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Climbing can be incredibly dangerous, while you’re up on the wall anything could happen.
You’re holding on as tightly as you can and your fingers are getting tired, and you might just slip and fall.
You always try to take precautions but sometimes things just go wrong and there’s nothing we can do about it.
A hit to the head from a botched fall, or a piece of rappelling equipment being dropped overhead, can mean a lifetime of suffering if you’re not careful.
That’s why a climbing helmet is an essential piece of climbing gear to own and use.
In this article we compare and contrast the best climbing helmets on the market so you can choose one that best suits you.
Our Reviews Of The Best Climbing Helmets
Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
The Black Diamond Half Dome climbing helmet is our top pick for the best climbing helmet for people with large heads.
With outstanding reviews and an adjustable head strap to fit a wide range of heads, you can’t go wrong with this climbing helmet.
Comes in a wide variety of colors to suit the taste of any climber.
Black Diamond has been a staple name in the climbing gear market for a long time. They’ve provided quality products at decent prices, and this Half Dome Helmet is no exception.
Be careful when purchasing that you get the size with a range larger than your head size and adjust it down to fit you, instead of purchasing the smaller size and hoping you can wedge into it.
Black Diamond Vector Helmet
It’s telling that both our winner and our runner up are both made by Black Diamond, they are one of the best rock climbing helmet manufacturers out there.
The Vector helmet will provide you with an easy fit with its adjustable straps in the back and you’ll stay cool with its large vents over the surface of the helmet.
This model of climbing helmet is designed with good ventilation so your you don’t overheat while you’re climbing.
The Black Diamond Vector Helmet is a solid choice for anyone looking for a sturdy climbing helmet.
As always, if you have the opportunity, find a place where you can actually try these helmets on and really get a feel for how it fits on your head.
Otherwise, if it doesn’t fit, you can always send it back for a replacement size.
PETZL Picchu Climbing Helmet
Buying a climbing helmet for your little one can be a stressful experience, especially if they’re resistant to wearing a helmet.
This PETZL Picchu Climbing Helmet gives you the best of both worlds. Cool looking and comfortable your child will love wearing this helmet, and they’ll be very safe while they’re climbing.
Since this is a kids helmet, it comes with three pages of stickers so that they can customize it and make it their own.
Children often need helmets a lot more than adults do, and adults need them all the time.
With this Picchu Climbing Helmet by PETZL, your little guy or gal will look cool while being protected.
This helmet is designed for children between the ages of 3 and 8, if your child falls within this range, and you think it would fit them, this is a great rock climbing helmet.
PETZL, Ventilated Helmet for Work at Height
Maybe you job requires you to spend a lot of time at the top of skyscrapers, or maybe you’re a ranger who needs good protection when you’re out on the trails.
In any case, this Ventilated lightweight climbing helmet by PETZL will provide you with everything you need.
Ventilation holes with adjustable sliding shutters allow air to circulate in the helmet when needed, with added side slots for mounting hearing protection.
This is a great helmet of your job requires you to spend time up high in maybe windy or cold areas.
The adjustable vents can be opened or closed from the outside, and this helmet has a built in spot to mount your hearing protection gear.
Be sure before you buy, to check and double check that you have the correct sizing as some reviewers have complained that sizing can be a hassle.
Black Diamond Half Dome Climbing Helmet – Women’s
Climbing equipment doesn’t always cater to the ladies. But luckily this Black Diamond Half Dome helmet is designed specifically for women.
It comes in a couple different colors and is moulded to fit the female head, making room for a ponytail.
This helmet features a “ponytail-friendly” shell design; with the shell being slightly raised in the back to make room for your hair.
Buying a climbing helmet is a tough situation, and while most people’s heads are roughly the same shape, most helmets don’t take into account that a lot of people have long hair.
This helmet is designed specifically for women and as such makes sure to provide a comfortable fit with room for a ponytail.
Climbing Helmets FAQ
The short answer is of course yes.
If you were to choose a body part as the most influential body part you own, it would always be your head, the thing with your brain in it.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re brand new to rappelling or climbing, when you’re out in the wilderness, anything can happen.
Your anchor could slip and you could fall down to the ground; another rappeler or a perched bird could knock loose a rock and it could come down and hit you right in the head.
Or maybe it misses your head but hits your belaying arm knocking the rope out of your hand, and this sends you hurtling toward the ground.
There are so many unmitigated factors when rappelling.
It takes every ounce of energy to try and control the ones we can, from checking and double checking our knots, tying ourselves in with a friction hitch as a back up to our belay hand and so on.
It really is a wonder why some people don’t wear a helmet while rappelling.
A lot of climbers don’t wear helmets, especially on more complicated routes, citing that it gets in the way or blocks their view.
But it only takes one little thing to go wrong before you’re headed to hell in a handbasket. You might think, like a lot of bicyclists do, that you’ll be able to protect yourself.
But it doesn’t take much force to cause a concussion, and a concussion’s effects can be felt for months and sometimes even years.
Trouble understanding speech, or pronouncing words; trouble with motor function is a big danger as well as terrible migraines, loss of focus, and early onset dementia are all risks of concussions.
How long do climbing helmets last?
Climbing helmet manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet 10 years after the manufacture date.
Many climbing helmet vendors have this expiration date stamped somewhere on the helmet, but this date is a mere suggestion.
It is good practice to thoroughly inspect your helmet for any damaged areas, and if there are any damaged areas, to replace the helmet immediately.
If you are someone who climbs very often, you may want to replace your helmet sooner than 10 years, as lots of factors contribute to the deterioration of a climbing helmet.
The climbing helmet is one of the most important pieces of safety gear while climbing or rappelling, and you don’t want it functioning any less than perfect.
If you’re someone who climbs and uses your helmet several times a month, you may want to change your helmet for a new one every five years or so.
You should also replace your climbing helmet after an impact.
These helmets are designed to handle large one time forces, or at the most a handful, and you don’t want to be wearing a helmet that has already spent its strength on a previous climb’s fall.
Maybe you’ve found a helmet in your basement and are wondering if it’s safe to wear while climbing or rappelling.
You’ll want to thoroughly inspect it for any damage whatsoever.
If there are any frays or tears in webbing, or maybe the clasp or adjustable chin strap don’t move properly, you should replace it immediately.
You should also replace the helmet if you find that the outer shell is sun bleached, as the sun’s rays can weaken the plastic over time.
Also inspect the padded inserts, if they are anything but nice and securely stuck in there, you may want to replace the helmet.
How do you size a climbing helmet?
A climbing helmet should be sized like you would size anything other form of clothing, you try it on and see if it fits.
If you’re buying a helmet online, you can look to see if the company you’re purchasing from has listed the range of head sizes each helmet can hold.
Black Diamond, for instance has on their website a few different sizes; small, medium etc., and besides these listings they offer a range of head sizes that these helmets can fit.
To measure your own head to see which size to purchase, you’ll need a measuring tape. Wrap the measuring tape around your head straight across your forehead.
This is the circumference of you head, and should give you a pretty good idea of which helmets would fit you.
But as I said, trying before you buy is probably the best option. You can go to a local rock climbing store and try on different brands to find one that fits you best.
Then if you really want to you can go ahead and buy that one online anyway, though I’m not sure why you would.
When trying on a helmet in the store, first slide the helmet onto your head, sliding it so the front part sits straight across your forehead.
And without adjusting any of the straps, give your head a gentle shake and a nod, the helmet should stay snug to your skull. If there is any wiggling, you can ask for a smaller size.
When you’ve found a shell that fits your noggin you can then start fiddling with the chin straps. The straps should come down over the ears in a vague “Y” shape and clip tightly under the chin.
Finding a helmet that you can adjust easily will be very helpful if you plan on doing any climbing in the winter, and want to wear a skull cap to keep your head warm while you climb.
What are climbing helmets made of?
There are several different types of climbing helmet.
There are Hardshell helmets which are made of a polycarbonate plastic shell, with no padding on the inside.
This is the old school kind of helmet that would probably not be used much today.
Most of the helmets in use today use a combination of hard plastic (polycarbonate) and foam, usually expanded polystyrene or expanded polypropylene for padding.
An Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) helmet will deform when impacted, absorbing some of the energy from the falling rock or the incoming wall.
It absorbs some of the energy protecting your precious head, but these types of helmets are only designed to take one or two major impacts.
Be sure to retire a helmet of this type if you have any situation that you might think, “That would have been bad if I hadn’t had my helmet.”
Similarly, an Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) helmet will function in much the same way. The only difference being that the manufacturing process is proprietary.
An EPP helmet can be made at different densities and strengths, so these are often intended to withstand many small bumps, and maybe one or two big hits.
As I said earlier, the EPS and EPP style helmets will often be paired with a hard plastic shell.
In these instances the hard plastic shell often covers over the top of the helmet, protecting against any rock falls.
But the plastic is there to protect and reinforce the Polystyrene or Polypropylene; the impact absorbing agents, and secondly your precious head.
Can you use a climbing helmet for biking?
It is not a good idea to use a climbing helmet for biking.
It’s also not a good idea to using a bicycling helmet for climbing.
Climbing helmets and cycling helmets serve two very different purposes.
A climbing helmet is designed to withstand great forces coming from a sharp object straight above, a falling rock or a bit of rappelling gear that someone dropped above you.
Whereas bicycling helmets are designed to withstand forces from flat surfaces like the pavement or the hood of someone’s car.
And while it could be argued that you could hit your head on something sharp on a bicycle, or hit your head on something blunt while climbing, it still doesn’t solve the problem that they are built to perform very different tasks.
For instance, a bicycling helmet is meant to withstand an impact traveling upwards of 25-30 miles per hour.
If at any point while climbing you are traveling at 25-30 miles per hour, you’ve done something wrong. In addition to that, the shape of these two helmets is very different.
One is meant to be lightweight and hug tightly to your head, while the other one is meant to be more aerodynamic so you can travel at high speeds.
Ultimately, any helmet is better than no helmet, but that ignores that you’re taking huge risks using one helmet for a purpose it wasn’t designed for.
Rock climbing and rappelling are both very dangerous sports, and while they don’t require helmets per se, it is certainly a good idea to have one just in case.
Seeing as how that just in case can be a fatal just in case, you should wear your helmet any time you aren’t sure footed, or anytime you have people climbing or rappelling above you.
All it takes is one rock to chip loose above you for you to have a pretty bad concussion, or worse.
When deciding on what helmet to buy and use, there are several factors to consider. What type of climbing are you planning on using this helmet for?
If you’re planning on mountaineering in the winter, it’s probably a good idea to consider what other articles of clothing you’ll need to wear while you’re climbing.
If you’re more into the vanilla rappelling that’s cool too, you’ll need something that will be breathable and something that will give your noggin enough protection in case someone drops a carabiner above you.
As was mentioned several times in this article, if you have the opportunity to try on your new helmet before you buy it, take it.
Unless the helmet you purchase is very adjustable, you’ll want to find a helmet that is a good fit for your head.
Too big and the helmet will slosh overtop your head; too small and your head won’t fit properly inside of the helmet.
Going to a rock climbing store near you can help you find that goldilocks sizing to keep your brains safe.
We’ve looked at several different brands of rock climbing helmet in this article, but everyone will have their own preference when it comes to helmet choice.
Some people will make their decisions based off of style, some will choose based off of functionality. Whatever helmet you choose, be sure to wear it often and climb responsibly.
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