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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack Jacket > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack Jacket
Test series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: April 6, 2013
Field Report: June 26, 2013
Long Term Report: August 28, 2013
Helly Hansen Fastpack Jacket over a light down jacket.
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing/kayaking and most other outdoor activities, but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
The Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack Jacket is designed to give full weather protection in a lightweight and packable garment. This is achieved by using what Helly Hanson calls Helly Tech Professional fabric. Here is a direct quote from the manufacture. "For extremely challenging wet, cold and windy conditions and the toughest physical challenges Helly Tech® PROFESSIONAL will keep you dry, warm and confident. The highly advanced Helly Tech® PROFESSIONAL fabrics are engineered to meet the most demanding professional requirements. They push the boundaries of technical fabric engineering and offer waterproof and breathability ratings tailored to the unique performance needs of professionals. All seams are fully taped and welded to our highest specifications for long lasting, professional grade performance. Waterproof – Breathable – Guaranteed" I did see that the tag says the fabric is 100% Polyamide on the face side and 100% Polyurethane on the back.
The Odin looks pretty much like an ordinary rain jacket but has one feature notably different than most rain jackets. That would be the front pockets which happen to be the only pockets on this jacket. The opening for each pocket slants across the front in such a manner that together they resemble the letter A, except they don't quite meet at the top and and the crossbar is missing. OK, I guess this is a bad description but I can't think of anything better. Anyways, each pocket is accessible through a long 14 in (36 cm) waterproof zipper. Each pocket is lined with a mesh like material that should keep all but the smallest items (like a toothpick) contained. The theory behind the long pocket opening and mesh lining is that the pockets can double as vents. And while they are not in the same location as traditional pit zips, they do pass pretty close to each under arm, and to my eye are located where a breeze is more likely to let air in, especially when facing a breeze or creating my own when riding my bike. The main zipper is also waterproof. There is a cord around the bottom hem with barrel locks on each side pretty much directly under each arm for cinching the jacket tightly around the waist.
The material for the shell of the jacket feels pretty soft. It is slightly crinkly sounding but nothing like sil-nylon. However, when wearing the jacket it is pretty silent. The material is very light but it does not give the impression that it is flimsy. Of course testing will determine that. The hood is made extra big so that it can accommodate a helmet. I don't know if Helly Henson had bike helmets in mind as they are usually shaped a little weird but it fits over mine with no problem. I found it works best to deploy it over a ball cap if not wearing a helmet. The hood can be cinched down tight with three barrel locks, one on each side in the front and one located around in the back at neck height. According to the website the Odin Faspack has the following features.
care instructions are located on a tag sewn onto the garment on
the left side down near the waist. They are given in
English and 3 other languages. They simply state:
Machine Wash in luke warm water. Mild Soap. Remove
promptly from the washer. Use commercial size washer
and dryer. Do not bleach. Do not tumble dry. Do
not iron. Do not dry clean.
My Initial Impressions
I am testing an XL. I chose this size based on the fact that I normally wear an XL shirt or jacket and the measurements given on the website corresponded with my 46 in (117 cm) chest. I'm actually right in the middle of the XL and XXL size since XL ends and XXL begins at 46 in (117 cm). However, I wanted a jacket that would be better suited for bike riding and not be flapping in the wind so much and it looks like I nailed the correct size. Also, I was concerned that the XXL would be way to long in the sleeves, and since the XL sleeves are a little long I suspect the XXL would fit even worse. I have already tried the jacket on over a thermal base layer and light weight down jacket and confirmed that it is pretty snug. However, I did not feel constricted at all and could move about freely with the down jacket on under the Odin. When worn over just a hooded sweat shirt or thermal top the fit was just about perfect other than the sleeves being a little long. However, I love the way the sleeves can be cinched down tight around my wrist. This is not usually that big a deal but it can make riding my bike on a cold day much more enjoyable. Then as I warm up I can open the sleeve openings up a little and let a little air enter. Here are the sleeve lengths and also the hood over my bike helmet.
Almost perfect fit when worn over a mid-weight thermal.
Also showing sleeve length, bike helmet fit and pocket vents open.
Trying it out
I got the Odin on a cold windy day and wore it out in my yard several times over a flannel shirt. It rained the following day and was even colder at around 45 F (7 C) most of the time. I wore it outside several times while taking my dog out to potty and walking over to my dad's for lunch. I was probably outside at least an hour all told but not all at once. However, I had on a hooded sweatshirt and found the jacket worked very well with this combination. I stayed perfectly dry and the jacket made the winds manageable. The hood on my sweatshirt made the hood on the jacket fit pretty good. The following day was much nicer when I wore the Odin on a hike to the holler to get a few photographs for this review. It was 48 F (9 C) when I left the house and warmed to 55 F (13 C) by the time I got back to the top of the mountain.
Temperature near the end of the hike.
I wore the jacket the entire time except for a few minutes down at the creek when I took it off to put in inside my day-pack to demonstrate how packable the jacket is. Here it is inside the mesh part of my day-pack.
Here is the Odin Fastpack inside my day-pack.
On the hike down to the creek I had the jacket zipped up and the pockets (vents) closed. After I took it off for the packing demonstration I put it back on but left the pockets and main zipper un-zipped. This proved to be a wise choice because I got pretty warm on the hike back up the mountain. I wore a ball cap but since it was not raining I did not need the hood other than to see how it worked with the cap. As with the hooded sweat shirt, it was still a little big but not bad. I could see myself hiking in the rain with the ball cap.
Here I am at the top of the climb
I have noticed that the hand warmer pocket openings feel a little high on the jacket. The pockets themselves are pretty deep and roomy but the zippers felt like they were pinching my arms a little when I rested my hands down in the pockets. Here are my hands inside the pockets. Also notice I have on my down jacket under the Odin.
Hands in pockets of the Odin Fastpack
I'm sure the reason they are not further down is so items place in the pockets will be less likely to fall out but there is room for the zippers to extend another inch (3 cm) down and still have plenty of lip remaining. I also noticed that zipping the main zipper was a little difficult up towards the top. This is easy to alleviate by holding the jacket together at the neck. Other than these two very minor nitpicks I am totally pleased with the Odin. That's all for now. Please stay tuned for my Field Report which should follow in two months time.
Testing Locations and Conditions
Since receiving the Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack Jacket the weather has slowly turned hotter and hotter. In fact, most of June saw highs in the upper 80s F (31 C) and even mid 90s F (35 C). Fortunately, on the days it did rain and I needed the Odin it was slightly cooler. The coolest temperature I encountered was 50 F (10 C). I have worn the jacket during rain on several occasions. Most testing occurred on local trails close to home, but without much rain and the warmer temperatures it stayed in my day-pack most of the time However, I did managed some serious testing on a bike ride around Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park. The elevation of most of my local hiking trails and my campsite in Townsend Tennessee are almost exactly the same at around 1200 ft. (366 m).
Field Test Results
First some bad news, I re-injured my knee while testing the jacket. I wore the jacket several times on some short day hikes to the holler and back during April but it was obvious I was way out of shape. Then on a particularly nice day in early May I went for a hike to the holler and back and my knee felt so good I decide to repeat the hike a few hours later. Big mistake! I ended up limping severely for about a week and wondering if I could recover enough to ride my bike on a ride I had been planning for a year. And now the good news, I got the knee well enough to attend the rally. I skipped the long group ride on Friday but did manage to go on the crown jewel of the rally, a 11 mile (18 km) loop ride around Cades Cove Saturday morning
My only overnight use so far was on May 17th when I stayed in a KOA in Townsend Tennessee. I was there for the 2nd annual Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally. I stayed in the KOA in Townsend Tennessee and used my hammock for my shelter. It was around 70 F (21 C) when I arrived at my campsite and I had on shorts and a tee shirt. I waited until I was ready for bed around 10 PM before putting on a thermal top and bottom. I was using a half bag but just laid beside it most of the night. When I finally did cool down at around 3 AM I put on the Odin Fastpack and just kind of draped the sleeping bag over my legs. It rained during the night but stopped long enough for me to pack up the next morning, but at 50 F (10 C) the jacket was just about perfect for keeping me warm. I skipped a formal breakfast but did have a couple of bananas and some nuts before I drove into the park to meet the recumbent riders for the ride around Cades Cove. Only 14 riders showed up because of the rain and a few debated skipping it after seeing that the rain was getting harder instead of slacking off as predicted. One guy did bail saying his wife would kill him if he came home sick I had a similar discussion with my wife about re-injuring my knee so I understood where he was coming from. Anyways, I rode the 11 miles (18 km) in the rain in just under 2 hours. I know that sounds painfully slow, but I did get up to around 25 MPH on a few downhill runs and the hood stayed on perfectly. I was wearing a ball cap underneath the hood. I also I took several breaks at the top of some of the steeper climbs and even walked the last bit of 2 climbs. And besides, this was supposed to be a slow group ride to enjoy the scenery. We did spread out a bit during the ride but all finished within a few minutes of each other. I was just glad I made it without seeming to re-injure it and thus kept my promise to my wife.
And now more good news/bad news. My knee was feeling a lot better by Memorial Day. We had a family and friends cookout followed by games. I sat out all the games but the balloon toss. I even sat that one out until my aunt complained of the heat and wanted me to take her place. Within a minute of entering the game I made a spectacular catch of a balloon tossed low and well to the side of me. In doing so I heard a pop and immediately felt a lot of pain in my left knee (the same one that was operated on last fall and has been giving me fits ever since). I was really feeling depressed because it seemed like I just could not get this injury healed. But, after limping around for about 3 or 4 days the knee steadily improved and seems to be much better now (4 weeks later) than at any time following the surgery. I have been hiking longer and also riding my off road recumbent, something I have been reluctant to do all spring long.
Unfortunately, the only good testing opportunity lately was about a week ago when we experienced 5 inches of rain over a 2 day period. I wore the jacket on a long day hike of about 4 miles (6 km). It rained steadily during the entire 2 hours I was out and rained hard several times. It was about 75 F (24 C) and I got really hot while wearing the jacket. I wore the jacket over a tee shirt and had on some gym shorts. I kept the pockets opened all the way for maximum ventilation but was not able to tell if they did much good. I assume it was better than having them closed but again, when it is this hot and muggy, I tend to sweat at the least amount of exertion. Anyways, I did not use my day-pack on this hike but instead opted to carry everything I needed in the pockets of the Fastpack jacket. I placed a water bottle in one pocket and my phone and some toilet paper in the other pocket. I wore a ball cap which helped keep the hood in place and also improved my peripheral vision. When I got home my tee shirt was just about as wet as the gym shorts I had on. However I'm convinced this was due to sweat. I don't think any rain got through the jacket and as best I could tell, very little if any was getting in at the pockets which were unzipped all the way.
I did wear it on another morning when it was pouring rain. I was taking my wife to Huntsville for a minor procedure at The Surgery Center and as luck would have it, it was pouring rain the morning of the surgery. I only wore the jacket long enough to get in the car at home and then into the building after dropping her off. I ended up parking quite a ways from the door so I got to walk in the rain long enough to soak my jeans. But when I got inside and took the Odin off my shirt was perfectly dry. It stopped raining before we left but my wife was cold and hungry so I let here wear the Odin Fastpack while we stopped for some breakfast and then on the ride home.
I carried it with me on several bike and recumbent bike rides but it stayed in my panniers during all the rides except the one in Cades Cove. I could have gotten a lot more use out of it had I been testing it back during the winter. However, I liked the reassurance that I was prepared for any pop up rain showers or freak cold spells.
Summary Thus Far
This is an awesome rain jacket. It packs away to almost nothing and is very comfortable to wear. I will say that it is not ideal for hot weather. Anything above around 75 F (24 C) and it was just too warm unless I was not exerting myself. Stay tuned for my Long Term Report which should follow in about 2 months time.
Test locations and Conditions
Testing during this phase took place hiking in Southeastern Tennessee and Northeastern Alabama and kayaking in South-central Mississippi. The weather was good for testing a rain jacket as I experienced a lot of rain at all three locations. In fact, rainfall so far this year in North Alabama is about 8 inches (20 cm) above normal. It has also been slightly cooler than normal all summer, but the humidity has been higher so it has still felt pretty hot. I asked a guy from Idaho who was visiting the area what he thought about Alabama and his very first comment was "Damp, and the air seemed thick all the time". The hottest testing was during the canoeing/kayaking trip on Black Creek when daytime highs reached the mid 90s F (35 C). The lowest temperature encountered was 55 F (13 C) on an overnight hike on the Fiery Gizzard in Tennessee.
Long Term Test Results
My knee has steadily improved and I was able to do some short hiking trips with up to 45 lbs (20 kg) in my pack, or should I say packs. Anyways, the Odin Fastpack kept me perfectly dry in some pretty serious downpours. On July 2nd I went on a short 5 mile (8 km) backpacking trip on the Fiery Gizzard trail in Tennessee. My pack weighed 25 lbs (11 kg) and it was 77 F (25 C) at the start of the hike. It sprinkled during the hike to our campsite but I did not put on my rain jacket. When we arrived it was starting to thunder in the distance so I suggested that we should set up our hammocks and thus have a place to store our gear ASAP. After that we hiked down to an overlook to eat supper and watched the approaching storm. I was able to fit all my supper, which basically consisted of a 20 oz (0.6 L) bottle of water, a full size can of Pringles chips, a 6 oz (170 gm) bag of jerky and an 8 oz (227 gm) bag of chocolate covered raisins, into the pockets of the Fastpack, and no, I did not eat it all. By now it had dropped down to about 70 F (21 C) and when the rain hit it dropped several more degrees. The storm lasted about 30 minutes but I stayed perfectly dry wearing the Odin Fastpack. Well, not perfectly dry, my shirt was already damp from sweat. Everything from my waist down got soaked including the non-waterproof boots I was wearing.
When the rain stopped we still had a few minutes of daylight left so we quickly searched the area for wood and somehow managed to light a small fire. At around 10 PM the rain came back so we turned in for the night. I decided to put the Odin Fastpack over my backpack which I had hung from the ridge line of my hammock. This kept my pack dry during some pretty hard rain but I woke up cold at around 2 AM and decided I needed to wear the jacket instead of using it as a pack cover. I just placed my pack under my hammock for the rest of the night. The rain jacket helped me warm back up but I never did get truly warm. I had failed to pack a sleeping pad but did bring a fuzzy throw blanket and a pair of thermals (top and bottom) to sleep in. However, the drop to 55 F (13 C) overnight was a little more than my gear could handle.
Wearing the Odin Fastpack just as the rain began
Using the Odin Fastpack as a pack cover
It was still raining the next morning so we skipped breakfast. I wore the Fastpack as I packed up my gear and then on the hour and a half hike back to the truck. This was the only time I wore the Fastpack under a backpack. The rain varied between a sprinkle to pretty hard, and except for a little dampens from sweat, I stayed dry from my waist on up. The hood worked well with the ball cap I was wearing. Fortunately, the pack I was using has a built in rain cover but several of my packs do not. Anyways, the Fastpack jacket proved its worth on this trip.
My next hike with a pack was a planned overnight on July 25th on the same trail. However, my hiking partner developed some blisters and had some ankle swelling issues so we decided to turn around after hiking just over halfway to the campsite. I did not need the jacket during the hike so it stayed in my pack the entire 3 hours we were on the trail. I also ended up carrying both packs on the hike back to the truck. My pack weighed in at 30 lbs (14 kg) and my partners was 15 lbs (17 kg) so I ended up with about 45 lbs (20 kg) during the hike back to our vehicle.
Which bring me to the last time I use the Odin Fastpack. On August the 2nd I carried it on a 3 day/3 night paddle on Black Creek in Mississippi. I slept in a hammock all three night but did not need the Fastpack jacket for extra warmth on any of the nights. I did use it as a pillow each night but it is so small it really did not make a good pillow. I packed my pad and a light fuzzy throw blanket along but never even got them out of my kayak. The jacket stayed in a dry bag most of the trip but I did wear it on several occasions during some afternoon thunder storms. To be honest, if I were not testing it I'm not sure I would have ever put it on. In fact, the first time I put it on I was already wet the from falling into the river. We had found a good beach to land on and wait for the storm to pass. I had paddled my kayak onto the beach, but in my haste to get out. I leaned my kayak over enough to land in the water and also dump my cooler in the water. After getting my gear situated we waited on the storm to arrive. It was in the mid 90s (around 35 C) and the rain cooled the air temperature down a lot. I did feel a little chilly since my clothes were wet. I put on the rain jacket for the last 20 minutes of the storm and it felt good even though my shirt was already wet underneath it.
The next day we had another similar afternoon thunderstorm. I had already been swimming several times but had not for the past hour so I was pretty dry at the moment and decided to put the rain jacket on before the storm arrived. It got very windy but did not rain as hard during this storm. However, it lasted almost an hour and in fact made us late arriving at our campsite that evening. Due to the lighter rain I chanced getting my camera out and had one of the guys snap a few shots including this one.
The Odin Fastpack during an afternoon thunderstorm (Black Creek in Mississippi)
On the third day a thunderstorm blew in at around 11 AM. I had just spent an hour drying my gear and I wanted everything as dry as possible for the 8 hour ride home so I left my rain jacket inside the dry bag. One of the guys had set up a huge umbrella and I got under it during the hardest part of the rain. Despite my drying out my gear before loading up and heading home, everything had a musty smell when I unpacked, so, the next day I washed my dry bags, hammock and the Fastpack jacket with some soapy water (dish detergent) and then hung everything up outside to dry. The rest of my clothes went in the washing machine.
The Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack is a winner in my book. I would not say I was rough on the jacket but I did not baby it either and it is showing very little signs of wear. The biggest plus is the weigh and bulk of this jacket, or should I say the lack thereof, and along with backpacking, I could easily carry it while day hiking or out riding my bike. The jacket has ample storage in the two large front pockets. I was skeptical that the ventilation through those same pockets would be adequate but I know believe they work just as well as regular pit zips do. Except for the fact that many times it was just a little too warm to be comfortable wearing the Odin Faspack it served me well and protected my upper body during several storms. One last thought. I don't normally talk about cost, but good gear can be rather expensive, and this jacket is no exception. I can not qualify what the extra cost would mean to anyone other than myself, but speaking for myself, I do think this jacket is worth the cost, especially for anyone trying to get their pack weight as low as possible. The jacket is amazingly light weight and almost disappears when packed in my pack, yet provides protection from wind and rain while still allowing good ventilation. And because of this it is a jacket I am more likely to have along when I need it but not feel excessively burdened on trips when I did not. My thanks to Helly Hansen and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this lightweight rain jacket.
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