The mountains are a fickle place. Too hot, too cold, incredibly sunny, raging winds, all the weather that makes packing sometimes damn near impossible. Especially when you want to be prepared for all the things. When the mountains can’t make up their damn minds, there’s the Outdoor Research Whirlwind Hoody.
I love the Outdoor Research Helium line. Ever since I saw the Helium II in their retail store last summer, I fell in love, oohing, ahhing and fondling the material, marveling at how light it was…
When the Helium Hybrid arrived in my #ORInsightLab package, I shouted with tons of glee, probably almost setting off car alarms around my neighborhood. I was trying to justify not purchasing another jacket since I bought my Arc’teryx Alpha SL Hybrid, and this one was finally mine.
Where do I even begin? The Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid is light as a feather and packs down super small! At 5.1 oz, you have to be careful it doesn’t blow away when you’re trying to put it on. (True story, this happened to me.) It’s great for throwing in your pack and forgetting about it until you really need it. What more could you ask for?
The Helium Hybrid protects against wind and wet. I tossed this on over my Triple Aught Design Artemis Hoodie on Lassen to keep from freezing to death. The shell kept me nice and dry while rolling around in wet, melty snow on Pyramid Peak. The hood has a cinch in the back and on both sides of your head for a secure fit. A small left-chest zipper pocket allows you to keep small knickknacks close by.
The Helium Hybrid has a trim fit. If you’re a fan of something a little looser and don’t want to size up, consider going for the Helium HD or the Helium II. Please keep in mind that the length of this jacket is also fairly short. The jacket had a tendency of riding up when layered over a midlayer; I had to keep tugging it down, especially while wearing a pack.
Despite all my love for this lightweight jacket, the lack of hand pockets is a huge deal breaker if I had to purchase this jacket, and I would rather opt for something slightly heavier with places to stow my phalanges, phone and other larger goods. I’m just so used to shoving my hands in my pockets and walking everywhere I go, it’s tough to not do that. If hand pockets are more your fancy, I highly suggest going for the Helium HD jacket. It’s only 3 oz heavier and also comes with pit zips.
If you want something ultra lightweight and extremely basic, the Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid is a necessary addition for your pack.
This was sent to me for review. This post contains affiliate links.
Toren Apparel is a pretty neat technical-meets-street startup for adventure clothing. Their online-only presence sets them apart from other brands, allowing them to focus on providing high quality, outdoor apparel at affordable price points.
They offered to send me their new Fundamental Shell to test out, and I couldn’t say no.
The Fundamental Shell is basically combination of the Arc’teryx Alpha SL hardshell and the Outdoor Research Valhalla softshell in terms of form and function. Made of Toray 3-layer mini ripstop polyester with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish, it has the waterproof protection of a hardshell, and the movability, breathability, and swishiness of a softshell.
The sizing runs fairly large. As a 5 feet tall, 100ish pound person, the XS shell is very roomy. I highly recommend sizing down.
This jacket is all about the little details that make it street-wearable and trail friendly. First and foremost, the pit zips! The jacket has pit zips, but they are covered in little flaps of fabric to conceal the zipper. This prevents the zipper teeth from scraping the fabric and pilling it, while concealing the technical details. The zipper pulls are fairly small, and are difficult to grasp. Keep this in mind if you’re considering this jacket for alpine activities.
The jacket has two standard hip pockets, situated above a pack hip belt or harness for easy access to items. The Fundamental Shell also has a left-hand sleeve pocket, though it is well concealed in the seam of the sleeve. One inner left chest pocket allows for easy access to your smartphone without needing to remove it from your pocket. The idea is cool, but I am not sure about the implementation. I’m not too inclined to open up my jacket in inclement weather and have a little waterproof bag case for my phone.
The hood is roomy and helmet-compatible with three cinches to make it fully adjustable.
All in all, this is a solid first piece for the Toren Apparel line. If you’re looking for something that’s technical and street wearable, this is for you. If you’ve already got a softshell and a hardshell and you love both, this is something you can pass on. If you’re a hoarder who likes all the latest and greatest, you’ll probably want it.
Pre-order the Fundamental Shell now for $195. The jacket is set to arrive in Fall 2014.