TIM Uhler

The Pacific Northwest, where I live and work, is known for wet winters. My crew and I don’t get to go home when the raindrops start falling (unless it is unsafe, of course)—if we did, we’d never make any money or have any fun doing it. For about 15 years my go-to work gear for rainy days was the Grundens Petrus coat, which I’ve always recommended. After about two or three years, my coat was getting worn out and didn’t stay waterproof anymore, however, so I recently needed a new one. When I went online to order a new Petrus coat, I found out Grundens had stopped making it and replaced it with the Neptune. Right after I bought the Neptune off Amazon, Helly Hansen sent me its new Chelsea shell coat for review. The timing couldn’t have been better because this October we broke the previous rain record.

Grundens Neptune 103 Anorak Coat. From what I found on Grunden’s website, the coat closest to the Petrus in features and price is the Neptune. I like the pull-over style, and last year we had so many days where the wind was blowing the rain down my neck, I decided I wanted a coat with a hood.

The Neptune is made of a lightweight polyurethane stretch polyester that I find very comfortable, even when I’m wearing nail bags. If it is cold and windy I’ll wear it as a windbreaker. This coat is 100% waterproof, with Radio Frequency (RF) welded seams and neoprene cuffs. Neoprene cuffs stay tight around the wrist so they keep the water from rolling down into your arms.

This coat is lightweight, has a nice big pocket for my phone, and the zipper opens up quite a bit—a helpful feature since this coat isn’t breathable. I also find the adjustable hood to be nice and big so I can wear it over a beanie or ball cap. It also has a drop tail that keeps my backside covered. It is available in hi-vis yellow (shown) or orange.

I bought this coat off Amazon for $68 in hi-vis yellow. After I got mine, a co-worker ordered one and loves it, and a friend of mine who frames bought one and loves it. We had some cold days in January; I found wearing this coat as a shell worked well to keep the heat in and the wind out.

Helly Hansen Chelsea Shell Jacket. My first raincoat 20 years ago was a Helly Hansen. At that time my coat was for fishing; I didn’t know until recently that the company made clothes specifically for the trades. Because of its look, the Chelsea Shell jacket reminds me more of a jacket I would wear snowboarding or hiking than one that you’d expect to see on the jobsite. (There are two other jackets in the Chelsea line: a jacket without a hood and a lined jacket without a hood; each has its own tech specs that vary from the Chelsea Shell in this review).

This coat is made of Helly Hansen’s coated and breathable 100% polyester waterproof fabric and features Cordura fabric at the shoulders, elbows, sleeves, and hips. These are common wear points on coats that I've worn in the past, so this durable fabric should contribute to a longer-lasting coat. The zippers are made by YKK and are waterproof as well. They feature a coating that keeps water from penetrating the zipper's teeth, which is nice protection for a phone or gloves or the like.

The Chelsea Shell has a huge chest pocket, perfect for my smartphone in its Otterbox case. The waist pockets are also very large. The sleeves don’t have neoprene cuffs but are adjustable, and when I tighten them, the hook and loop tab keeps them in place; so far I haven’t had water come down my arms.

Even though the jacket is breathable, I find I still get warm quickly and my safety glasses fog up. I can unzip the armpit area to allow for better circulation. The jacket also has a drop hem so it is slightly longer in the back, for better protection. Throughout the jacket are small reflective stripes. The hood is large enough to wear a hat under and not feel tight, and it is adjustable. I broke one of the drawstrings on the first day, but that hasn’t been a bother.

Honestly, I was a little skeptical of this coat at first. I have always worn rain gear designed for fishing when I work. When I was a teenager that’s what all the framers and siders wore and I’ve had great success with fishing gear.

The first day I wore this coat was in the North Cascades. My wife and I were doing a long drive through the mountains and looping back through the Methow Valley to shoot fall colors (we are both amateur photographers). We took a short, 2-mile hike in the rain and snow to shoot pictures at a lake, and it just poured the whole time. The coat kept me dry and was comfortable. I can cram a lot of photography gear like filters, lens caps, clothes, and so on in the pockets and zip them tight.

I’ve been wearing this jacket at work, too, with my nail bags on, and I get a lot of compliments on it. So far I don’t have any complaints. At $200 it is more than double the cost of the Neptune but I only ever got two to three years out of my Petrus. I think I’ll get more than that out of this coat, with the Cordura reinforcements.

The coat has performed so well for me that I plan to wear it snowboarding this year. I bought my Nike snowboarding coat in 1998, so it's time to retire it. I highly recommend the Chelsea Shell Jacket; just make sure you order up one size. They do run small. It's available in racer blue (shown), red, olive, and black.