Having a great climbing experience with a quality climbing helmet
Sarah explains why a quality climbing helmet will give you a great climbing experience.
Climbers in the Alpine regions are known to be very safety cautious, as they are always found with their complete protective gear - including a climbing helmet. However, in most climbing or bouldering parks, there are a lot of climbers without climbing helmets taking on risky climbs at significant heights. In situations where one of the climbers loses a grip on the wall and falls, there is a glint of fear and panic in the eyes of the onlookers and participants. A climbing helmet is vital to an individual’s head as it helps protect and cushion the head against unforeseen circumstances. We will discuss all that you need to know about climbing helmets and how they are beneficial for great climbing experiences.
What is a climbing helmet?
A climbing helmet is a critical piece of equipment that protects an individual’s head against a collision with various harmful objects. These objects include but are not limited to ice, rocks, stones, carabiners, or belay devices.
Similar to other climbing protective gear, climbing helmets are ensured with a safety standard (EN 12492). One of the prerequisites a helmet must have is its ability to resist the impact of a metal substance weighing five kilograms from a height of two meters. To protect the head and cervical spine, the helmet must meet a shock absorption of no more than 10kN. Climbing helmets are easy to come by, most notably in sport climbing, alpine climbing, ice climbing, and high altitude mountaineering expeditions. With helmets, climbers are significantly protected against falling stones and ice and also a fall itself. When analysing helmets, three distinguished shapes are available.
Types of helmets
Also known as classic shells, hardshell helmets are made of hard plastic or polycarbonate. Softer, shock-absorbing materials further cushion it.
Foam Shell Helmets or In-Mold Helmets
This type of helmet is manufactured from superior-quality foam polystyrene with a partially covered thin layer of plastic. The plastic comprises In-Mould, otherwise known as injected mold. The foam shell helmets share the same similarities as the Petzl Sirocco. It is made up of EPS and EPP, which makes it extremely light at 145 or 165 grams.
Hybrid Shell Helmets
Hybrid shell climbing helmets are combinations of foam and hard shell helmets. A hard shell encloses the expandable polystyrene foam.
The Up And Downsides Of Various Helmet Types
Hybrid Shell Helmet
According to a study conducted in the U.S., the standard for climbing helmets is not aimed at impact injuries. The rate of head injuries is 12 times more generated from injuries sustained during collisions than from falling objects - an analysis of the accidents in the U.S. and Switzerland. This implies that none of the helmet types is ideal as crash helmets, except they have additional certification. Nevertheless, the in-mold helmet still offers a higher quality value against collision injuries.
Durability Of A Climbing Helmet
Two factors determine the durability of a climbing helmet:
The Helmet Gets Damaged
The sole purpose of a helmet is to protect an individual’s head from plummeting rocks and other objects while climbing. Whereby the impact is significant, the helmet is likely to break, thereby distributing the energy across its surface area. In such a situation, it is recommended to replace the helmet even if the surface appears to be intact.
The Helmet Gets Old
The material of a helmet determines its lifespan. Climbing helmets, regardless of the type, are composed of plastic. Over the years, plastic becomes brittle. Should there be a breaking impact, such a helmet will not quickly distribute the force over the surface. Generally, a date is being assigned by manufacturers on when climbing helmets should be in use. One can find it in the included instructions. Otherwise, it is ideal that one changes a helmet every four to five years, depending on how often it is being worn. Helmets are also affected by UV lights.
Multiple-Certified Climbing Helmets
There are several helmet requirements for activities such as skiing, cycling, and climbing. These requirements are focused on various sports-specific load directions and intensities. You need to check out models that are up to par with relevant EN standards before purchasing a helmet for diverse alpine varieties. For example, if you are looking for a certified climbing and ski helmet, the Mammut Alpine Rider is most suitable for such tasks. Whereas, the ideal certified helmet for skiing, climbing, and cycling is the Salewa Xenon. However, these helmets are more expensive than regular types.
Helmets have bold colours - and it is for a reason; it makes them easily spottable. They also feature ventilation slots to help the head stay cool. However, this feature must not compromise stability.
Putting On A Climbing Helmet
A climbing helmet must be correctly and firmly placed on the head to ensure comfort and protection. Due to the helmets being manufactured for a specific area, they usually have a particular head circumference. This helmet also comes with an adjustable and firm lock that helps hold it firmly on the head, to prevent it from falling off a climber’s head in an emergency.
There are two adjustment systems on a climbing helmet: a ring or strap and a chin strap. The former helps to enclose the lower part of the head, while the latter keeps the helmet in place. The ring is first placed far when fitting the inner adjustment, and then put on and adjusted via the adjustment mechanism to ensure stability on the climber’s head. To find out if the helmet is in place, you can move your head sideways. If it does not wobble, then the optimal fit is achieved. The helmet is also protected from slipping off by the two chin straps.
The following are factors to consider when selecting a climbing helmet:
Purchasing A Helmet For Various Activities
If you choose to engage in Alpine-climbing, you will need a reliable and lightweight all-rounder. However, the classic routes and alpine sports are climbing at a pro-level that would require a certified climbing helmet like the Edelrid Salathe. Also, you need a helmet that offers a high degree of safety, despite it being featherlight weight. Another great option is the Petzl Sirocco.
For Via-Ferrata Climbing
This type of climbing activity would require a robust hardshell helmet - an example being the classic Edelrid Ultralight. You could as well use the Black Diamond Half Dome.
For Sports Climbing
In this event, you need an in-mold helmet like the Black Diamond Vapor.
For Ice Climbing or High-Altitude Mountaineering
Less airy climbing helmets trump in this type of activity. Helmets such as the Mammut Alpine Rider are ideal for these types of climbers. Also, the helmets in this category must have enough space underneath - an example being the hybrid helmet Grivel Salamander.
Other all-mountain helmets serve various climbing purposes. They are the go-to-for-everything helmets you can count on. An example of this helmet is the Skybo from Skylotec.
These tips will help you make the right decision on what type of helmet best suits your climbing activity.
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About the Author
Sarah is a professional freelance writer with plenty of years of experience and has worked/written for various kinds of article niches. She finds freelancing as a way to express herself as well as to maintain the balance between her work and time with her family. If she is not working, she loves to read, hang out with friends, as well as exercise to keep her health and fitness in check.