Last updated: 08/11/2020

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Whether it is to help or to protect us, the equipment is fundamental in any physical activity. In fact, it is sometimes compulsory. And all of those that are compulsory and designed to prevent potential injuries, one can be considered a true life insurance: the helmet.

Indeed, climbing helmets are mandatory in many sports in which we must protect our heads from a variety of falling objects, such as carabiners, safety devices, or simply rocks or ice. This piece of equipment can also save us from severe consequences in case of a fall.

Key Facts

  • The use of a helmet is mandatory for any activity where your head is exposed to impact.
  • Your helmet should be resistant, but also lightweight and comfortable.
  • There are various vital criteria to consider before making your purchase. These include compliance with safety regulations, manufacturing materials, and size.

Our Selection: The Best Climbing Helmets on the U.S. Market

If you’ve been scouting the market on your own, you know that there is a wide variety of climbing helmets out there. Some are even compatible with other sports or physical activities. Renowned sports equipment manufacturers create the best and safest models, and we have selected some of them. You can find their descriptions in the following section.

Best Black Diamond Climbing Helmet

Black Diamond is a leader in the outdoor sports equipment industry, and its Half Dome climbing helmet is a staple for climbers all around the world. Its revamped design adds comfort, ease of use, and above all protection for your head. This product is naturally compliant with both EN 12492 and UIAA-106 safety standards. Available in 4 colors, it is made from co-molded EPS foam and features a low-profile polycarbonate shell.

Best-Selling Climbing Helmet

The Meka II helmet by Fusion Climb is a versatile product designed for any outdoor activity, from construction work to all types of extreme sports. Ideal for hot climates, it integrates a total of 10 ventilation slots and weighs a mere 14.8 ounces. Its anti-microbial foam padding provides increased comfort and moisture wicking for when you spend hours out there. in addition, the Meka II climbing helmet has headlamp clips.

Best Mammut Climbing Helmet

Mammut is possibly the oldest company in the game, and the Skywalker 2 is a testimony of its excellence. It has a robust, rigid housing made of synthetic material, as well as an ergonomic and ventilated design. The interior consists of reinforced and extremely durable polystyrene foam. This one-size-fits-all helmet is extremely light (13.4 ounces) and comfortable for the user. The 10 ventilation openings guarantee good breathability.

Most Versatile Climbing Helmet

Last but not least, the Vertex Vent by French brand Petzl is an incredibly versatile, high-quality helmet for all your outdoor activities. While its price is slightly more prohibitive than other models above, it is the ideal choice if you like to do different extreme sports. Compliant with the EN 12492 standards for climbing helmets, it includes a sturdy chin strap, enhanced shock-absorbing outer shell, and a quality CenterFit adjustment system.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Climbing Helmets

The very first thing you should check before opting for a specific climbing helmet is its ability to protect your head. In the section below, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this equipment. You will learn more about the different models available, the tests they must pass to comply with existing regulations, or which type is the most suitable depending on the activity you perform.

The type of climbing or physical activity you want to perform will be a deciding factor in your purchase.
(Source: lightfieldstudios: 106162505/ 123rf.com)

What is a climbing helmet exactly?

This safety element is designed to protect the skull from blows that can be received during a fall, as well as from the impacts of rocks, ice, and other objects like harnesses. You should always wear this accessory whenever you are climbing, especially outdoors. This is where most falls that can damage your physical integrity will occur.

What types of climbing helmets are there?

The materials from which these accessories are made are mainly plastics. All need to have a minimum hardness and impact resistance in order to pass the necessary tests and comply with the existing regulations. Some materials are lighter than others, and we can identify three main types of climbing helmets:

  • Hard shell helmets: As the most robust and durable, they can be used for any adventure activity. This is why companies that offer these services often have them. They are usually made of ABS plastic with a hybrid inner pad.
  • Foam helmets: Their outer plastic layer is thinner, which reduces durability but enhances the ability to absorb shocks. They use an expanded molded foam known as EPS and are the right middle between the models above and below.
  • Hybrid helmets: Professionals and adventurers with more experience prefer these types of helmets because of their incredible lightness. They are designed in a single block of polypropylene or polystyrene (EPS) and have no outer layer. As you can imagine, the protection they offer is reduced, and they are often more expensive.

Current regulations require that climbing helmets be made of plastic materials.
(Source: Poprotsky: 40985751/ 123rf.com)

What certification do climbing helmets require?

Founded in 1932, the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) is the international federation for climbing and mountaineering, and it is recognized the International Olympic Committee since 1995. The UIAA-106 standards are equivalent to the European Committee for Standardisation’s EN 12492 standard. The energy absorption capacity cannot exceed 8 kN (kilonewton) after a five-kilogram mass impact, either vertically, laterally, frontally, or rearwards.

Although more tests are carried out to ensure efficient protection, some people still consider this certification process to be undemanding in some respects. In addition, you can purchase multipurpose helmets, certified for various disciplines, such as cycling, climbing, and skiing. Note that they are more expensive and not worth it if you only practice one of these activities.

How long can a climbing helmet last?

The life cycle of a helmet ultimately depends on the quality of the material it is made of. All the same, plastics become brittle over time, and you should not exceed five years of use – or less depending on how frequently you do. Most manufacturers will specify the date until which you can wear a helmet.

There is also the possibility that you damage your helmet. If this happens, it is best to replace it immediately, even if it appears to be in perfect condition. Climbing helmets are designed to protect your head from being hit by rocks or other blunt objects. The fact that they break after a strong impact is good, as it means that they distribute the energy absorbed.

Climbing helmets are available in various sizes for men, women, and children.
(Source: Zhukov: 93933087/ 123rf.com)

Does the type of climbing influence the helmet I need?

The different modalities that you may practice within the world of adventure sports and outdoor activities have distinct surfaces, terrains, and climates. You will need a specific helmet with the appropriate characteristics for each of them. Let’s have a look at the standout features of helmets designed for each type of climbing:

  • Indoor climbing: Unless the place has very special rules, you can generally use a very light, low-foam helmet. The rocks you climb aren’t real, and you won’t be in danger of being hit by falling objects.
  • Mountainous terrain: These ascents generally last a long time, and you may carry quite a lot of weight with you. The ideal helmet will be lightweight with wide openings for ventilation and bright colors to be identified from far away.
  • Ice climbing: Forget about the openings, since protecting yourself from the cold is more important. The resistance of the helmet should take precedence over lightness, as these are areas where it is highly probable that you be hit by falling ice chips or other materials.
  • Free climbing: You risk receiving many types of blows to the head, from rocks or dirt to pieces of equipment from your climbing partners. Your best bet is a rigid helmet with a visor to avoid damage to the eye area.
  • Climate: In this case, ventilation is critical. You will need a helmet with many or very wide openings in hot temperatures where you need to fight heat and sweat. In cold climates, on the other hand, opt for a totally closed helmet that doesn’t allow air to flow inside.

What does a climbing helmet really protect me from?

The debate on the effectiveness of helmets is ongoing. Many people feel that the regulations aren’t demanding enough and are limited to the impact of falling objects on the head. In reality, most of the impacts you can suffer from are from collisions that may affect lateral, rear, or frontal areas.

It is true that some climbing helmets have gone beyond these regulations and obtained additional certification, but most still haven’t tackled this vital issue. Either way, expanded polystyrene (EPS) helmets offer the best protection for these types of collisions, which are more frequent than vertical impacts from objects.

The helmet should be a fundamental part of your climbing equipment.
(Source: Poprotsky: 41039008/ 123rf.com)

What are the most renowned brands of climbing helmets?

The best climbing helmet manufacturers are often the same that develop high-quality adventure and mountain sports equipment. With the evolution of these disciplines, many brands have dedicated themselves to this section, and the competition is great. Some like Mammut Sports Group have many decades of experience in the industry:

  • Petzl: This French company specializes in the manufacture of adventure sports equipment, such as climbing, mountaineering, or spelunking. Founded in 1975, it is based in Crolles (Rhône-Alpes), near the city of Grenoble.
  • Black Diamond Equipment: This American manufacturer of climbing, skiing, and mountain sports equipment uses wind and solar energy, as well as recycled materials, in its production line.
  • Mammut Sports Group: Founded in the 1860s, this Swiss multinational has a long tradition of excellence in the sector. In 2017, it became part of the Conzzeta AG group. Some of its products are best-sellers in the world of adventure sports equipment.

Shopping Criteria

It is essential that you know how you plan on using your climbing helmet before making your purchase. Once you assess the terrain and the weather conditions from which you need to protect yourself, you can then focus on choosing the most suitable product. In that regard, you will need to take into account a series of key purchasing criteria that we have detailed for you in the section below:

Use

The first thing you should consider before buying a helmet is the type of climbing or activity you want to perform. Ventilation isn’t so important on ice or in cold climates, but you will a high level of resistance to protect yourself from a greater risk of impacts or falls. On less demanding terrains or in hotter climates, lightness and wide openings for breathability are your priority.

Material

The current regulations require all climbing helmets to be made of plastic materials. The outer shell should consist of polycarbonate with high resistance to mechanical shock. This is the lightest option available on the market. Nowadays, most models use ABS material, with the interior made with expanded polymer foams (polypropylene, polyurethane, or polystyrene).

Weight

The primary function of a climbing helmet is to protect your head from all sorts of impacts, so it must naturally be resistant. That being said, it should also be light, especially if the type of activity you perform requires you to wear it for extended periods. Luckily for you, the vast majority of manufacturers now use the lightest materials out there to produce their helmets.

Homologation

Remember our earlier section on the different safety regulations for climbing helmets. Before you decide to buy a specific model, make sure that it complies with these standards – either from the European Committee for Standardisation or the UIAA. If it has successfully passed all required tests, it will feature a label with the inscription EN 12492 or UIAA-106. Don’t put your life in danger by opting for a climbing helmet that does not meet safety standards.

Adjustment System

The adjustment system is crucial and must be efficient to prevent any movement of the helmet. As its name suggests, the chin strap holds the helmet under the chin. Make sure it is padded so that you feel comfortable while wearing it, as you may have it on for several hours. The fastening system also features a rear adjusting wheel or a similar device.

Gender

Climbing helmets are available in various sizes that determine whether they are suitable for men, women, or children. In fact, most models are unisex and come in a range of sizes. Keep in mind that others only offer large sizes, and their use is tailored to male climbers. Women will also find helmets with a hole in the back, allowing them to tie long hair in a ponytail.

Summary

The helmet is a fundamental part of any climbing equipment. We would go as far as saying it is compulsory, although no one can force you to wear it when you’re out in nature on your own. Please remember that the head is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and any injury to it can lead to severe consequences or even death.

All you have to do to minimize those risks is to wear a helmet at all times. Nowadays, you can find a wide variety of quality models at affordable prices on the American market. Simply evaluate the activities you would like to practice and pick the model best suited for them. The key to a successful purchase is finding a resistant, light, and comfortable product.

Did you find our shopping guide on climbing helmets informative and helpful? If so, feel free to leave us a message in the section below. You can also share this article on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Novikov: 94420992/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Carl Gissendam Outdoor Lover
Carl was born in the Rocky Mountains and loves anything related to mountain sports and hiking. His parents bought him his first pair of skis when he was only 4 years old! No wonder he is so passionate about winter sports. He is now a ski instructor and works as a tour guide in his beloved Rocky Mountains