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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack Jacket > Test Report by Mark Thompson

HELLY HANSEN FASTPACK JACKET
TEST SERIES BY MARK THOMPSON
LONG-TERM REPORT
August 19, 2013

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mark Thompson
EMAIL: markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Parker, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (2.10 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

Outdoor adventures started for me at an early age, my passions have grown to include backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. Most of my adventures presently take place in Colorado's amazing Rocky Mountains. For trail hikes, my pack typically weighs 15 lbs/7 kg (summer/fall), 25 lbs/11 kg (winter/spring) and trail speed ranges from 2.5 - 4 mph (4 - 6 km/h) depending on elevation gain. For backpack trips, my pack weighs 40 - 45 lbs (18 - 20 kg) and my trail speed drops to 1.5 - 3.0 mph (2 - 5 km/h).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Helly Hansen
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.hellyhansen.com
MSRP: US $300.00
Listed Weight: 8.5 oz (240 g)
Measured Weight: 8.5 oz (240 g)

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Other details:
The FastPack Jacket is a lightweight shell featuring water resistant zippers (main and two pockets), adjustable hood, cuffs and bottom hem. The shell is made from waterproof yet breathable fabric and is offered in two colors, Lime and Cobalt Blue (lime is being tested) and 5 sizes (large is being tested).

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INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Wow, super light and super bright! I have long been amused by the shifting tide of the outdoor community from soft earth tones to wild colors. The lime color is amazingly bright and leaves no doubt about which side of the color conundrum this one resides. I am quite impressed by its weight (or lack thereof), weighing in at a mere 8.5 oz (240 g).

I tried on the jacket, over a base layer and a mid-weight fleece, and found that sizing was perfect. I wouldn't consider the cut "athletic" per se but it fits well and the adjustable hem is sure to take up the minor amount of extra.

The manufacturer's website claims that the hood is sized to be helmet compatible. I did try this with my climbing helmet and found it to be a little snug and restricted some movement, especially when trying to face down. I usually find with shells, the opposite problem, the hoods are too large and either get in the way, flap in the wind or simply don't protect me from the elements. The FastPack hood seems to be better suited to being worn without a helmet compared to other products. I will test its true helmet compatibility in the field shortly!

TRYING IT OUT

After looking over the jacket in the confines of my comfortable condo I knew I had to get this out in the woods! On Sunday, April 7, 2013, the weather on the "Front Range" (not really mountains, but the term refers to the metro areas just to the east) was sunny and warm with the temperature reaching nearly 70 degrees F (21 deg C). I joined a group of folks for a snowshoe/hike to Lettuce Lakes near Rollinsville, CO. The weather was significantly different here as we could see a storm pushing in as we drove to the trailhead. The temperature was 28 deg F (-2 deg C) the wind was pretty stiff and the snow was starting to come down.

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I typically carry a hard shell in my pack for those "just in case" weather events and wear a soft shell. I do this as experience has shown that I get too hot wearing a hard shell and the shell cannot transfer enough moisture away so I end up getting wet with sweat. Today, I left the soft shell in the car and donned the Helly Hansen FastPack Jacket. The snow and wind continued throughout the day, enough such that the heavily treed areas in the valley didn't provide complete protection from their effects.

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The jacket was nearly perfect, light, wind and water proof, with superb moisture dissipation! I was really impressed with how well the jacket repelled the snow and allowed body moisture to escape. I did have some trouble with the zipper backing getting stuck in the zipper. This of course, happened just below my chin so getting it free was a bit of a challenge, and, unfortunately, resulted in a small tear in the the zipper backing.

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SUMMARY

So far, an awesome jacket with the exception of the zipper. Had I purchased this item, I would have been inclined to return it due to this malfunction. I typically shop at a retailer who has a 100% satisfaction guarantee so I would have just exchanged it for another to give it a second chance. It does seem as though a binding agent or something could be done to increase the rigidity of the material behind the zipper to prevent this from occurring.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During this phase of the test, I have had the jacket out on 8 trips (yes, my lovely wife is very tolerant of my altitude addiction) throughout Colorado. Activities on these outings have included, rock climbing, snow climbing, hiking, car camping and backpacking. As you can imagine, conditions have varied significantly with these trips, so here are just a few of the trip specifics:

- St Mary's Glacier, near Eagle, Colorado
April 2013
Temperature range: 24 to 38 Deg F (-4 to 3 Deg C)
Wind: 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 35mph (24 to 32 kmph with gusts to 56 kmph)
Terrain: moderately steep snow pack
Weather: clear, but with the wind we were pummeled by blowing snow and ice pellets

- Quandary Peak, near Breckenridge, Colorado
May 2013
Temperature range: 20 to 35 deg F (-7 to 2 Deg C)
Wind: fairly mild until we approached the summit where we had light winds ranging from 5 to 10 mph (8 to 16 kmph)
Terrain: moderate to steep snow climbing (crampons and ice axes required)
Weather: overcast

- Crestone Peak, near Westcliffe, Colorado
June 2013
Temperature range: 28 to 68 Deg F (-2 to 20 Deg C)
Wind: 15 to 30 mph (24 to 48 kmph)
Terrain: steady incline on easy trail to base camp then steep rock and snow climbing to summit
Weather: very nice, other than the constant wind.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

So far, I have been very happy (and impressed) with the performance of the Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack Jacket. When comparing this light weight hard-shell to other high performance (albeit much heavier) products I own, I am pleased to say that I obtain very similar levels of performance, just without the significant weight and volume penalty.

Wind and Snow:
While teaching a group of new mountaineers, I led a trip to St Mary's Glacier where we faced significant winds and blowing snow and ice. The conditions were less than ideal, we even had to take one student back to the cars to warm up because their gear, although "top shelf," wasn't up to the task. The Fastpack was clearly the lightest hard-shell in use on the day, yet, I remained warm and properly protected from the wind and blowing snow/ice. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the one below should provide a pretty good idea of the conditions we faced. The lack of snow/ice buildup is a testament to how well the material repels blowing snow and ice.

IMAGE 1

Moisture Dissipation:
While ascending Quandary Peak via the Cristo Couloir, our team faced light winds, yet I was able to wear the jacket without getting wet from perspiration. I typically wear a soft-shell on ascents as other hard-shell products fail to dissipate moisture sufficiently, causing the vapor to condense on my clothing, ultimately resulting in being wet and cold. The moisture dissipation provided by Helly Hansen's proprietary fabric is amazing. At the start of the climb, I opened up the pockets (which serve as awesome vents) and despite the significant level of effort expended during the climb, I remained perfectly comfortable. After a few minutes on the summit, with my level of effort at near zero, I began to cool off. The large leashes on the pocket zippers made it very easy to adjust the ventilation. It would seem logical to me, that the superior moisture dissipation properties would cause the jacket to lose some effectiveness in the ability to repel wind or water. I certainly have not found this to be the case. On all of my trips, I have been pleasantly surprised with the very high level of wind protection the Fastpack provides.
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Weight and Volume
Although I have mentioned it before, I just have to say it again. The light weight of this jacket and its minimal packed volume make it so nice to carry on hikes and backpacking trips. During a weekend climbing trip I led up Handies Peak, Red Cloud Peak and Sunshine Peak, I carried the Fastpack Jacket. During the ascent, I was quite comfortable with a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt, but once on the summit the decreased exertion and summit wind, I found myself reaching for the bright neon jacket in my day pack.

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SUMMARY

Starting off with the "Pros and Cons" and a "Comment:"

Pros:
- Light weight (can't emphasize this enough)
- Windproof
- Waterproof
- Superb moisture dissipation
- Awesome ventilation

Cons:
- Zipper backing (I have not had any additional tears in the material, but I have had to be very careful)
- European Zipper Orientation (okay, minor complaint, but for the North American male, the zipper lever is typically placed so it can be grasped with the right hand)

Comment:
- Not really a "con" because I have learned to like it, but the hood isn't large enough to fit over a helmet. As you may have noticed in the first picture of this report, I am wearing the hood inside of my helmet. I have grown to like this better as the smaller hood does not flop around in the wind (when not wearing a helmet) nearly as much as my other helmet compatible jackets.

I do want to note that, during this phase of the test, I have not encountered any significant rainfall. Although I particularly dislike rain, despite how much Colorado needs the moisture, I would like to test how well the Fastpack Jacket performs in rainy weather.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During this phase of the test series, I was able to get out into the woods on three more trips, two backpack trips of two days each (both were in Colorado) and a four day backpack trip to Mt Rainier. The first two of the aforementioned trips added 4 more to my list of successful "14er" summits: Blanca, Elingwood, Challenger and Kit Carson. The weather for these 5 peaks was very pleasant (all things considered). Evening and summit temperatures were obviously cooler and thus made it worth the effort to have a hard shell along. Besides, nobody knows when mother nature is going to send some rain or hail (thankfully, mother nature was kind and kept the precipitation at bay).

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PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Since the Odin FastPack has consistently been outperforming my other hard-shells, I opted to take it on my attempt of Mt Rainier. Although this may not sound out of the ordinary since this is a test series, it was for me as Mt Rainier is not simply in my backyard, so any failed or under-performing gear could cost me not only the summit, but the entire trip along with the six other people on the trip. It isn't often that I can get off of work, fly half way across the country and climb a peak with several friends!

For those who are not familiar with Mt Rainier and the conditions that this peak presents, the closest major city, Seattle, rests along the northern Pacific Ocean (thus sea level) and the relatively short drive to the trail head provides a little bit of a boost with your feet hitting the trail at a mere 4,400' (1,341 m). The summit sits proudly at 14,409' (4,392 m) and is the only fully glaciated peak in the "48 States." This leaves 10,000' (3,048 m) of gain for the mountaineer. The conditions that vary with such a huge change in elevation are even more remarkable than the views of this massive peak from the airplane. Seattle was warm and fairly humid with temperatures in the upper 70's (25 - 27 deg C). Surprisingly, the conditions at the trailhead were fairly similar. After gaining another 1,800' (549 m) the several feet (appx 1 meter) of snow on the ground gave just a glimpse of what was to come. After an uneventful trek up to high base camp the temperatures began to plummet with the setting sun and the calm winds gave way to a less than peaceful night with 25 mph (40 kph) sustained winds with gusts to 35 mph (56 kph). Fortunately, we were not to sleep much as we left camp at 2:00am for our summit bid. The Odin had been along for the ride much of the trip, until now, and it was fine time for it to earn it's place in my pack. With the mercury hanging around 28 deg F (-2 deg C) and the winds keeping us on our toes at 25 mph (40 kph), the Odin reminded me of why I brought it!

The ascent began well before sunrise and, since we were well into crevasse territory, we roped up before even leaving camp. Having to change or adjust clothing after tying into a rope team is not only difficult and time-consuming; it presents enormous risks to the well being of teammates by causing an opportunity for them to get cold while waiting. The long, dual purpose pockets/vents enabled me to adjust my comfort level throughout the day, and kept me from being the cause of any "clothing adjustment" breaks or the like. I kept the vents approximate 75% closed until daybreak, then opening them half way, only to have to close them completely for the last 500' of gain and the entire time on the summit.


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The jacket performed perfectly throughout the adventure and I couldn't have been happier. The weather conditions were good for Rainier standards and certainly the weather I encountered on St Mary's glacier a few months ago proved significantly more difficult. The winds were a significant factor however, and the FastPack Jacket blocked it like a champ!

SUMMARY

This is simply an awesome jacket. Pros, Cons Comments remain the same:
Pros:
- Light weight (can't emphasize this enough)
- Windproof
- Waterproof
- Superb moisture dissipation
- Awesome ventilation

Cons:
- Zipper backing (I have not had any additional tears in the material, but I have had to be very careful)
- European Zipper Orientation (okay, minor complaint, but for the North American male, the zipper lever is typically placed so it can be grasped with the right hand)

Comment:
- Not really a "con" because I have learned to like it, but the hood isn't large enough to fit over a helmet. As you may have noticed in the first picture of this report, I am wearing the hood inside of my helmet. I have grown to like this better as the smaller hood does not flop around in the wind (when not wearing a helmet) nearly as much as my other helmet compatible jackets.

My sincere thanks to Helly Hansen and BackpackGearTest.org for providing the opportunity to test this awesome jacket!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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