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Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Jacket

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Jacket soft shell jacket

The OR Helium Hybrid is a lightweight, no-frills wind jacket that has additional protection from rain on the hood and shoulders. The minimalist design of the jacket provides satisfactory coverage from wind and moderate rain showers, which I found perfect for spring and summer weather.


  • Lightweight minimalist design
  • Waterproof where needed most
  • Packs into chest pocket
  • Provides good range of motion


  • Small hood visor
  • Limited ventilation


I have been testing this jacket over the past three months using it as my go-to jacket when an extra layer is needed or as protection from the rain. It has been used primarily for hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and walks around the Portland area. Temperatures of use ranged from the upper 40s into the 60s. The weather varied from clear to cloudy with a few rain showers.

I normally wear a sized medium jacket but, prefer a large for a shell. That way I can add more layers when needed. Overall, the jacket fits fine whether I am wearing a tee shirt or even a few layers. 

Design and Fit:

As stated, the jacket is of a minimalist design only offering what is needed to keep the elements out. It has a single chest pocket which can also be used to stuff the jacket into for storage.


For the body and sleeves the manufacturer used a thin, almost sheer stretchy and tight woven nylon fabric.  The fabric provides excellent wind and water resistance. 


The hood and shoulders are made from a 30 denier nylon with Pertex Shield +. All the seams on the hood and shoulders are seam sealed.   


The waterproof fabric extends down to the shoulder blades and mid chest. The jacket has a full zipper with a storm flap behind it that runs up over the top to keep the zipper from grinding your chin when fully zipped.  


The hood has a single drawstring pull with cord lock to close the hood around your face. It does a good job but, the small visor also draws in making it almost useless. 


The hood is also not large enough to fit a helmet under it but, a ball cap fits fine.

The waist hem has a single draw and cord lock to keep the cold out. Elastic cuffs were used for the sleeves. 



I like hiking Columbia River Gorge to see the Trillium and full waterfalls in the spring and early summer. I took the jacket on hikes over Franklin Ridge from Multnomah Falls, Benson Plateau via the Ruckel Creek trail and Gorton Creek up to Indian Point. Elevations ranged from about 800 feet to over 4000 on the Benson Plateau. I like to get out early to avoid the crowds and began each hike wearing the jacket with a base layer.

Hiking at a moderate pace on some elevation, I found the jacket comfortable to wear and able to control my temperature by unzipping. However, on steeper sections, unzipping was not enough and I had to remove the jacket completely to cool down. I was a little surprised the uncoated nylon body and sleeves weren’t more breathable. Pit zips would probably help greatly. While hiking I noticed no binding in the arms when wearing a daypack and using trekking poles.

The only real wind I experienced was up at Indian Point which overlooks the gorge and is exposed to the stronger winds that blow through. As I rested, enjoying the view the jacket did a great job keeping the wind out and me warm.


To test the water proofing, I wore the jacket in several showers and rainstorms that blew though. The body and sleeves did better than I expected and I remained dry through the showers and light rain. On one occasion, I was out in a heavier rain for over 30 minutes (Portland set a record that day for July rain fall) and the water started to soak through the sleeves. The thin material dried really quickly and was dry in no time.


The Helium Hybrid performed better than expected in wind and rainy conditions. I found it very comfortable to wear with a good range of motion in the arms. The only drawbacks I found were limited breathability and the small hood visor. Other than that, the jacket is great and I am glad I was able to test it. 

Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Outdoor Research for testing and review)

A lightweight, breathable jacket, that packs down small, and won't weigh you down.


  • Lightweight
  • Great fit
  • Good protection
  • Packs down small
  • Breathable


  • Elastic cuffs are too big

In my never-ending quest to find the perfect lightweight wind shell, I have purchased and re-sold many a jacket. Either the fit is wonky, or there is no breathability, or they provide little protection. I pondered this jacket when I first read about it in Backpacker, and recently found it on sale, so took the bait.

The jacket fits very nicely. It is a trim fit around the torso, which enhances its ability to breathe, but it doesn't feel restrictive. I found the hood to be easily adjustable, though it might not have enough room for a helmet, if you ever use one.

The only complaint I have is that the elastic at the wrists is pretty loose, so some wind can creep in, especially when cycling. I understand not having adjustable cuffs, to save weight and bulk. But the "trim" fit concept doesn't seem to have been applied to the cuffs.

This jacket is interesting in the "hybrid" part of it. The main body and sleeves are a lightweight uncoated ripstop nylon. But the hood and shoulders are waterproof-breathable Pertex Shield, for that unexpected downpour.

On a recent early morning hike up Brokeoff Mountain in Lassen Volcanic NP, I wore the jacket for the first full hour of hiking. I was working up a pretty good lather, but never felt clammy. Temps were a little chilly, with some wind as I got higher up above the trees, and the protection was excellent. Once it was time to take the jacket off, it went easily into my backpack and was forgotten.

The only rain I have encountered since I got the jacket, were some brief thunderstorms in the valley. I wore it outside just to see how it worked, and the Pertex Shield did a great job of keeping water off of my upper body. 

There is a single mesh-lined chest pocket, which doubles as the stuff sack when you want to pack the jacket down. The pocket zipper is horizontal, and bisects where the W/B fabric is stitched to the lower part of the jacket. This means one less seam than one would have had with a vertical chest zip. There is a nice waist gasket with a single pull, when you need to batten down the hatches.

The jackets appears to be extremely well made. The stitching is very even and clean, and the jacket looks great. I have high hopes for this jacket, and am looking forward to more testing when I head up to the Wonderland Trail in August!


Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $70

As the name implies, this is a hybrid between a windshirt and a rain jacket. It's lightweight jacket and a good choice when the forecast looks good, but as we all know can change.


  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Adjustable hood and hem
  • Allows the carry of one garment, instead of two


  • Should extend the Pertex down the arms

I was intrigued when I came across this garment—a hybrid between a windshirt and a rain jacket. I often head out to the mountains with the forecast favorable, but know that mountain showers are always a possibility and thus carry both a windshirt and a hardshell—but rarely wearing the hardshell. This garment gives me the choice of carrying just a single garment in those favorable forecasts.

I'm always happy when a piece comes in under spec, mine is a size Large and weighs 5.5 oz (spec is 5.8 oz).  Fit is normal, I'm 5'11' 180 lbs and the Large fits just right, large enough to layer over an insulating layer, but still trim enough to fit well when just over a base layer. I like the adjustment on the hood and the hem has shock cord and is adjustable as well. Has a nice size napoleon pocket.

How's it work in the field? I've run with it a couple of times now and can say it functions very well as a windshirt—breathable enough to keep me relatively dry, but still enough wind resistance to deter chilling winds. I've only had it out once with precip and the precip was on the light side and it functioned well. The DWR on the non Pertex + material is good enough that light precip beads right up. I'm sure that with heavy enough or long enough precip the non Pertex material will wet out, but your head and your upper core should be fully protected.

I think OR should have continued the Pertex down the top portion of the sleeves. This would add an ounce tops and would give you fuller protection, while still providing ample breathability.

When the forecast is sore, I'll pack a hardshell. When the weatherman says bluebird (and knowing he gets it wrong in the mountains sometimes), I'll pack the Hybrid.

This isn't a perfect shell. There simply isn't one made, but it definitely has a niche with folks who travel light and fast when you're looking at a favorable forecast.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $75

Super light, compact. Easy to throw in you pack or clip onto your belt or harness. Love the self stuffing pouch that has a nice clip-in loop. Once the Helium is on you the wind is blocked.


  • Light
  • Compact
  • Good built in stuff pouch/sack with clip-in
  • Good colors


  • None

I have only worn it in the lightest of mist and sprinkles, worked great there. I assume if you know it's going to rain you'd want something beefier.

(The reviewer is an athlete ambassador for Outdoor Research.)

Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (I've kept it)

The author of this reviews is an athlete ambassador for Outdoor Research.

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