2.5-layer waterproof breathable fabrics make up one of the newer species of rain jackets. You get most of the performance of typical fabric/membrane combos but in a lighter weight. Helly Hansen introduced a new jacket that takes advantage of this tech to provide wet-weather protection without the weight penalty. Enter the Helly Hansen Enroute Shelter jacket.
There’s a reason 3-layer waterproof-breathable fabrics are the industry standard. The inner layer of fabric protects the membrane from contamination from skin oils, dirt, and all the nastiness we humans excrete. That contamination decreases performance and can actually break down the membrane, destroying the jacket. In a 2.5 layer jacket, manufacturers hold on to the face fabric and membrane, but instead of a liner fabric laminated to the inner face, they print on a partially protective layer. It’s not as effective in protecting the membrane, but for an emergency shell, it does the trick.
Helly Hansen uses their own, proprietary Helly Tech membrane, laminated to a ripstop face fabric with DWR. You only get one color choice – black – but Helly changes it up with a yellow hood to increase visibility. There are two chest pockets, mesh-lined and high enough to avoid interference with a pack. Helly uses YKK Aquaguard zippers for the main and pocket zippers to help keep water out. Pit vents exist, but are short, little things that only open along the underside of the upper arm and do not extend onto the torso. You get typical hood adjustments – around the face (with internal cord locks) and behind the head. There’s also a draw cord around the hem.
We took the Enroute Shelter jacket out on various adventures to see how it would perform. During a fat-biking adventure after the second of our massive, April snow storms, the Enroute Shelter kept us dry, but we overwhelmed the breathability of the Helly Tech membrane. This highlighted one of the disadvantages of Helly’s interpretation of the 2.5-layer shell: if you sweat inside of this type of jacket, you get clammy. A printed inner layer simply doesn’t feel as nice as an inner fabric layer. Wear long sleeves if you plan on sweating. During less aerobic activities, the jacket was a great companion. It sheds moisture well.
Helly continues their normal fit scheme on the Enroute Shelter jacket, meaning it has a very square fit. On our tester, the torso, from ribcage down, fit wonderfully. Unfortunately, Helly has a tendency to skimp on fabric in shoulder/underarm area. This makes for a tight squeeze if you have broad shoulders or lats. We recommend sizing up if you’re between sizes.
The hood fits over a climbing helmet (not a ski helmet) and cinches down comfortably when you’re not protecting your dome. Arms are a good length and don’t ride up when you move your arms around. The body is long enough to cover your waist with arms raised and features a slight drop hem in the rear to keep you covered.
We found the Helly Hansen Enroute Shelter jacket to be a decent companion in the backcountry, if it fits you. It’s light weight and packs down well, disappearing in your pack. Fit, finish, and features are better than 2.5-layer rain jackets from competitors. We wish it had longer pit vents and more breadth in the shoulders/upper back. Those two additions would improve it from decent to exceptional.
- Weighs nothing
- Disappears into a pack
- Keeps water out
- Gets clammy on skin
- Narrow shoulders
- Small pit zips