Petzl's original Meteor was probably the first climbing helmet to use the EPS (expanded polystyrene) / polycarbonate shell construction of bike helmets, way back in 1996. This type of head protection tends to be a little lighter than a traditional 'plastic' helmet, and may offer better side protection too in the event that you bang your head in a fall. On the debit side, EPS models have a reputation for being quite fragile, more easily damaged in transit and more likely to be cracked by a stone with your name on it - with the risk that you're left with no functioning lid halfway up a big route. However, this slim chance aside, their lightness and comfort make expanded foam helmets a popular choice for all sorts of applications, from cragging to alpine climbing, summer and winter.
This is the fourth version of the Petzl Meteor, a benchmark lightweight model that has undergone a gradual evolution over the years. The new generation Meteor boasts a number of refinements over its immediate predecessor - better ventilation, a slightly different cradle, an all-new magnetic buckle and a modest weight reduction (roughly 10g - well every little helps). There's a funky new colour scheme too.
Protection and robustness
No one would deliberately put themselves in harm's way to assess a helmet where it matters most, and I'm pleased to report that no testers were damaged in the making of this review. Suffice to say the Meteor has the relevant safety certification for climbing and mountaineering. A selling point of the Meteor 3+ was that it was also EN1078-certified for cycling, but for whatever reason (I suspect something bureaucratic rather than technical) the new Meteor mark four does not have this certification; make of that what you will. The foam is thick on top to absorb falling stones and ice; it comes pretty low around the sides and back for head protection in a fall; and despite a veritable lattice work of ventilation holes the general impression is reassuringy robust.
Polystyrene helmets are well known for their tendency to brittleness, but having at first handled the latest Meteor with kid gloves, I've so far been pleasantly surprised. I have stood up hard into overhangs (don't ask) without leaving a scratch; carried it on several planes in both hold and hand luggage; and chucked it absent mindedly into loads to be roughly transported by mule back. So far, so good. However it is clearly still less robust than a shell style helmet, so I do try to remember not to sit on it in my rucsack.
Fit and comfort
While it's not the lightest helmet on the market - for that, look to Petzl's tangerine-styled Sirocco (review here) - the Meteor mark four is nevertheless quite a featherweight, just 220g in its smaller size and 225g in size 2. I've found that's easily light enough to more or less forget I'm wearing it. Fit, on me at least, is superb, with a soft flexible plastic cradle that accommodates itself to the shape of any head, and some well positioned (and removable) padding to help hold the helmet softly but securely in place. The height of the head band can be adjusted by sliding it up or down the chinstrap, and when you're in transit the headband also folds up into the helmet to make it more packable and less liable to damage. The chinstrap is easily adjusted too, and its slimline webbing helps keep the helmet's weight down.
While generally impressed with the design of the new Meteor, I'm a little less convinced by its magnetic chinstrap buckle. Is this a genuine advance, or a gimmick? Petzl say it can be operated one-handed, and while this is true I'm not really sure why you'd want to be able to do that. When wearing gloves I find the buckle no less fiddly than any other, and it is heavier and more bulky than a standard plastic-only clasp.
With plenty of venting, positioned all around the head, the Meteor is comfortably airy in hot weather - notably cooler than most helmets I've worn. I guess that makes it a little less warm in a Scottish winter hoolie, so to help mitigate this I went for the slightly larger size, which for me is roomy enough to accommodate a wooly hat without the whole arrangement riding ridiculously high on top of my head.
Size and shape
As mentioned, the Meteor comes in two sizes, so it should be good for practically anyone. Externally it is fairly compact, so far as polystyrene helmets go, with a nicely streamlined shape that does not make the wearer look too much like a mushroom. Looks are very important after all. But perhaps more important still, it generally fits quite well under a hood (depending of course on which hood...). That's not something I've always found to be the case with this style of head gear.
Four robust plastic clips hold a headtorch securely in place. The Meteor is also compatible with Petzl's Vizion eye shield, a flexible anti-fog plastic visor that helps protect the face from flying debris. At £42 a pop this seems expensive, but I've begun to think it might be money well spent for ice climbing, where the potential for eye injury is obvious. I'd heard the visor was a fiddle to fit, but Petzl's non-written IKEA-style instructions proved clear even to a hamfisted DIY-er like me, and at least on the new model Meteor it's a simple 10-minute job. Depending whether I'm ice or mixed climbing this winter, it'll be quick and easy to add or remove the visor.
Light, cool and comfortable, the latest Petzl Meteor is robust enough for mountaineering and winter climbing as well as cragging, while the optional addition of face protection for ice climbing sets it apart from most of its competitors. If you are only going to buy one helmet for all your climbing then this would be an excellent choice.
What Petzl say
"Lightness and comfort have made the Meteor helmet a signature product for climbing and mountaineering. This model has the advantage of large openings for excellent ventilation. Its innovative adjustment system allows each climber to adjust his/her helmet to head shape"
- Materials: expanded polystyrene liner, polycarbonate external shell, polyester webbing straps.
- Certification: CE EN 12492, UIAA (escalade)
- Lightweight and comfortable on the head
- Excellent ventilation
- Soft headband conforms perfectly to the shape of the head
- Magnetic buckle allows the chinstrap to be attached with one hand
- Integrated chinstrap attachment points to reduce thickness
- Comfortable, breathable foam lining is positioned to stabilize the helmet on the head
- Chinstrap buckle and headband height are adjustable for a perfect fit
- Headband folds into the shell for storage and transportation
- Headlamp can be attached using the four integrated clips
- Compatible with the VIZION eye shield
- Two sizes: Size one 48-56cm Size two 53-61cm
- Weight 220g
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