Wild Country have come up with a radical new helmet design aimed at providing the cross-season climber with one do-it-all helmet i.e. filling the gap between the hard shell helmet (with cradle or foam insert) and the expanded plastic foam (EPS) type.
“buy one helmet to be used for everything from single pitch cragging to long alpine classics”
However, as with any radical new design we have to decide whether it is just another gimmick or something truly revolutionary.
"The helmet that comes apart in your hands......deliberately!" is to say that the helmet comes in two pieces: the foam inner helmet and a clear piece of plastic known as the 'shield'.
The reason this helmet is so different to anything previously available is that it offers the benefits of both the hard shell and EPS type helmets.
EPS helmets give very good impact protection but poor protection from falling rock and ice debris. Conversely, hard shelled helmets aren't so good for impact protection but stand a much better chance of withstanding a blow from rockfall. Many hard shelled helmets include foam inserts to the crown of the head but rarely do they give the all round foam protection offered by the Alpine Shield.
This effectively allows the cross-season climber to buy one helmet to be used for everything from single pitch cragging to long alpine classics. Use the foam helmet on its own when on rock and simply attach the perspex shield with 3 screws when tackling something bigger.
As a superlight rock climbing helmet it fits the bill, being similar to the tried and tested Petzl Meteor or the Black Diamond Tracer, weighing in at 260grams. Fortunately, unlike the Tracer it seems to be quite durable and won't mind being shoved into your climbing sack on a daily basis.
With the shield attached it provides greater protection but may feel a bit top heavy (weight 420grams). Doubts have been expressed over the screw attachment of the Shield but Wild Country provide several replacements with the helmet so you would be hard pushed to lose them all. Nevertheless, if I was to improve one area of the Alpine Shield it would be the ease of attachment of the shield; waking up at 5am with a hangover to go climbing is hard enough without reattaching the shield on your way out the front door! But if you can put up with taking 2 minutes out to reattach the shield then you could be on to a winner.
Unlike many helmets the headlamp clips provided are nice and chunky; being easy to use even when you can't feel your fingers. The adjustment system is similar to that of the Petzl Meteor and can be adjusted with big gloves on. Personally I prefer the system on the Black Diamond Tracer but speaking to friends this seems to be more personal preference than anything else. In terms of looks the helmet comes in a range of 3 colours and looks pretty smart if a bit space-age with the Shield attached. Another benefit of the shield is that it covers up all the holes in the foam shell making it ideally suited to battling through Scottish spindrift! And so to the eternal helmet question: does it fit under a hood? I'm not sure how they've done it but it's actually smaller than my Black Diamond Tracer with the shield attached. It appears the size of your hood is more likely to be the determining factor than the size of the helmet.
The RRP of this helmet is £74. When you consider the cost of buying a hard shell and a foam shell helmet it's really a no-brainer.
This helmet will suit the climber who wants to buy one helmet which will perform in all types of climbing. A balance of looks and usability coupled with a reasonable price tag make this a strong contender in the ever growing helmet market.
Trying out my new Wild Country 360 helmet I wanted something which was light, airy and most important of all a good fit.
The helmet has a classic design and comes in three colours - I went for light blue.
For fit adjustments it has a rotating dial located on the inside, which makes it very easy to fine-tune the fit and gives the helmet a wide size range.
It has a quick release chin strap buckle, which helps to hold the helmet securely on your head, without digging into your neck or pulling up on your chin. The strap also comes with a small padded cushion which is attached with a velcro strap just underneath your chin. However, I found this irritating as it did not stay in place so I removed it.
The outer shell of the helmet is made out of polycarbonate and the inside consists of shock absorbing foam and according to the company blurb it has outstanding strength and the results far exceed the CE helmet certification requirements.
In terms of ventilation it does do a very good job of keeping my head cool. However, this has only been tried out in the British climate and I am not so sure whether it would fair as well in a hot environment.
In Short: It is a good entry-level helmet which is suited to a wide range of climbing situations.
You can download a User Guide for the 360 here.
See this product at the Joe Brown - Snowdonia shop