The Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket and Pants may well be the best deal on the market. Their latest update features Pertex Diamond Fuse fabric, making them up to five times more tear-resistant and twice as abrasion-resistant! They blow most ultralight rain gear out of the water!
This guide will help you pick the best lightweight jacket and pants for your needs, your travel, and your budget. No BS! All these lightweight rain jackets have all earned their spot on this list by performing far better than the competition.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear boldly calls their $450 rain jacket THE SHELL, and states “this jacket is unprecedentedly breathable, waterproof, and tough as f*#k for its weight.” To see how well it stands up to the hype & price I took THE SHELL out for two weeks of guiding at 10,000 to to 14,000 feet in the High Sierras. The following Review of Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL summarizes my findings.
(Lead picture: THE SHELL is roomy, especially in the upper torso, arms, shoulders and hood. To demonstrate this I’m wearing it over my super-puffy GoLite Bitteroot Jacket which is stuffed with over 5 oz of high fill power down—something most snug-fitting 6 oz waterproof-breathable (WP/B) rain jackets can’t do.)
- 5.8 oz claimed weight M’s medium (6.0 oz measured)
- Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber)
with highly breathable eVent WP/B liner (claimed 32,000 gm2/24hr)
- Roomy fit – especially in the upper torso, arms, shoulders and hood
- Fully featured with beefy, toothed zipper; velcro cuff closures; dual drawcord adjusted, helmet compatible hood, etc.
- Full spec’s are below
Review of Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL
The picture below shows my 8.8 oz, highly breathable, full rain setup:
- (Top) HMG THE SHELL is 6.0 oz
- (Bottom) a MLD Dyneema Composite Fabric (Cuben) rain kilt is 1.8
- (Hands) MLD eVent Rain Mitts are 1.0 oz
We had the full spectrum of late season conditions in the High Sierra. Snow, sleet and sustained 35 degree rain. For 4 days, the low temperature was 13 to 19 degrees, and daytime highs barely rose above freezing. The average temperature one day was only 26 degrees. I used THE SHELL over my fleece as an active layer during this cold snap—and it was breathable enough that I didn’t sweat out. THE SHELL fit well over my super-puffy GoLite Bitteroot Jacket to increase it’s warmth on cold nights (the jacket is un-baffled). And finally the jacket kept me warm and dry in a torrential storm of snow and sleet, changing to sustained 35 degree rain.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL did everything everything required of it and did it well. It kept me warm. It kept me dry from precipitation on the outside. It kept me from sweating out on the inside due to the eVent breathability (but note that I mostly used it in cold weather). It was small and light, so easily carried and available in the outside pocket of my pack. The roomy, non-constricting, climber’s fit was especially welcome as was the stiff hood brim and the sophisticated adjustment system.
- Patagonia Storm Racer (6.3 oz, $249) is likely the strongest competitor – THE SHELL has more room in upper torso, shoulders and arms; is more breathable, and has more sophisticated adjusters for hoods and sleeves. The outer fabric on the THE SHELL is likely tougher. The Storm Racer is a 3-layer fabric, so the WP/B layer might be less prone to damage from long term use due to a tricot lining. And the Storm Racer has a more useful Napoleon chest pocket vs. the hip pocket on THE SHELL.
- Outdoor Research Helium II (6.2 oz, $160) – THE SHELL is has a LOT more room in upper torso, shoulders and arms, has a much longer hem, is more breathable, and has more sophisticated adjusters. It also has a beefier and smoother operating zipper vs. the Helium II’s small coil zipper. Helium II has a more useful Napoleon chest pocket vs. the hip pocket on THE SHELL.
- Patagonia Men’s Alpine Houdini (6.5 oz, $199) is closest in roomy fit – Still THE SHELL has a bit more room in upper torso, shoulders and arms. It is more breathable, and has more sophisticated adjusters. It also has a beefier and smoother operating zipper vs. the Alpine Houdini’s small coil zipper which lacks even a metal tab. The Alpine Houdini has no pockets.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s THE SHELL comes close to meeting the hype of “this jacket is unprecedentedly breathable, waterproof, and tough as f*#k for its weight.” THE SHELL did all I asked of it and I have few if any complaints. I especially like the roomy fit and its ease of use with all its well thought out adjustments, e.g. the beefy front zipper, and hood and cuff adjusters. So often these are skimpy or not included in minimal rain jackets. As HMG’s new slogan states, “LESS WEIGHT. MORE OPTIONS.” And it’s nice to see some many useful options included in THE SHELL without unduly increasing weight.
After only two weeks of field use, THE SHELL’s long-term durability or “toughness” is still undetermined. And durability for a full-sized, 6 oz garment is a shaky topic—subject to many opinions, interpretations, and expectations. That being said, THE SHELL feels solid and durable for such a large and low weight garment. It shows no obvious signs of deterioration from two weeks of use.
In addition to the outer fabric’s toughness, there is also the durability of the WP/B membrane. After almost 40 years of using WP/B rain jackets I have found that ALL of them, when worn for a long enough with a heavy backpack will eventually leak around the neck shoulders. This is true of both 2-layer and 3-layer fabrics by all manufactures! 2-layer versions leak sooner than 3 layer, but all will eventually succumb to the stresses of a heavy backpack’s shoulder straps.
Please to get me wrong! This is NOT criticism of the WP/B rain jackets or any manufacturer’s products vs. another manufacturer’s. I like them and I use them—mostly the very light ones like THE SHELL! It’s just the reality of the technology. And some of my best loved jackets have remained mostly leak free for a good amount of time. I am hoping the the SHELL joins this group.
Finally, I leave it up to the reader as to whether all this functionality, roomy fit and low weight justifies the $450 price tag…
X-Small 0.32 lbs | 5.16 oz | 146g
Small 0.34 lbs | 5.46 oz | 155g
Medium 0.36 lbs | 5.80 oz | 164g
Large 0.38 lbs | 6.14 oz | 174g
X-Large 0.39 lbs | 6.20 oz | 176g
- DCF-WPB fabric with Dyneema® and eVent® materials technology
- Breathability Rating: 32,000 gm2/24hr
- Waterproof Rating: 10,000mm
- #5 YKK VISLON® Aquaguard® Zipper
- Polartec® Power-Dry® chin guard
- VELCRO® adjustable cuffs for additional weather resistance
- High collar zipper for additional weather resistance
- Front and rear hood shock cord adjustment
- Bottom hem shock cord adjustment
- Low-profile stuff pocket with waterproof zipper and clip-in point; ideal for climbers
- Helmet compatible hood; ideal for climbers, canyoneers, skiers
- Stiff hood brim
- Performance fit allowing a full range-of-motion for all outdoor activities
- Unisex sizing
Hyperlite Mountain Gear provided me with loaner of this product. I was/am under no obligation to write a review or otherwise promote this product. And this post represents my own independent opinion.
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Disclaimer: Posts on this site contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products I review. Unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, reviews express my own independent opinion.