A proper climbing helmet is an essential piece of protective equipment that should be worn whenever you are out climbing. It will protect your head should you fall or against the impact of banging your head against a rock face. You’re also at risk from loose rocks, equipment and other projectiles from falling from above and landing on your head which could result in serious injury and even death.
Types Of Helmet
There are three main types of outer shell for climbing helmets. They are carbon, fibreglass and plastic but within each of them, there needs to be foam padding for both fit and comfort purposes. Plastic ones tend to be the most commonly used in climbing. They are durable and very strong. Inside the outer shell will be an internal webbing suspension and some kind of lining constructed of polystyrene foam. The webbing helps to reduce the effect of force upon impact and allows the helmet to be adjusted to fit different head sizes and enables ventilation between the head and the helmet’s outer shell.
What are the Major Considerations When Choosing a Climbing Helmet?
When choosing an appropriate climbing helmet, the major factors you’ll want to consider are their construction, comfort and ability to be adjusted. Secondary considerations might include cost, appearance and whether or not the helmet has the capabilities of having a headlamp secured to it if you intend to go night climbing. The weight of the helmet is likely to be important to you as well and even the slightest variation of a couple of ounces can be very noticeable indeed when worn which can be very important to a climber, especially on longer climbs. As far as cost is concerned, lighter helmets are usually more expensive and the greater the number of air vents is also usually reflected in additional cost but, if you’re serious about climbing, you should try not to be influenced too much in saving money. You’ll want a helmet that’s durable and one which you feel very comfortable in wearing so it’s often worth paying a bit more to get the helmet that is right for you. Depending upon the type of climate you’re going to be climbing within, you might also need to accommodate additional headroom for if, say, you want to wear a balaclava underneath your helmet if you intend climbing in extremely cold climates.
How Should It Fit?
A helmet should sit at the back of your head snugly with the front of it covering your brow in order for it to best protect you. Whether or not you’re going to be wearing a balaclava or some other form of insulating layer underneath the helmet, when the chinstrap is fastened, there should not be any slack at all. A good tip to assess whether the helmets fits, feels comfortable and is fully secure is to open your mouth and you should be able to feel the helmet press against your forehead. Of course, whilst you want it to be secure, you don’t want to tighten the chinstrap so much so that you feel as though it’s choking you.
The other thing to bear in mind is that any helmet you choose to buy meets international standards which are set by the European Committee for Standardisation. Be very wary about buying a second hand helmet. You’ll not know for sure how old it is and whether it’s been weakened or not by the amount and scale of any impacts it has previously endured. You’re far better off to buy brand new and your local climbing store will be able to advise you on the most appropriate helmet for you. There, you can try different types of helmet out which is why it’s far better to buy from a store, than over the internet unless you’re buying online a helmet which you’ve already ‘road tested’ by trying it on in a store first.