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Feathered Friends Helios Down Jacket Review

A top-tier, finely crafted, cold weather insulator with maximum warmth-to-weight ratio

October 9, 2023 – The Feathered Friends Helios Down Jacket is a truly top tier, finely crafted, premium cold weather down puffy jacket. Its performance is thanks to an impressive stat line, and confirmed by our field testing. Helios simply has more down fill and higher fill power than average, all while maintaining a below average weight and fairly average price tag, relative to other parkas. AKA all up side, no down side. Shop now.

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  • Price: $469 | Weight: 18.0
  • Fill Power: 900 | Fill Weight: 7.8 oz
  • Percent Down Weight: 43%
  • Uncompressed Down Volume: 7020 in³
  • Down Volume/Garment Weight: 390 in³/oz
  • Fabric: 20d Pertex Endurance
  • Pros: Lightweight. Top tier warmth. Top tier warmth-to-weight ratio. Envelope pockets. High fill power.
  • Cons: No women’s cut. Non-parka-length drape has potential to ride up.

Compare this to more great options in our guide to lightweight down parkas. You might also be interested in our Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants review.

Feathered Friends Helios Down Parka for Backpacking

Construction & Features

The combination of 7.8 oz of 900 fill power down stuffed into a DWR-treated 20d Pertex Endurance shell is what makes the Feathered Friends Helios Down Jacket so warm and light. This jacket is warm enough for true winter use, and will crush cool-cold-weather shoulder season conditions. Honestly, sometimes it feels like wearing a furnace. In terms of total mass, the jacket is an impressive 43% down. Excluding custom gear, mid-40s is about as high as we’ve ever seen that number get.

Speaking to fit, it’s roomy and relaxed, with room to layer underneath. You should have no problem layering a base, a fleece, and a shell underneath the Helios. The drape is average as down jackets go, it is not long like a parka.

We love its envelope-style hand pockets, which are extremely user-friendly (especially with gloves), all without compromising much in the way of security. If we could switch out all of our full zip puffy jacket hand pockets for this envelope style configuration, we likely would. There is also a single interior zippered chest pocket.

A two way zipper traces the front for ease of access to your belay device, or venting on the go. Helios has hood cinching drawcords. It’s finished off with lyrca trim around the hem, cuffs, and hood.

Compare this to more great options in our guide to lightweight down parkas.

close up on hood cinch

What Could Be Better?

We write this section from a backpacking perspective, knowing that what is best for hikers is not necessarily what’s best for alpine climbers (for which this jacket was likely designed). So this is not us casting judgement on Feathered Friends, but drawing up what we would like to see in a backpacking-specific version.

  1. Make it longer. A true parka length is desirable for backpackers, by which we mean draping all of the way down to the upper thigh. We are unlikely to need access to a belay device, which makes the longer length no impediment at all. What’s more, the butt/groin rejoin are all an extension of the core, and it’s a top priority to keep that region warm. What’s more, a longer length prevents gaps from forming between the jacket and down pants as you move around and bend your torso. If you are wearing puffy pants, they will enhance the three-dimensional shape of your butt, making it more likely for the jacket to ride up slightly, or bunch at the low back. A full drape, widened at the hips, solves for any potential ride up issues and prevents gaps from ever forming. Lastly, let’s add a bit more down, probably an extra ounce, to insulate the lower baffle we’re hypothetically adding (rather than spreading the 7.8 ounces thinner across a longer cut)
  2. Make the envelope pockets deeper. By increasing the length of jacket, you can add additional depth to the pockets. This makes them more secure, while still keeping the dreamy envelope-style opening and adds even more storage utility.
  3. Use a 10D instead of 20D fabric. For backpacking, unlike climbing, durability is not a major concern. Likely the only place we’ll wear a puffy jacket is around camp, and we’re never scraping it against abrasive rock. 10D is considered the sweet spot among ultralighters, though many even prefer 7d. Switching from 20d to 10d could trim a few ounces off the total jacket weight, keeping the total garment weight the same even after elongating to parka length.
  4. Add a women’s cut and women’s specific sizing, especially if you create a parka length version.

Compare this to more great options in our guide to lightweight down parkas.

feathered friends helios down jacket, pants, and booties

Feathered Friends Helios Down Jacket Review Verdict

If you need a winter weight down puffy for cold weather backpacking, we very strongly recommend the Feathered Friends Helios Jacket. With a minimalist chassis and exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio, thanks to 7.8 oz of 900 fill power down, this is likely the only parka you’ll use from late fall through early spring. Pick up a Helios and you will not be disappointed.