Gone are the days of heavy helmets - and gone are the days of any excuse not to wear one!
In this review we test some some of the best and lightest helmets out there on the market. The lightest - the Petzl Sirocco - is just 165g! The rest of the helmets don't weigh much more, and all could save your life.
None of the helmets we have tested were bad, in fact they were all good, but this review might just help you find one that's better than 'good' and one that suits your exact needs.
Edelweiss Venturi Helmet £60
The Edelweiss Venturi helmet is the familiar polycarbonate shell over an expanded polystyrene foam inside. It weighs 246g and is available in two colours - white for the conservative, and bright orange if you want to get noticed. It has good side ventilation from 14 well shielded holes and an adjustable cradle system on the inside.
The fit is pretty standard although slightly egg-head in appearance, this is countered by a stylish two-tone effect on the side of the helmet. There is an efficient and unobtrusive system for attaching a head torch as well. The adjustability is a simple rotating wheel at the back which works very well.
The straps are made from 15mm webbing and fastened using a now in vogue magnetic buckle. The buckle takes a little getting used to since it unfastens sideways and you aren't always able to figure out which way initially. Once mastered though it is pretty easy, including when wearing big winter gloves.
Adjustability of the straps is in the form of a chin strap and two triangular side buckles to split over your ear. This is a familiar system which is an improvement from those helmets that have the under ear point fixed. This level of adjustability is good since it allows you to move the straps forward or have the split point higher, depending on your preference. The only problem with the Edelweiss Venturi is that the triangular splitting buckles are not very tight on the webbing so you pretty much have to adjust it every time you put it on. Head shapes don't change too much so it would be an improvement if these buckles had more grip to avoid the readjustment although the looseness does make it quite an easy procedure.
Extra note 1: The adjustability problem is slightly compounded by the fact that the right-hand side straps are sewn together which locks you into a fixed position for the side buckle on your right-hand side since moving it forwards or backwards creates an ugly loop by the chin strap. Not a massive problem but one that could be easily solved by allowing the two sections of webbing to move more independently as with some other helmets. There is a rubber retaining strap to keep the flappy ends in place.
Summary: An excellent straightforward lightweight helmet that does what you want and is a good price. The good extra adjustability afforded over many helmets is slightly let down by the buckle and strap design.
Thanks to Mark Walker of Mark Walker Mountaineering for the photo of Main Wall on Cyrn Las.
There is very little extra information available on the Edelweiss Website
Petzl Sirocco Helmet £85
At 165 grams (for the larger size), the unique design of the Petzl Sirocco knocks up to a third off the weight of polystyrene helmets. 80 grams isn’t much – about as much as an apple – but in a world where shaving a few percent off the weight of a carabiner is newsworthy, taking 30-odd percent off anything is a serious technical achievement.
How have they done this? - well for a start the internal straps and cradle are very small and thin - a basic but user friendly design - they are surprisingly comfortable. There is no weight lost there. But the main saving is in the overall construction method. The Sirocco is totally different to the other helmets out there.
Petzl have switched material from polystyrene (used in all the other helmets on test) to an expanded polypropylene – if the name is familiar it’s the same stuff (unexpanded) that is used in synthetic base layers!
Unlike expanded polystyrene which is rigid, expanded polypropylene is a flexible material. This means that the tough outer shell needed to protect the rigid polystyrene from minor knocks and to spread larger impacts across the polystyrene surface can be dispensed with, hence the funny looking unshelled orange helmet of the Sirocco.
This flexibility brings another advantage, polystyrene helmets are (at times annoyingly) quite fragile – inadvertently squashing one e.g. when packed in a rucksack can crack the polystyrene and damage the integrity of the helmet. By contrast, the Sirocco is surprisingly robust – see the Sirocco’s response to being squeezed at 1 min in Petzl’s video below. While helmets should always be treated with care, the ability to survive minor miss-treatment is very useful in the big rough world – the test helmet shows no damage from being inadvertently sat on while in a pack a couple of times.
The Sirocco does have head torch attachment points and they were perhaps the best on test, especially the rear attachment point that holds a torch easily (its a piece of elastic) whether or not the torch has a rear mounted battery or just a strap. Great simple design again from Petzl.
Extra note: As a climbing helmet, the Sirocco is pretty much everything needed. It is however at the expensive end of the price range (RRP £85) with loads of perfectly capable cheaper competition. Perhaps then the Sirocco’s real niche is where every gram counts – it’s been rapidly adopted by ski mountaineering racers, and equally works well for ski touring, adventure races, long mountaineering days or any other time that carrying a helmet seems a chore but probably also a good idea.
Summary: A genuinely revolutionary helmet – ridiculously light, comfy and surprisingly durable – just be prepared to get noticed with the mushroom-esque shape and the bright orange colour! We ended up quite liking the look of it after a while (honest!).
More info: Petzl Website
We haven't had one on test for this review, but we've used the new Meteor a few times in the past, and this shelled foam helmet is a brilliant alternative Petzl lid to the Sirocco if you don't fancy the bright orange or aren't sure about the new expanded polypropylene.
- You can see a full UKC review of the Meteor here: UKC Meteor Review
More Info: Petzl Website
Mammut Rock Rider Helmet £70
The Rock Rider feels a bit beefier than some of the other helmets on test, and we certainly had confidence in its strength. In many ways it is similar to the Edelrid helmet tested in terms of beef and we think the extra few grams might come from the internal cradle, which is a little wider strapped and slightly more comfortable.
It is the now standard shelled foam construction, and the 16 vent points are quite small - this is no bad thing - when you look straight down on to the Rock Rider you can't see through any of the vents, as the foam is quite thick, and the angle of the vents means the opening points outwards not upwards., which is quite reassuring.
The Rock Rider has head torch attachment points (4) that are simple and work well, just the standard plastic clips.
Extra note: We have seen the Rock Rider in a turquoise colour, but we're not sure if it is available in that colour in the UK.
Summary: A very good tough helmet, looks good, does the job, and is a reasonable price - recommended by UKC!
More info: Mammut Website
Black Diamond Vapor Helmet £120
So what is so special about the Vapor?
Answer: The Construction....
The Vapor features an EPS foam and a polycarbonate shell (featured throughout many of the other helmets within this review) co-moulded with a sheet of Kevlar and carbon rods. The result of this unique, high-tech combination: a low-volume, well ventilated helmet that is both lightweight and durable.
With the added protection from the Kevlar and carbon BD have made the helmet very low-volume (you don't look like a mushroom).
The fit is exceptional, hugging the head neatly with no pressure points whatsoever - it is a very, very comfortable helmet. The low-volume design means that it doesn't feel as unnatural to wear as some helmets do and coupled with it's light weight the Vapor really is one of those helmets you can forget you're wearing!
There are no awkward plastic buckles and adjusters and the folded tape that sits comfortably over the cheek bones is a particularly neat feature. The adjustment cradle at the back is simple and easy to adjust even with gloves on.
One thing we have noticed is that the lid gets little 'dings' (dents) in it quite easily. These tiny dents don't affect the performance of the helmet, but could be disconcerting at first. But like a rally car with a couple of dented wheel arches, what is under the bonnet still works a treat. Obviously replace after any major impacts!
Finally, head torch clips are included and are okay to use. One thing to say about these head torch clips is that they are removable, which may seem like a neat idea, but basically it means that you can lose them! We weren't too keen on these.
Ventilation-wise the Vapor is second to none, it's great for warm, summer days (of which we have very few here in the UK!) and even on cooler days we didn't notice the additional air-flow to be a hindrance. That said, for some environments this could be something worth factoring in for reasons beyond the breeze, as the air vents are so large they could be viewed as something of a hazard for that one in a million shard of ice or piece of rock that manages to make it's way through one of the air vents.
The back part of the helmet is so exposed that we are loathe to recommend this helmet for ice/alpine use. Other than that we think this is a near perfect lid - this could be the ultimate head protection for those just interested in gritstone cragging etc and if we were reviewing just for that purpose, then this would win best in test.
The Vapor is an extremely well made, comfortable helmet that should be attractive to all-rounders wishing to buy a lightweight helmet that is built to last. The price is without doubt an off-putting factor, and we wouldn't recommend it for alpine/ice, but when you put one of these amazingly low-profile lids on your head we doubt you'll regret spending the money and you will hardly notice the helmet is there!
At just 240g the Vector is certainly light enough to feature in this review, but we didn't get a chance to test it. With a similar but slightly beefier look to the Vapour, and without the large vent holes, if you want something a bit more 'all-rounder' and want to stick with the Black Diamond brand then this could be the lid you are after.
More Info: Black Diamond Website
Tendon Orbix £55
Following on from the most expensive helmet within the review (see above), we have the lowest-priced - the Tendon Orbix.
Appearance-wise it's got a good look about it, with a flashy design, bold colour, and wild slogan (!!). Coming in at 240g it's weight is also respectably low, particularly considering it is at the more affordable end of the market.
The Orbix is available in a single, unisex size (54-62cm). In practise, we found that for smaller heads this meant you've got a very large/volumous helmet and for larger heads...well...in the case of UKC's Alan James it simply meant it didn't fit! As a result, the Orbix definitely a helmet you would have to try before you buy if your at either extremes.
In terms of fit we found the cradle/straps to hug the head well; however, one issue we did find were two pressure points towards the front/side of the helmet, created by the ridge where cradle strap re-joins the rest of the helmet. The result was that when bumped from the sides the helmet would immediately impact the area just around your temples, a particularly sensitive area, hence all the more noticeable. Top/down impact wouldn't be an issue here, but for those day-to-day bumps we could see how this could get quite irritating.
In total there are 17 vents on the Orbix, but whilst these are quite wide on the outside they taper/narrow towards the inside of the helmet leaving you with less airflow than they might appear to cosmetically.
The head torch clips provide a subtle clip feature that secures the head torch into place, quite a nice feature.
The Orbix provides exceptional value for money, but it definitely a helmet to try before you buy.
No further information available currently, available Nov'1
Edelrid Shield Lite £75
Weighing in at 220g this is no heavy-weight bruiser, but we thought it was more than tough enough to be up to the job as a go anywhere climbing helmet.
It has a classic shelled foam design, with just enough cooling vents and thick foam both on the top and on the back and sides of the helmet - it seems pretty 'safe'.
Part of the reason that the Shield Lite is 'light' is because the straps have been thinned down and made very simple. For us the fit of the straps was fine and comfortable, but quite basic. The helmet came with additional padding to be inserted if needed, but we haven't used it. The shape of the actual helmet itself fit most heads we put it on very well, and was comfortable, light and easy to wear. It hugged the head well, didn't move around, and after a while we forgot it was there. The Shield Lite isn't the coolest (temperature-wise) helmet out there, and we did get warm in the helmet on some of the summer's hotter days. This is a trade-off against having larger cooling vents, and I think Edelrid have balanced comfort and safety quite well here - there is still more helmet than holes!
How a helmet looks has got to be the number one deciding factor for many climbers! We found the Shield to be pretty cool, not the most action hero styled helmet out there, and perhaps slightly 'egg-head' in style, but clean looking, nice colours (white with a blue trim being the only colour option for the Shield Lite).
The helmet does have head torch attachment points, and they do work, but they are very fiddly to get the torch mounted correctly.
Overall the Shield Lite (which is almost the same as the Shield II helmet, only with different internals: a lighter double pull adjuster instead of a 'Wing Fit' cradle and dial adjuster), comes across as one of the more robust foam helmets out there and that is something very important when choosing a helmet.
An excellent lightweight helmet. It has a superb fit, looks pretty smart, and seems just about robust and sturdy enough to endure being shoved in a rucksack, and doesn't have 'more holes than helmet' - which is reassuring, which is a great effort from Edelrid as this is a damn light helmet. A firm thumbs up for the Shield Lite.
More info: Edelrid Website
Edelweiss Venturi Helmet
Good helmet - good price.
Petzl Sirocco Helmet
A real leap forward in technology - but do you like the look?
Mammut Rock Rider Helmet
A good solid all-round helmet.
Black Diamond Vapour Helmet
Super low-profile, amazingly light. Quite pricey and very large air-vents.
The cheapest lid on test, but check it fits first and you might 'feel it' when it is on!
Edelrid Shield Lite Helmet
Very good all round helmet that offers good protection at a mid-range price.
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