EMS Helix Jacket Review

The Helix works for me! photo by Dave Arruda
 The Eastern Mountain Sports Helix Jacket has withstood some of New England’s snowiest, coldest and most windy conditions. The Helix is my go to shell for skiing and any hike above tree line. It has everything you need and nothing that you don’t. If you are looking for a no nonsense mountaineering/ ski shell then look no farther than the Helix.
The Facts:
EMS markets this jacket as their “technical backcountry shell” with 3 layer construction, 20k water proofing, waterproof zippers and two Napoleon style pockets designed to be accessible with a harness on. It also has 2 interior mesh pockets and pit zips as well as a helmet compatible hood. It has an athletic fit so you might want to order 1 size larger than your usual size. The Helix weighs in at just over 1 lb. It normally retails for about $249. I got my Helix in red but it seems to currently only be offered in blue.
The Verdict:
The Helix taking some wind on Monadnock
At first I was skeptical of the Helix since it seemed to light to be a durable shell. I put it to the test on Mount Monadnock on a windy February day. I was immediately amazed that the Helix weighs almost nothing and it can be compressed to take up a minimal amount of space in a pack. I was also amazed that the front zip pockets were completely accessible even with a backpack and hip belt on. The Helix was off to a good start and I had not even left the parking let yet. Once on the mountain, the Helix deflected strong sustained winds with ease and it easily accommodated a few insulting layers once the temperatures really dropped. I brushed against plenty of branches, rocks as well as ice and the Helix showed no damage. I also found that it breathed well when I wore it while ascending. 
The Helix on a cold day on Mount Adams, photo by Dave Arruda
 Since then I have used the Helix on winter ascents of Mount Adams, Washington and Mooseilauke where it has faced sub zero temps and howling winds. The hood has been particularly impressive. It is fully adjustable so you can make sure no frost bite inducing wind gets to your face. The Helix also finds its way into my pack on any hike that goes above tree line, regardless of the season. 
I really have no major complaints or suggestions for improvement with this jacket.  Perhaps a sleeve pocket might be nice for carrying lens cloths but that is not a big deal to me. Also, the waterproof zipper can sometimes be hard to close but again this is minor.
I trust the Helx and it will be my go to shell for years to come. If you are looking for a serious mountaineering shell that won’t break the bank then you should check it out.
EMS gave New England Outside no incentive to write this review
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3 thoughts on “EMS Helix Jacket Review

  1. Would you recommend it for cross country skiing?
    Would you still order a larger size if skiing below tree line and with a few microfiber layers under it? My husband would easily fit into a medium as a rule, so if a few layers are considered part of the design and fit, I think I would be OK ordering that – afraid he'd swim in a large.

  2. Thanks for the follow-up. He's been wearing the same Gortex LLBean anorak forever and I mean forever… His fav running shirt has holes melted in it from burning brush but do you think he would ever wear one of the others he has? – No!
    His fav clothes that are well made are never thrown out or retired. “They still work” would be his philosophy. We have a lot to learn from old people like Dave. =O

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