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Reviewed: Eight top-tier vests to take you through fall

Mavic Helium Vest

Pros: Exceptionally packable, wind resistant, water resistant
Cons: Very thin, not particularly warm. Emergency layer
Retail: $80

The Helium is the ultimate emergency vest: highly packable, lightweight, and sufficiently wind- and water-resistant to handle a medium-length descent or a brief shower. It packs up so small that even when the forecast looks good there’s no real excuse not to bring it a long, just in case.

Despite its thin, super-light construction, it is impressively adept at keeping water off the torso, retaining its water resistance far longer into one early season downpour than we expected it to. The material is also windproof, making it a perfect layer for chilly descents.

The Dura Lite SL fabric has little thermal value; the Helium is far and away the least warm vest here. It doesn’t breath particularly well, either, so Mavic punched hundreds of tiny holes into the back to let air escape. The rather low-tech solution works surprisingly well.

The cut is well thought out, tapered nicely for the riding position, but the fabric doesn’t stretch, so even a perfect fit will result in some bunching and flapping. This isn’t a vest we’d want to wear in the wind all day; it’s one to stuff in a pocket for a climb, and then throw on for the way down.

We love the off-center zipper, both for the additional collar comfort it provides and how easy it is to find the big, cloth-looped zips. The lack of pockets is of no real concern given the Helium’s intended use, and a clever slit in the back panel allows for access to jersey pockets underneath, anyway.

As an emergency outer layer, packable into a tiny corner of one pocket for days in the mountains or when headed out into unpredictable weather, the Helium is excellent. Just don’t try to wear it all day.

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