Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Helium II Jacket

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Exploring the Helium II's internal pocket. (PC: Dan Herscovitch)
Earlier this week, we took a look at Outdoor Research's newer warm weather layering options, the Women's Tantrum Hooded Jacket, which I got to test as part of the company's #ORInsightLab program. For the Lab, our job is to share gear feedback in specific categories for Outdoor Research.

In this piece, we'll take a look at the Women's Helium II Jacket, an evolved version of the original Helium. It was a top pick award dinner for Outdoor Gear Lab, was named among the best waterproof trail running jackets in Runners World, and was touted as a must-have layer by Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Needless to say, it had a lot to live up to!

I tested the Helium II to see how it performed as a layer when worn for some of my favorite outdoor pursuits - hiking, backpacking, and trail running. The verdict? It's ideal to keep handy on trail runs and hikes in case of a random rain storm in warm weather, but I'd love to see a few modifications. 

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Tantrum Jacket

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Testing the Tantrum in Vermont. (PC: Dan Herscovitch)
With a seemingly endless array of jackets out there, it can be tough to figure out which one to choose. It's possible to find a jacket that functions over multiple seasons and in multiple different types of weather conditions, but sometimes, it really does help to look for layers that serve a specific purpose.

I'm priveleged to be a part of another season of #ORInsightLab, a group "influential folks...who are diverse athletes and dynamic social storytellers. " For the Lab, our job is to share gear feedback in specific categories for Outdoor Research.

This season, I tried two of the company's lightest jackets this spring and summer - the Women's Tantrum Hooded Jacket and Women's Helium II Jacket. Though they have ultralight characteristics in common, both have some unique design features that make them idea for completely different situations.

In this piece, we'll look at the Women's Tantrum Hooded Jacket. It's ideal for trail runs, hikes, or backpacking trips as a windbreaker or extra light layer when you're in variable temperatures.

Backpacking West Virginia: 22 Miles in the Dolly Sods Wilderness

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Relaxing in my Serac Sequoia at camp on the second day.
When friends suggested heading to West Virginia for a backpacking trip over Independence Day weekend, I was dubious. Heading south in July seemed insane. But with terrain ranging from 2,600 to 4,100 feet above sea level, the Dolly Sods Wilderness is temperate, even in the middle of the summer. The climate is more similar to parts of Canada than neighboring states; setting sights in a southerly direction could actually result in a reprieve from the heat.

I also learned there are wild blueberries all over Dolly Sods. And it looks like this. I was sold.

The high altitude plateau sits within the Monogahela National Forest and gets its name from a combination of the name "Dahle" and "sods," a local term for an open mountaintop meadow. Some of the terrain we hiked was once covered by dense forests, but the arrival of a nearby railway in the late 1800s brought logging to the area. Post-clear cut forest fires decimated the land, and during World War II, the US Army used the area for artillery and mortar maneuver practice.

Five Must-Have Bike Repair and Maintenance Tools

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Getting everything set before a long road ride.
(PC: Patrick Gensel.)
Imagine, you're out on two wheels flying through the woods and having an all-around amazing time. 

While navigating through a rocky section, you notice your bike doesn't feel right, and your notice you've punched a hole in your back tire. Your chain also comes loose, and as you dismount to assess the damage, you notice the bolts on your handlebars feel looser than they should.

What a mess, right? And if you're far from help without the proper tools, you're in for a long walk back from whence you came, and potentially worse. Though I haven't had all of these problems on my bike at the same time (*knocks on wood*), I have popped many a tire in the middle of a ride more than once, and it sure puts a damper on the day.

Though it can be best to let an experienced bike mechanic take care of complex maintenance jobs, it's important to be able to make certain repairs on your bike while you're out. Make sure you have these items, at a minimum, in your bag of tricks on your next ride, and know how to use them! (Editor's Note: this piece is geared more toward mountain biking, but we'd love to hear from road cyclists too. Tell us what you always have on hand either at home or when you're out in the comments!)

Review: Planning Camping Trips with the Moonlight Mobile App

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Over the years, I've learned there are two general types of trip planners - those who think of, meticulously document, share, and cover every single detail before an adventure, and those who...don't. 

I'm in the former camp, and for us obsessive logisticians, getting everything written and shared can be a challenge. Nailing down details like campsite reservations, meals, snacks, who's bringing different items, and what activities you can participate in can be a logistical nightmare. But I love camping, and I love sharing experiences with friends, so trip planning challenges will never keep me from wanting to spend time with people I care about outdoors.

Over the years, I've tried and seen a number of different solutions with respect to trip planning, including online checklist options like Packwhiz, extremely long email chains, and everything in between. My most recent go-to option? Google Drive, and more specifically, Google Sheets. My tripmates and I build a Google Sheet with multiple tabs representing topic areas like group gear, individual gear, the itinerary, addresses and phone numbers, and meal planning. Google makes it easy to share and edit the document, which is key.