As soon as I saw this jacket I was keen to try it on: the fabric has this lovely feel about it and doesn't make the irritating crinkly noise I've put up with for years with other jackets, especially when out running. The Helium is an ultralight pertex jacket that caters for all requirements expected of a high tech lightweight waterproof. The RAB Mountain Marathon - over two days in the east of the Lake District - was perfect for testing it out, as weight and performance matter equally on this event and any deficiencies would be cruelly exposed.
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At 163g the jacket did not add much weight at all to my overall kit and I stuffed it in the front pocket of my sac just before walking up to the start. The race started and on the way up High Street the sun was welcome, but on the tops I was chilled so it was on with the jacket whilst trying to keep up with my team mate Christine. She was running ahead in good style, and as usual not feeling the cold.
"...I was impressed with the breathability of the Helium Jacket - it had remained dry on the inside when I took it off..."
One of the Helium Jacket features that I was taken with was the no fuss elasticated cuffs that easily passed over my rather bulky watch - other jackets that I own require me to have to take the watch off first. I also noticed both zips were easy to pull up and down one handed – useful when I was clinging to the map and compass in the other, still trying to catch up with Christine. We reached the summit of High Street and then immediately descended into the sheltered valley on the other side. I was impressed with the breathability of the Helium Jacket - it had remained dry on the inside when I took it off.
Having run down the valley path and round more bends than I'd noticed on the map, we reached the overnight camp just as the sun disappeared - straightaway it was on with my extra layers and the Helium Jacket on top. It has an attractive, sleek and finely tailored fit and would be perfect under a harness. Because the Helium packs away into the Napoleon style breast pocket you could attach it to your harness without it getting in the way of a rack or being overly cumbersome. This element of its design would be perfect on longer alpine routes, or if I can face screwing up such a coveted coat so small more frequently I'd take it to Gogarth or Pembroke for some protection when I meet the biting wind on topping out and setting up a belay.
OR (Outdoor Research) Helium Jacket
Since the mountain marathon weekend I've tested the Helium in the rain and it worked perfectly. The fabric is 2.5 layer 20D pertex, a face fabric with PV film laminate. The taped seams also mean you don't need to worry about it keeping the rain out. The hood fits snug around the face with the draw-cord at the back and won't block your view, the peak wasn't great, but helps.
At a cost of around £90 the Helium Jacket is the right price for a specialist ultralight jacket. It's perfectly cut, highly technical and it does the job brilliantly. As you might tell I loved it from the start and will be taking mine out-and-about lot.
About Bridget Collier
Bridget likes to be outside when not chained to the desk in her office job. She started climbing when turning 30 on the local Lancashire quarried gritstone crags and since has enjoyed many Alpine summer and winter trips as well as getting as far as the via Ferrari route on Alpamayo, Peru and the various spires in Moab, America. Mostly though it's weekend warrior stuff in North Wales and the Lakes with fellow members of either the Vagabonds club or the Climbers club.
She also loves fell running (and used to love mountain biking until the running took over). Routes generally include a lot of mud over the west Pennine Moors or locally around Hilldale. She's completed several RAB mountain marathons and local fell races including the Winter Hill Race but sometimes just sets her own challenges running over various peaks in Snowdonia from the Vags hut in Nant Peris.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Bridget Collier: