The middle of August may seem like an odd time to review a couple of jackets designed for the winter. However, this week marked the release of a number of teasers for this year’s  crop of ski movies, including Sweet Grass Productions Valhalla and the new Warren Miller Entertainment’s Ticket to Ride. This all can only mean one thing…the start of next ski season is now closer than the end of last ski season! Its also an excellent time to purchase ski gear, as anything leftover from last season will be considerably marked down. So, with that in mind, here is my take on a couple of offerings from Helly Hansen.

From the end of last season, me, the Odin Fastback Shell and the Hapush Bowl near Mt. Cain.

Helly Hansen Odin Fastpack

I had this jacket for a good part of the ski season last year, and wore it on cold days, warm days, wet days, dry days, sunny days and everything in between. It is a very light weight packable shell with pit zips, two pockets that are also vents, a non-detatchable hood, velcro arm hole cinches and a zipper. Throw in some strategically placed draw strings at the waist and hood, and that is it. Nothing else. No MP3 player pocket, no fleece lined eyewear pocket, no lift ticket sleeve – nothing extra. Just the basics.

The very attractive Odin Fastpack

I really like the simplicity, light weight, breathability, and surprising level of water resistance. I also really appreciate the good looks, slim fit, and the fact that it fits long. In fact, I find this jacket so good looking, that I wear it for work. It is very professional. Too bad it is no longer available in black!

I did have a couple of issues with the fastback. I found that the zipper snagged every now and then, and that without a full sleeve base layer, the pit zips chafed my arms a little.

The Fastpack shows off its pit-zip. The side pockets double as vents (you can see the mesh) and they are placed to work with a pack.

I would rate the waterproofness at 7 out of 10. The Fastpack will soak through, but it took an hour of Van Isle sideways constant rain. For breathability, I would also give the Fastpack a 7 out of 10.

In summary, this is a simple. straight forward, no frills incredibly well made and good looking shell. The ideal use is for fall / spring / west coast temperate tours and hikes. It is also excellent to carry with you as it is so lightweight and packable.

Helly Hansen Odin Belay Insulated Jacket

This insulated jacket can be worn on its own, or with a shell. It has nice big pockets – two outside and one inside.  It comes with a well shaped / fitting hood.  I also found that it has a nice long fit for tall people – i.e. its for fit, tall people and its not just a wider medium jacket for fat people. I am really impressed with how HH sizes their gear.

The Belay, comes complete with a stuff sack that also can be used if you work in a cheese factory and they are out of hats…

Much like the Fastpack, this is a very minimalist jacket with relatively few features beyond what you need to wear it. The insulation is light weight, and while appearing thin has kept me very warm in driving rain in the 3-10 degree range. Also – even in warmer temps you don’t overheat like you would with a down jacket. I haven’t really gotten it wet, but I have had it damp and didn’t notice any reduction in insulating ability.

The main zipper has been stiff / tough to get done up from day one – there’s a trick to it. This is a little disappointing; I would expect that a high end jacket wouldn’t require the learning of advanced zipper techniques to get done up – something for HH to try and improve…

The Belay in its stuff sack. I’ve shown it next to the Osprey Kode 32 day pack for scale. As the insulation is synthetic, it doesn’t compress as much as a down jacket would. The compressed jacket as about the same size as a kids soccer ball in the stuff sack – say 6 inches in diameter.

The website says there is a “draft stop inner skirt”  but I really haven’t noticed it… maybe I should pay more attention…

For temp rating – its been fine down to zero – and I’d say it would be comfortable down to minus 4 celsius.  Anything colder and you would need to add layers. One final consideration…the Belay does have a tendency to absorb body odour. If you care about your jacket smelling nice, be prepared to wash it regularly.

The Odin Fastpack and Belay together. These two minamalist, good looking, guide quality jackets get along just fine as a “system”!

In summary, the Odin Fastpack and Belay are simply excellent, guide quality, lightweight packable jackets ideal for west coast weather.