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Helly Hansen Odin Isolator Hooded Jacket : For Men and Women

I just returned from a beautiful late summer hike to the summit of Long’s Peak, one of Colorado’s most popular 14,000-foot mountains. I brought along my trusty Helly Hansen Odin Isolator jacket, which I’ve been putting through a long and arduous testing process; Long’s Peak was the final gauntlet, and it passed admirably.

The Odin Isolator is one of Helly Hansen’s most lauded jackets, and rightfully so. It’s an ultralight, wind-resistant synthetic hoody with a huge warmth to weight ratio and great packability. I’ve relied on this jacket during countless adventures, from alpine climbs and peak bagging scrambles this summer in Colorado, to spring and early summer snowboard excursions in the backcountry of Norway. It hasn’t let me down. In fact, thanks to its warm-when-wet synthetic fill, I might even say it’s been a lifesaver. For a do-everything, all season jacket, I can’t think of anything better.

When I first put the Odin Isolator jacket on in snowy Scandinavia, I knew it was something special. It weighs just one pound, yet is nearly as toasty as my warmest down parka. It’s got a soft and supple feel, thanks to its lightweight nylon shell and the synthetic Primaloft insulation. The jacket matches well with a backpack or harness because it doesn’t have a long cut. As an avid hiker, this is essential – if my jacket is too long, it bunches up underneath my hip belt and causes chafing.

Time and time again, during wet spring backcountry ski trips, I stayed warm despite being soaking wet at times. One fall in slushy spring Norwegian snow isn’t much drier than jumping in a lake, but the Primaloft insulation kept me warm time and time again.

Today on the Longs Peak ascent we were hit by a blustery wind at 13,000 feet, so I pulled the Helly Hansen Odin Isolator out of the bottom of my Camelbak pack and quickly warmed up. The jacket isn’t billed as a windproof shell, but it acts like one; the outer shell repelled much of the wind, and as soon as I cinched the inner storm skirt tight, no gusts entered at all.

I loved that it packed down so small that I could fit it in a hydration pack, along with my pack standards: a rain jacket, water, and food. The Isolator jacket took up almost no space at all – it’s about the size of a bag of coffee. I also loved the hood, which I think is a necessity; I just flipped it up and felt invincible in the wind.

After a brief stay at the summit, we hiked back down and were hit with a little bit of rain, but I didn’t need to put on my storm shell. The Odin Isolator’s tight outer weave seemed to repel light rain, and when it did seep through, I didn’t worry too much because the jacket is synthetic. That means it’s warm even when wet. (The big problem with down is that it loses all its insulating abilities when water creeps into the feathers.)

I think Helly Hansen’s Odin Isolator strikes a great middle ground between weight and durability. It’s not the lightest jacket on the market (thought it is among the lightest), but on the other hand, it’s still extremely light and, better yet, it’s built for daily use in the mountains. It is so much more than emergency insulation, thanks to strong zippers and ripstop nylon.  

Its burly design and quality are always evident. I’ve been thrashing this top for months, and it’s held up great. I remember when I started testing it in Norway in the late spring, and wound up crashing my way through bushes and trees on my backcountry snowboarding and snowshoeing descents. I snagged enough branches to turn it into a tattered mess, but the jacket doesn’t even have the slightest sign of wear.

Helly Hansen’s Odin Isolator has two hand pockets that are strategically placed so they won’t interfere with pack straps, as well as a handy chest pocket that I use for stashing nutrition bars and lip balm in when I’m on the go. It comes a black model and a red model for men (size S to 2XL) as well as for women (XS to 2XL). Helly Hansen also makes an Odin vest and a non-hooded jacket.

Bottom Line: A signature Helly Hansen jacket that’s durable, light, packable and oh-so-warm. A must-have garment when conditions are cold, wet or snowy.--N.W. (August 2011)

BUY ONLINE: $300, men's jacket on sale for $184.90

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.