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First Look: Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Jacket

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A highly breathable wind shell is a great piece of gear for backpackers and aerobic athletes. It works like an extension of your skin, creating a microclimate in which your thin summer insulating layers work in a mostly dry, wind-free environment. End game? You stay comfortable longer in threatening environments.

This extremely versatile garment can be worn from deep winter as a midlayer or aerobic shell or tucked into a backpack in summer as a part of a foul-weather layering system.

This year, Outdoor Research released the Helium Hybrid Jacket. With its waterproof/breathable Pertex Shield+ in the shoulders and hood and super breathable stretch nylon arms and torso, OR puts water protection only where absolutely necessary. We tested it to see where it washed out.

The Gear: Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Jacket

Price: $125

Available: Now

Where To Test It: This chameleon of shells is useful everywhere spring and summer storms threaten.

Who’s It For: Climbers, backcountry skiers, hikers, mountain runners, mountain bikers.

Boring But Important: Fabric: Pertex Shield+, 2.5L, 100% nylon, 30D shoulders and hood. 100% nylon ripstop fabric body. Average Weight: 5.7oz/161g in a men’s L.

Materials: The big difference from other windshells is the jacket’s waterproof/breathable Pertex Shield+ hood and shoulders. Seams are sewn and taped. This provides stormproof protection where you are most exposed yet breathability where you need it.

The nylon body has a soft, matte finish and fits somewhere between a light soft shell and a slick nylon windshell. It stretches a little, which you can feel when you wing your elbows. The fabric has a good Durable Water Repellent finish which, if recharged regularly, should continue to repel showers.

Hood: Borrowing from its parent Helium line, the Hybrid incorporates OR’s Halo Hood. Two shock cords—one from the chin and another from the brow—tunnel around the face, joining at ear level. A single cord circles back around the head where it can be adjusted single-handedly. The hood is capped with a plastic-reinforced brim and a wire rim.

Pocket: A single mesh chest pocket with a horizontal zipper can be inverted to stow the jacket. The pocket has an internal port for your electronic device. A thin cord is sewn inside the pocket with a small plastic clip to hold a key. Or this can be used in climbing the clip the jacket to your harness.

Jacket Body: They have elastic cuffs that can accommodate your Popeyes should you want to roll them up. A single drawcord cinches the right bottom hem. The full length zipper is paired with a storm flap that rolls over the top, forming a zipper garage. A 2-inch chamois is sewn in to protect the chin. The reflective Outdoor Research logo provides front and back visibility at low light.

Made In: China

Killer! You know the jacket was designed by soggy Seattleites; the hood means business and effectively balances peripheral vision. Full range of motion and solid protection from strong wind or rain.

Flaw: Not much. Some parts seem over-built. The nylon bungee cord, the metal rivet around the bungee, and the cord locks and zipper pulls could be smaller.

First Impressions: A windshell is a critical part of your kit. For short runs, I prefer not to have a hood. I can go lighter and save pocket real estate. Same for backpacking, when I’m certain I’ll already have a hooded hard shell. But for get-it-done-in-a-day endeavors in mountain environments or a questionable forecast, the Hybrid just makes sense.

Who Should Buy It: People looking for a mountain windshell in mixed conditions or temperamental environments where wet weather happens.

Contact Brand/More Beta: Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Jacket

—Steve Graepel is a contributor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC

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