitations and wouldn't rely on it to keep me dry in bad conditions.
Hey man, I just saw this comment 3 months late, but I still wanted to thank you for the input. After receiving and wearing the Rhyolite, I can say that it's nice but I see what you mean about the mobility.
You've actually convinced me to do the opposite and buy this to have as a carry-everywhere piece, and return the Rhyolite. I need something to keep in my carry-on and on my bike, first and foremost. I don't find myself in that many situations where I KNOW conditions are going to suck, you know? And since snow hoods are so damn hard to find, it looks like if I ever want to dive back into snowboarding I'm gonna have to have two jackets anyway. I don't like it, but the sensible thing seems to be buy this to have as my emergency piece, and pick up a more hardcore shell the next time I see a good one on sale.
I actually just wrote that, but I'm glad to be of help, even if you went the exact opposite of my recommendation!