UKC

Grivel Salamander 2.0 Review

With its distinctive design, affordable price tag and all-rounder credentials, the original Grivel Salamander was a popular helmet. The all-new Salamander 2.0 sees a complete change from its predecessor, the old-school-yet-cool look of the original having been replaced by something more conventional looking. However it does remain an affordably priced all-rounder.

  • NB. This is a plastic shell style helmet. If you're after a lighter weight polystyrene foam helmet instead, the recently launched Grivel Stealth is one alternative - UKC review here.

Working up a sweat on a December (!) ascent of Curved Ridge, 141 kb
Working up a sweat on a December (!) ascent of Curved Ridge
© Ali Lee

As with the original, the Salamander 2.0 features a tough ABS outer plastic shell that resists penetration, combined with shock absorbing polystyrene foam inside the crown of the head. Perhaps the most noticeable upgrade from the old version is the venting system – the Salamander 2.0 has much larger vents which, combined with the redesigned shape, makes the air circulation extremely efficient, say Grivel.

Officially it weighs in at 385g (although only 344g on my kitchen scales), which is marginally lighter than the original and roughly comparable with similar shell-style helmets such as the Black Diamond Half Dome and Petzl Elios, two of its most obvious competitors. Its £50 price tag is more or less on a par with these competitors too, putting it at the mid-to-low end of the price band.

Size and Shape

The Salamander 2.0 comes in a single size with a range of 54-62cm, similar to the M/L size range for the BD Half Dome for instance (55-61.5cm). It is not as low profile as some helmets on the market, but it doesn’t stick up as high as something like the Petzl Sirocco (what does?!). Though it sits reasonably low on the head this is a noticeably wide helmet, and so seems a little larger in overall volume than some other shell style models. As a result, when compared with my BD Half Dome, for instance, head movement under a hood feels feels slightly more restricted. It's not a deal breaker for me, but worth bearing in mind if your shell hood is not the largest.

On the plastic outer shell, there is a pronounced lip around whole rim of helmet to stop drips getting into eyes – a small but neat touch, which is a definite improvement on the old Salamander.

Helmet on a larger head, 123 kb
Helmet on a larger head

Adjusting the rear straps, 136 kb
Adjusting the rear straps

Fit is equally secure on a smaller head , 102 kb
Fit is equally secure on a smaller head

The “one size fits all” philosophy that Grivel have adopted here is an interesting decision. Unfortunately we're not convinced it was a good one. The first member of the UKC reviewing team to try it out found that while it was officially the right size, he simply could not get the cradle system to fit the shape of his head and hold the helmet firmly in position. The second reviewer has a smaller head which was rather lost inside the roomy Salamander 2.0 such that it overhung his head and looked a little silly. Thankfully it fits my big head very comfortably, a case of third time lucky. What this demonstrates is that just as with a pair of boots or a shell jacket, there's no substitute for trying a helmet on before buying it. No one helmet is likely to be a perfect fit for every head. I think it's fair to say that the overall size of the Salamander 2.0 suits it best to larger heads, if only on aesthetic grounds. In offering it in just one size, have Grivel risked ruling out a chunk of their potential market?

Testing the Salamander 2.0 out in the Southern Highlands , 151 kb
Testing the Salamander 2.0 out in the Southern Highlands
© Martin McKenna

Fit, Adjustment and Comfort

The Salamander 2.0 is a very good fit for me, sitting firmly and comfortably in position. It has a good comfy headband at the front, well padded but not so much so that it will cause your forehead to overheat!

In contrast to the usual adjustable plastic head band and strapping cradle combination, the adjustable parts of the Salamander 2.0 consist entirely of straps, held on with more straps. At first glance this all-webbing cradle looks a little scrappy and not especially sophisticated. The straps are floppy so you need to use one hand at the back and one at the front to hold the straps open when you put it on, which is a little annoying! However this is a small niggle, and I've soon got used to it. The advantage of the floppy cradle is that it fits neatly away inside the helmet during transportation. Although many rival helmets have more substantial and arguably more effective plastic cradle systems, they do tend to take up more space when packing, and are theoretically more susceptible to accidental damage.

photo
Tough plastic headtorch clips

photo
Adjustment system fits completely inside the helmet

Adjustment is straightforward on your head, and once tightened it is very secure and does not come loose. I used the Salamander 2.0 recently for several hours on a winter route with no issues of comfort, for instance. One common problem with the old Salamander was that it would ride up on your head to expose quite a lot of forehead, which of course could then be in the line of fire. So far I've had no issue with the Salamander 2.0 sliding around on my head - though as I've mentioned, this has not been the case for every tester. On my head at least, the position of the adjusting straps on the back of the head is low enough to mitigate any risk of the helmet slipping back. Overall, it provides a good amount of coverage.

Chin Strap

The position of the chin strap can be adjusted at the sides to fit around your ears, and it fastens via a standard plastic buckle. The strap came fitted with annoying padding which just sits on the strap and is not fixed, so it can move about freely. I found this actually rubbed my chin slightly when using the helmet; also, with the padding on, the strap was only just big enough for my face! Thankfully it can be removed by simply undoing the Velcro that holds it together, and with the padding removed I find it comfier. The strap is easily adjustable and pretty chunky so it feels reassuringly robust.

Ventilation

The Salamander 2.0 has three vents on each side of the helmet, plus two at the rear. They are quite small, but seem large enough to be effective. These vents are located towards the top of the helmet, slightly higher than on some rival models. For a shell style helmet, which tend to be less vented than polystyrene models, I've found ventilation to be pretty good. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet had a chance to use it on summer rock routes or summer alpine (a good place to test ventilation), but at the recent dry tooling comp in Kinlochleven I was certainly able to work up a sweat, and didn't suffer as a result. Next day I wore the Salamander 2.0 on a jaunt up a snow-free Curved Ridge which, considering it was December, was still quite a sweaty day! The Salamander 2.0 breathed very well here and I look forward to using it on some summer rock climbing to give it a ‘proper’ ventilation test.

Working up a sweat at the Ice Factor, 185 kb
Working up a sweat at the Ice Factor

The vents on the Salamander 2.0 can’t be closed. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’d say it is an entirely sensible feature to leave out. You'd only really want the vents closed when it is particularly cold, windy or snowy – at which point I find that simply putting your hood up over your helmet performs the same role. Sometimes less is more.

Headtorch Attachment

This comes in the form of four plastic attachment points; two at the front and two at the rear, as found on many other helmets. The plastic is solid yet springy, ensuring the headtorch is held firmly in place. The lip on the rim of the helmet gives the headtorch something to rest on - an added bonus, meaning your head torch is at no risk of slipping down or falling off your helmet. This system certainly looks neater than the elastic straps that were used on the old Salamander.

Headtorch fits on securely, 149 kb
Headtorch fits on securely
© Martin McKenna

Summary

There may be nothing remarkable about it, but the Grivel Salamander 2.0 is a good solid, well built helmet at a very fair price. As it is available in only one size, and a large one at that, it is best suited to those with larger heads. The strapping adjustment system has simplicity in its favour, and while it does not suit everyone, I've personally found it comfortable and effective. The key message here is to try it on before you buy it.

With its effective headtorch clips and tough ABS outer shell, this would be a decent choice for an all-rounder. However, though it is better-vented than the original version, the Salamander 2.0 doesn't compete with the modern style of polystyrene helmet for either lightness or ventilation, so it might not be our first choice for warm weather cragging. As a robust shell-style helmet built to take abuse, it is arguably best suited to mountaineering and winter climbing.

Grivel say:

The Salamander 2.0 is designed for alpine, rock and ice climbing. Constructed with an ABS outer shell which protects against penetration from rock or ice fall. The inner layer is lined with shock absorbing polystyrene foam. The new shape of the helmet means that air circulation is extremely efficient.

The Salamander 2.0 is built with durability in mind, like all Grivel products, it’s built to last and built to withstand the daily abuse that a helmet is expected to take whilst climbing or mountaineering.

The helmet is one size (54-62cm) and the new adjustment system means the helmet can be regulated to fit comfortably. The adjustment system tucks into the helmet for compact storage in your pack or haul bag.

  • Weight: 385g
  • Size: 54-62cm
  • Price: £50

Stockists www.grivelgb.co.uk

Salamander 2.0 prod shot, 73 kb

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