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Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Outdoor Research Helios Sun Hat > Test Report by Derek Hansen

Outdoor Research - Helios Hat

Test Series by Derek Hansen

Helios Hat


NameDerek Hansen
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight165 lb (75 kg)
Email Address derek·daught·hansen·at·mac (without cheese)·dot·kahm
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA


I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical weekend pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg), which includes food and water. Because I pack less than 20 lb (9 kg), I prefer lightweight trail-running shoes. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


Manufacturer Outdoor Research, (Seattle, Washington, USA)
Year of Manufacture 2010, made in China
Manufacturer’s Website
Size Large/23.25 in/59 cm (also available in Medium/22.5 in/57 cm and Extra-Large/24 in/61 cm)
Color "Sand" (also available in "Khaki")
Listed Weight 2.3 oz (65 g)
Measured Weight 2.9 oz (82 g)
Listed Features "This broad sun hat has a 50+ UPF rating. The headband moves moisture away from your brow, while the brim offers an oasis of shade. The drawcord adjustment keeps it snug on long trails."

  • SolarShield construction; UPF 50+
  • Ripstop nylon/polyester blend
  • Foam-stiffened brim floats
  • TransAction headband for comfort and moisture management
  • External drawcord adjustment
  • Removable chin cord with cordlock
Warranty OR products feature an "Infinite Guarantee" and can be returned or exchanged by calling 888-467-4327 (Mon–Fri, 8 am–5 pm PST) or by filling out their online return authorization form.


7 Jul 2010


The Outdoor Research Helios Hat, hereafter just "Helios" or "hat", is featured as a wide-brimmed sun hat boasting 50+ "UV-resistant fabrics that protect the wearer from exposure to intense sunlight, and are constructed for maximum protection." The brim is foam-stiffened and is claimed to float, and the headband features moisture-wicking fabric.

The hat also has a chin cord, which is removable, and an external draw cord around the headband to adjust for a tight fit.

The material is light and smooth on the exterior, and has a different fabric on the interior that has a unique texture.

Detail of Helios Hat


The initial fit of the Helios hat was great; I didn’t need to adjust the headband at all. The chin strap uses a simple slide that offers moderate locking by friction. The brim is also very stiff, but with a slight “wave” when I wear it.

On my inspection, I noticed the chin strap is secured to the hat with simple knots, so the strap is removable. Once removed, only two small loops remain on the hat.

The hat has a nice, clean look and feel. I like the shape and line of the hat, but the huge “OR” logo on the front is a bit distracting for me. I would prefer if the logo were on the side of that hat instead of beaming like a flashlight right in front.

I wore the hat during my deliveries around my work, walking about 4 mi (6.4 km) around campus. The temperature was around 85 F (29 C) and partly cloudy. My forehead perspired a bit while outside, but the hat did a great job providing shade for my head. I usually need sun glasses when I’m outside in Flagstaff (elevation 7000 ft/2133 m), but the hat cut the glare enough that I was fine.

All-in-all, I’m very happy with the hat and look forward to really testing it out. I’m going to see how well I can keep the light fabric clean, as I’m sure it will get dusty and dirty while I’m out and about.

PRO—Great fit with brim adjustment. Smooth feel. Firm brim. Lightweight fabric.

CON—None at this stage.


13 Sep 2010


Sycamore Rim Trail

I have used the Helios on multiple day hikes and the following backpacking adventures.

July 16-17 ~ West Fork of Oak Creek, Coconino National Forest, Arizona. I convinced a co-worker to do an S24O trip (less than 24-hour trip) into the Oak Creek Wilderness area. Immediately after work, we drove down to the canyon and hiked up the creek about 4 miles (6 km) and hammocked in the canyon. The elevation was level at 5400 ft (1646 m) and the overnight low was in the mid-60s F (16 C). We were up by 4 AM and back on the trail and back to our car, passing folks just rising for the day.

Cedar Breaks

Aug 7 ~ Cedar Breaks, Utah. A few day hikes with my wife. The elevation was over 10,000 ft (3000 m). We encountered a few sprinkles of rain (the tail end of a thunderstorm) and temperature of about 40 F (4 C).

Aug 13-14 ~ Fisher Point, Coconino National Forest, Arizona. Another S24O trip just outside Flagstaff. The 9-mile (14.5 km) trip took us through skunk canyon (6600 ft/2011 m) and up to the top of Fisher Point (7000 ft/2134 km). We pitched our hammocks on the edge of a cliff. Overnight low was 48 F (9 C).

Sep 3-4 ~ Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail, Kiabab National Forest, Arizona. This 11-mile (17.7 km) loop hike was cut short due to my daughter getting ill, but we enjoyed a wonderful 6-mile (9.6 km) overnight backpacking trip along the Sycamore Canyon near Paradise Forks. Overnight low was around 50 F (10 C) and the elevation was 6700 ft (2042 m).

Sep 6 ~ Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona. Took a quick family trip to the rim and hiked down toward Horseshoe Mesa for a total of about 3 mi (5 k) out and back. Temperature was around 80 F (27 C).

Sep 11 ~ Navajo Nation Parade, Window Rock, Arizona. I participated in the parade this year and walked nearly 5 mi (8 km) up and down the parade route. My day started at 3 AM with temperatures around 38 F (3 C) and rose to around 80 F (27 C) by noon, when I finished the parade.


I have worn the Helios over a dozen days over this testing period and I have yet to wash it. I love how crisp the brim still feels and I'm hesitant to really bend or crush it so I can keep the stiffness. I have folded the hat in half as I've stored it on my backpack and it continues to spring back to life.

Hiking Oak Creek

On my hike in the West Fork of Oak Creek, it was pretty muggy (for Arizona) and the hat trapped additional heat. When I was hiking under the trees, I tucked the hat between my back and the backpack to keep from getting too hot. The hat only absorbed a slight amount of sweat and it evaporated quickly.

Grand Canyon

I’ve noticed the hat keeps my head warm, but I was very grateful to have it when the intense Arizona sun was beating down on me. I had several occasions when the hat proved itself at keeping back the sun, including our day hikes in the Grand Canyon and during a long “walk” in a parade in eastern Arizona. The brim did an excellent job at keeping back my sweat.

Fisher Point

Even though I haven’t washed it, I haven’t noticed any rancid “wash me now” smell, and I’ve heard no complaints from my wife (I baited our dressing room with the hat), but I know eventually I need to wash it and see how it reacts.

I’ve seen no performance failures with the chin strap, and I haven’t had to cinch it tight yet due to the calm winds I’ve encountered on my trips.


PRO—Great sun protection, stiff brim, wicks sweat well.

CON—A tad warm.


23 Nov 2010


In this last test period, I have used the Helios on several short day hikes and a few overnight backpacking trips. Here are a few highlights:

Oct 15-17 ~ Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Utah. We had an opportunity to visit family and took a few trips into Snow Canyon and went on a few day hikes, including Pioneer Names Trail, Johnson's Arch, and Whiterocks Trail to name a few. Elevation was around 3200 ft (975 m) and daytime temperatures around 75 F (24 C). We experienced some light rain this weekend.

Oct 22-23 ~ West Clear Creek, Arizona. My son and I went on a backpacking trip into a canyon we have yet to fully explore. Elevation was around 6500 ft (1980 m) and daytime temperatures around 50 F (10 C). We experienced a lot of rain on this trip.

Nov 10 ~ Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. On a recent family trip we stopped for some day hikes in the Grand Staircase to the Paria Rimrocks and Toadstool Trail. Elevation was around 4400 ft (1340 m) and daytime temperatures around 50 F (10 C).

Nov 20 ~ Old Caves Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona. I took two of my kids on a day hike, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km), to explore some of the many trails around a cinder cone near our home. Elevation was 7100 ft (2164 m) and daytime temperatures around 40 F (4 C). A winter storm was approaching and we encountered some high winds, 30-40 mph (48-64 kph) with gusts up to 50 mph (80 kph).


Hiking to Johnson's Arch

I love the trails in Southern Utah, and during a trip to visit family we went on day hikes every day into the canyons. The Helios was a great companion to shield my eyes from the sun. Some of our hikes were in the late afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky; I used the hat with the brim lowered to help shield my eyes.

Hiking in Snow Canyon

The cinch mechanism on the back of the hat really works well to adjust the brim. On one hike in Snow Canyon, my son forgot his hat, so I lent him my Helios and adjusted it for his head. I love this feature in the hat.

Adjusting for smaller heads

The hat does a great job shielding out the sun, and it also does a great job shedding rain water, as we experienced near West Clear Creek. But the real "fun" test was last week when I took some of my kids on a day hike to explore trails around Old Caves Crater. A winter storm was blowing in from the southwest with sustained 30 mph (48 kph) winds gusting into the 50s mph (80 kph). With the brim adjusted and the chin strap tightened, the hat hardly moved or flipped in the wind. I was surprised at how firm the rim remained during our entire trip.


This hat is a great piece of gear. Lightweight, sturdy, adjustable, and great for sun and wind protection. I love it!

PRO—Comfortable. Stays on well in high winds.


I would like to thank Outdoor Research and for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.

Read more gear reviews by Derek Hansen

Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Outdoor Research Helios Sun Hat > Test Report by Derek Hansen

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