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The GO Outdoors Guide To Climbing Helmets

The Benefits Of A Climbing Helmet:

As a climber, you want 360 protection, not only from steady rocks but also falling debris. Rocks are tougher than your head, so every climber needs to wear a helmet. The injuries sustained from a non-helmet related injury on the rockface are on a par with that of biking accidents, particularly in a free falling incident.

Because it’s not just the static rock that you have to worry about; but loose rocks and unexpected falls, you need complete protection, which means a climbing helmet that fits properly.

At GO Outdoors we don't stock dirt cheap helmets, because safety is key. Besides, with the right care, your climbing helmet should last season after season (provided it doesn't suffer an impact blow.)

The design of climbing helmets has changed dramatically, even in the past decade, and helmets now produced are more fashionable, more protective, and lower in weight than ever before. Of course, a helmet may never feel as good as your hair blowing in the breeze on the rock face, but this pleasure should be weighed against the chance that if you did take a hit from a rock, you won't be climbing very much afterwards.

As a final safety point, the consequences of not wearing a helmet are too worrying to be considered, and you shouldn't put vanity before safety. Pride comes before a fall... so consider a helmet a 100% necessity!

There are hundreds of helmets on the market place, but at GO Outdoors we stock key products from big names such as Camp, Edelrid, Grivel, Petzl and Wild Country.

Fitting A Climbing Helmet

Sizes vary in climbing helmets, due to the adjustability of many styles.

Straps adjust the fit on the go, which can be massively beneficial as changes in temperature cause swelling and expansion.

Sizes usually come measured in inches, anywhere from 48 cm to 61 cm for adults.

  • Measuring can be done with a tape measure, or simply by securing on the helmet and tilting your head. It shouldn't move, wobble or be able to be pushed off with ease when the straps are secured. 
  • Check the adjustability and make sure the fit allows you to move your head freely without the helmet wobbling. Buckle the chin strap so it is snug enough for a strong hold, without being too tight. Make sure the straps aren't slack. 
  • Check the foam casing feels soft to touch and is secure within the outer shell.
  • You need your helmet to be comfortable, safely fitted, and secure. Most climbing hlemets come in sizes S - XL based on the cm measuring system, and these vary from brand to brand.
  • Many climbers get fitted in GO Outdoors at a store, and then re-buy the same size.
  • Because climbing helmets are quite a general item, as opposed to a pair of jeans with a certain inch waist, they are designed to be adjustable.
  • Dials on the side that tighten are common, and some helmets will also encorporate toggles, and other features that allow you to adjust the shape of your helmet.
  • The fit should be CENTRAL! The right helmet shouldn't obscure your vision, but to have the right level of protetion, you may well be able to see it on your forehead if you have a look upwards. Don't overcompensate and push your helmet too far back, your forehead needs just as much protection as the back of your head. Similarly, ensure a snug fit that doesn't go too far and leave you with a throbbing headache.
  • The right fit should ensure no excess pressure at the temples, without being visibly loose. Suspension - each climbing helmet has an inbuilt system that keeps the roof of the helmet eleveated from your own head. This prevents heat build up, and is where the technical ability of the helmet lies. Whilst many think the helmet's outer face that you can tap on is the protection, this is usually made of plastic.

Styles Of Climbing Helmet

Hard Shelled Suspension Helmets/ EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) Helmets

Similar to a BMX helmet with it’s hard shell, these styles are ideal for protecting from falling debris, such as ice during ice climbs.

Due to their design and purpose EPS helmets are heavier than foam / hybrid helmets. The lack of padding means these style of helmets have less coverage at the side and lower cranial region, and with so many foam inclusive styles on the market, these are most suited to hard climbs.

Hardshells can take impact from above but need to be replaced after a heavy blow or any signs of denting. Hardshells helmets despite increased weights are durable and long-lasting.

Foam Inner Helmets/ Hybrid Helmets

Usually padded with foam made from polyester or similar, a Hybrid Helmet offers protection to both the inner of the helmet as well as the sides. Padded, plastic shelled Hybrid helmets are great for receiving impact such as falls, but less suited to constant falling debris. Lightweight, yet the thinner design offer less longevity than a hard shelled helmet.

Foam padded climbing helmets are created with two layers, an outer layer known as a shell, with a polystyrene padded inner liner for cushioning, EVA foam or polypropylene.

The outer is created from a variety of materials, dependent on the manufacturer, however typical materials include Polycarbonate, plastic, fiberglass, polystyrene or polyethylene.

Plastic is usually a cheaper and lighter weighted option, however more technical materials such as fiberglass can last longer and protect against shocks more effectively, so you should choose based on your destination and your budget.

Air vents are usually included onto the outer shell, and are small but efficient, so you don’t end up with a damp hat or head, but still push out excess moisture making foam helmets ideal for multiple climbing routes.

What about second hand helmets?

Don't do it! Like a car that's had a big smash, but looks okay on the outside, a helmet that has been bought second hand may have taken small fractures, or been dropped, even if the shell is intact.

The inner foam may have lost it's capabilities, or the sun may have weakened the plastic. A second hand helmet shouldn't be used. Either rent a helmet, or save up for your own. Not only will the fit be better, you will be sure of its pedigree before you use it. You can't put a price on your health and safety.