The Helly Hansen Mars (men’s) and Venus (women’s) wind jackets claim to be the lightest on the market at 2.1 ounces for a full zip, hoodless jacket. Our prototype men’s large weighs 2.5 ounces and Helly promises a few changes to reduce that weight to the claimed 2.1 ounces for the production versions – available March 2006.
I tested the Mars jacket on warm fall trips in a Pennsylvania forest and a Utah canyon, and on day hikes in Arizona. My normal mode was to wear it on cool evenings and mornings, and for sleeping in the backcountry.
The size large sample jacket runs true to size with a close fit in the sleeves that won’t allow much besides a base layer underneath (or allow a lot of flapping in wind). The fabric on the prototype Mars is water resistant – I wore it in a light drizzle for about 40 minutes and it didn’t wet through. The fabric in the production jackets will be slightly more breathable, which could affect the water resistance as well.
To test for breathability, I wore the Mars on an uphill climb in 60 – 70 degree, calm to mild, weather. I repeated the same climb with three other 3-ounce windshirts (Patagonia Dragonfly, Montane Featherlite Smock, and GoLite Helios with Wisp acrylic coated ripstop nylon fabric) on different days with similar weather conditions. Breathability on all four windshirts was close enough as to be indistinguishable. By the end of each short, half-hour climb my baselayer was wet in several spots. I kept the windshirts zipped to the neck and wore the same clothing each time. It was just too warm to be wearing a windshirt. Under less forced conditions – venting when I got hot, or removing the Mars completely rather than keeping it zipped up – the Mars performed well. I didn’t feel clammy even when I slept in it.
The Mars shows no durability issues. I was concerned about the laser cut holes in the armpit area being a weak point, but they, and the surrounding fabric, are intact. The full zip, durable fabric, comparable MSRP, along with the light weight make the Mars/Venus windshirts a good value. If the production models live up to the weight claims, they’ll be the lightest windshirts available. How about offering them with a hood too?
AirCon lazer cut underarm ventilation holes.
Features and Specifications
- Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g) measured men’s large prototype; manufacturer’s claim – men’s medium 2.1 oz (60 g), women’s medium 1.9 oz (54 g)
- Fabric: nylon with DWR finish
- Reflective printing
- Full front zip and drawcord hem
- AirCon lazer cut underarm venting
- Available: March 2006 with slightly more breathable fabric and weight reductions as compared to the prototype
- MSRP $100