Friday, April 20, 2012

Lightweight Rain Shells intro

This last week has been quite frustrating for me.  Now that school is finally over, I had planned to go rock climbing each morning this week and each morning it rained.  The rain cleared and the rock dried by the afternoon, but I wasn't able to go any of the afternoons.  Finally, today I was able to get out on the rock.

The recent rain but warm temperatures prompted me to break out my lightweight rain jackets.  I currently have two that I really like, and Phil has one that I'm very curious about.  I hope to compare two of these jackets tomorrow when I have a little more time.  Tonight I'll just talk briefly about my two jackets.

The OR Zealot

First of all, I have the OR Zealot Jacket.  I was super excited about this jacket when I bought it (about 7 years ago), but they have since discontinued it.  It is made of Gore-tex Paclite material and weighs 7oz.  It packs up pretty small too.  The shell material feels like paper, and unfortunately the first time I went climbing in it I leaned up against some rocks and put some tiny holes in the material (the holes are visible if you hold the jacket up to the light, but I don't notice it letting water in).  The DWR in this jacket is top notch, never once allowing the material to wet out.  Even after an hour deluge while backpacking in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, I shook off the jacket and it was dry again.  Not a single bit of the material wetted out.  Because the durability is an issue, I have babied this jacket, only using it for backpacking trips and always being very careful with it, especially around rocks.  I know that OR has an unlimited lifetime warranty, but they don't make this jacket anymore, so if I damage it, they would replace it with a lesser or heavier jacket.  It retailed for $200 back in the day.

The OR Helium

My second jacket is the OR Helium.  At 6.7oz, this jacket is even lighter than the Zealot but has proven to be significantly more durable.  This jacket uses Pertex Shield instead of Gore-tex Paclite.  The Helium packs up smaller than the zealot (into its own pocket) and has a loop to hang it from a harness when climbing.  My experience in prolonged rain is limited.  I have had the jacket for over two years but the longest downpour I've been in with it was about 20 minutes.  At the end of the 20 minutes the fabric had started to wet out around pack straps, but was still doing a pretty good job everywhere else.  I do start to feel pretty clammy fairly quickly while hiking uphill, but it feels pretty comfortable hiking on flat ground or downhill in the rain.  It seems to me that it isn't quite as breathable as the zealot, but it's hard to tell.  The retail price for this jacket was $140.  They have now replaced this jacket with the Helium II.  The Helium II uses Pertex Shield as well, but this new version is supposed to be 0.4oz lighter (thank goodness because I was sick of the old one weighing me down), 10% more breathable, and 30% more waterproof.  It retails for $150.  My original Helium was a grey color with a red zipper, but the zipper broke, so I sent it back to OR and they sent me a new one in Blue.

Outdoor Research is one of my favorite companies when it comes to lightweight clothing.  The main reason for this is because of their unlimited lifetime warranty.  I feel so much more comfortable spending money on ultralight clothing when I know that I won't be out a jacket if I tear it on the first outing.  Same goes for their down products.

Anyway, the Helium Jacket is one that I would recommend.  Phil has the Marmot Super Mica jacket.  This one is also super light, but offers a few more features than the Helium.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to compare the two side-by-side to try to figure out which is the better jacket.


  1. Hello,

    Which do you actually prefer? The Zealot of the Helium?


  2. Probably the Helium because it has proved to be more durable than the zealot. I think the zealot may breathe a little better, but if I had to choose between one or the other, I'd choose the Helium. The Helium is cheaper too. And the zealot has been discontinued.