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Outdoor Research’s New ‘Helium’ Rainwear Aims for Ruggedness Without Bulk

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Outdoor Research uses a new fabric in the update to one of its staple shells, creating the Helium Rain Collection. The brand says the fabric will make the jacket and pants more durable and waterproof without adding weight.

Increased breathability in waterproof layers usually comes at the cost of durability. Generally, the thinner membranes used for better airflow in shells suffer when they rub against other surfaces, get crumpled into a pack, or scrape a branch.

Outdoor Research thinks it has overcome this trade-off with Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse fabric, which is exclusive to the brand.

Shop the Helium Rain Collection

Helium Rain Collection: What’s New?

Here’s what Outdoor Research tells us about the 2020 Helium Pant and Helium Jacket:

  • 5 times the tear resistance of previous Helium fabric
  • 2.5-layer Pertex Shield windproof waterproofing
  • Bluesign-approved fabrics
  • Chest pocket stuff sack
  • Weight: 5.6 oz. (women’s), 6.3 oz. (men’s)

The Helium Rain kit is available exclusively at REI.

OR Helium Rain Collection
Photo credit: Outdoor Research

Gear Chat: How Is This Different?

Zooming down into the makeup of the fabric, Pertex says Diamond Fuse is different because its filaments lock together and form a longer-lasting foundation that resists abrasion and washing.

Fabric technology can get wonky fast, but it’s the secret sauce behind why your favorite gear performs the way it does. To find out more about the ingredients and design in the new Helium Rain Collection, we talked with Charlie Berg, Outdoor Research’s outerwear product manager.

GearJunkie: What is Diamond Fuse technology and how does it work?

Outdoor Research: It’s based on shaped yarns. Yarns are the building blocks of fabric. They are woven together to create the material.

Most yarns are round, but Diamond Fuse fabrics are made with yarns that have a diamond shape attribute, which allows them to lock together more securely, and this makes the fabric stronger.


How does this compare to previous waterproof technologies from OR?

This technology has a different purpose than previous technologies. We’ve always built garments to be as durable as possible given our goals for light weight and low bulk, but we’ve definitely had to accept some compromises in toughness.

This material allows us to break this compromise between durable and lightweight. We’ve chosen this direction, which is different from some other brands who continue to pursue lightweight in a single-minded fashion.

OR Helium Rain Collection: Who’s It’s For

What can the end-user expect from this jacket when they wear it?

Same lightweight wearing experience as the original Helium, but with no worries about snagging or tearing the jacket on a tree branch or rock. And it’s more waterproof, now 20K, so weather protection is improved also. [This water pressure measurement approximates withstanding hard rain or wet snow under pressure.] Breathability is the same as the previous version: 20K.

OR Helium III rain
Photo credit: Outdoor Research

Who is this jacket made for?

It’s made for rain protection in any situation where weight and bulk are drawbacks. This applies as much to weight and bulk in a pack as it does during wearing.

Hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, spring skiing, mountain biking, and urban use all apply. These are uses where it sometimes rains and sometimes doesn’t. This jacket will keep you dry and comfortable even when it’s raining hard. And when it’s not, it disappears in your pack.


Lab Talk: Waterproofing & Tear Resistance

Compared to DWRs that need to be re-applied, what is the longevity of this product?

The Helium Rain styles meet OR’s strict standards and will give users dependable DWR performance for multiple seasons given normal use and care.

I need to say that because use factors can impact DWR performance. For example, if a jacket gets very dirty and is not washed, the DWR performance will suffer. Keeping jackets clean, while following washing instructions, is best for DWR performance.

How does this waterproofing withstand the crinkles and folds of being packed down repeatedly?

From a materials point of view, it’s hard to pack the jacket in a way where the folds or creases are repeated when “stuffing.” And I haven’t seen loss of lifecycle for that reason, personally.

Outdoor Research Helium III stuff sack
Photo credit: Outdoor Research

You say the jacket has five times the tear resistance. How exactly did you test that?

These results are based on third-party and mill-lab tests where machines test the amount of pressure required to tear a fabric. Tests are carried out with what’s called a “pendulum apparatus.” This tool tears a notched fabric and records the amount of force required for the tear. 

Shop the Helium Rain Collection

This article is sponsored by Outdoor Research. Learn more about the Diamond Fuse technology and the Helium Rain Collection here.

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