Whether getting into rock climbing for the first time or returning to the sport, the first piece of kit you should buy is a helmet.
But not just any old helmet will do, as an ill-fitting or heavy helmet will detract from the experience and end up back on the shelf when it should be on your head.
Investing in a decent helmet could be the difference between life and death if there were to be a rock fall or if you slipped whilst out climbing.
Below we’ve taken a look at some of the best helmets available right now, starting at the budget end of the scale and moving up into professional gear.
Design and materials make all the difference, so we’ve taken into account weight, comfort level, ventilation, durability and price.
For more information around what to look for in a helmet, scroll down to our buying advice and tips. Typically helmets are unisex and are determined by head size rather than gender – unlike climbing clothing.
Regardless of which one you decide to buy, just remember that if you don’t wear it, it won’t do you any good.
Let’s take a look at some of the best camping chairs on the market right now.
Top 3 Best-Sellers
- LIGHTWEIGHT COMPACT
- Increased protection: designed according to the Petzl label...
- Suitable for ski mountaineering: the first CE certified ski...
- Material: polycarbonate outer shell, expanded polystyrene...
- Certification(s): CE EN 12492, CE casque de ski de...
- Light, comfortable and well-ventilated helmet, recommended...
- Ultra-durable ABS shell, polyester strap with buckle, and...
- Equipped with marked holes for attaching headphones and...
- Universal size (52-64 cm).
- Available in various colors (blue, white, red, black and...
- Petzl Boreo helmet in size S/M with headband circumference...
- The versatile robust helmet is ideal for climbing,...
- The head surrounding the neck area has been drawn deeper...
- Robust construction with hard, shock- and scratch-resistant...
- The optimised volume on the head and the large ventilation...
1. Best All Rounder
- Weight: 290 grams (for the S/M option)
- Shell Style: EPS and EPP with an ABS shell
Despite being the cheapest option on our list, the Petzl Boreo is easily one of the best climbing helmets available.
Whether you’re looking for a helmet for climbing, bouldering, canyoning, mountaineering or caving, this is the perfect all-rounder.
This Petzl helmet offers the ideal combination of protection from both top and side impacts. The hybrid construction makes it a compact helmet with a thick ABS crown and both EPP and EPS foam liners for comfort.
For the amount of foam and ABS shell protection that you get when wearing this helmet, it seems remarkable that it weighs in at under 300 grams.
The helmet has eight vents for breathability, giving it generous venting in warm climbing conditions. There are also four clips for a headlamp attachment and the option of adding the Vizion eye shield if required.
Not only is the Boreo a highly affordable helmet but it will also go the distance thanks to its robust shell material and durable foam, so you don’t have to worry about tossing it in the back of your car.
The main improvement that could be made would be better adjustability, as the two-hand mechanism and fixed straps aren’t all that user-friendly – but at this price, it’s a small tradeoff.
The Boreo comes in two different sizes and various colours.
2. Great Entry-Level Helmet
- Weight: 330 grams (for the S/M)
- Shell Style: EPS with an ABS shell
Another great entry-level helmet that won’t break the bank, the Half Dome is affordable, reliable and offers full head protection.
Black Diamond’s updated model builds on the the tried-and-true construction of its predecessor with some new features and a little weight removed.
This makes it a good option for new climbers who are just getting into the sport, but might not be a good fit for those who want to wear it for extended periods of time.
Though it isn’t the lightest or most comfortable model on the market, it does offer a low-profile suspension system with a one-handed adjustment dial and chin strap.
Ultimately, its design will protect your head and that is the primary focus (at this price point at least).
The Half Dome’s heavy ABS plastic shell can absorb a decent impact without damaging the softer EPS foam inside, unlike helmets with light polycarbonate shells.
It is a bit heavier than the Petzl Boreo, but still streamlined and the lightweight clips allow you to attach a headlamp.
Though it has fewer vents than some of its competitors, its raised design provides good air flow to keep cool in hot weather.
Coming in two sizes and a handful of colours, there’s even an updated women’s version with more venting and a ponytail-friendly design.
3. Stylish and Practical
- Weight: 300 grams (for the 46-55cm option)
- Shell Style: EPS with a polycarbonate shell
Without seeming shallow, sometimes you just want to look and feel good when you’re adventuring, and that’s where the Edelrid Shield II comes in. This helmet makes a bold statement with colorful designs for all ages and genders.
Outside of the cosmetics, the Edelrid closes securely, is well ventilated from the sides, takes a head-torch securely and offers good all-round protection.
You also get a highly customisable fit system, so if you’ve struggled with helmet comfort in the past, the Shield II is a good option.
An overhauled wing-fit system and rear adjustment dial allow you to loosen/tighten with ease and the interior even has removable padding that’s also washable.
This soft-shell helmet is ideal for long and demanding climbs thanks to its EPS foam core and a tough but lightweight polycarbonate shell as well as 16 vents to provide excellent ventilation.
It is easy enough to push the rear attachment into the body of the helmet when packing away, making it pretty compact for a non-folding helmet.
The usual gripe with this model is true of many modern generation of thin-skinned helmets – it is built to absorb one good hit but after that you’re pretty much done.
For beefier and long-term protection, you’ll need to climb up the ranks to something a bit more expensive fir fakk back to an ABS shell.
4. Tough With Built in Visor
- Weight: 285 grams (for the 52-57cm option)
- Shell Style: EPS with an ABS shell
Mammut’s El Cap is one of the few options on the market with a visor and its stylish design leaves no excuse for not wearing a helmet when climbing.
The helmet provides a traditional EPS foam and hard shell construction but with a streamlined design, meaning that you won’t look like a mushroom – something to consider for any fashion-conscious climbers.
Mammut’s rugged, hybrid design combines hard-shell and in-mold construction. A recent update means it now has two layers of foam instead of one to provide more shock absorption.
The 12 ventilation openings and perfect fit make it comfortable and cool to wear and the simple to adjust headband for quick fit means you can tighten/loosen on the fly.
We liked the addition of the visor, incorporated to help block out the sun during long, multi-pitch days. There are also four headlamp clips should you require them after dark.
5. Helmet With a Half Hard Shell
- Weight: 195 grams (for the S/M option)
- Shell Style: EPP with a polycarbonate shell
The Wall Rider is another great helmet from Mammut, combining weight, price, style and durability with a hardtop design.
Regardless of what type of climbing you’re doing, the Mammut Wall Rider is among the best lightweight options on the market.
From Everest expeditions to Yosemite’s rock faces, climbers all over the world opt for this Mammut model thanks to its minimal weight, great coverage and durable construction.
The Wall Rider uses EPP foam and a lightweight polycarbonate shell, resulting in a helmet that offers full coverage and all-around impact protection.
Breathability is top-notch thanks to its 16 large vents for optimal breathability and the chin and rear straps are adjustable for a secure fit.
For anyone climbing outside of daylight hours, the Wall Rider has two front clips with a rear bungee strap to keep headlamps securely in place.
If you don’t need it to be super lightweight, the Wall Rider is a bit pricier than the above competitors without many tangible performance benefits.
6. Best Ultralight Climbing Helmet
- Weight: 160 grams (for the 48-58cm option)
- Shell Style: EPP with an EPS and polycarbonate crown
The Petzl Sirocco is the best ultralight climbing helmet around at the moment and it is endorsed by plenty of serious alpinists.
Building on the success of the first edition, the latest Sirocco’s hybrid construction uses a helmet shell made of EPP foam and a hard outer shell with injected EPS foam.
For anyone that wants to climb far and fast, this should be on your shopping list. Providing unbeatable armour, the helmet is so light that you’ll forget it’s on your head.
Boasting 24 ventilation holes, the Sirocco now extends farther down the back of the head for more protection.
For this reason it is now certified for ski touring. Another bonus is the spare foam and a protective storage bag that are sent out along with helmets.
The adjustable headband and magnetic buckle on the chin strap are easy to use but fairly minimalist (to help keep it light), and so some users have complained that they felt as though they could loosen or come undone during climbing.
7. Premium Climbing Helmet
- Weight: 185 grams (for the S/M options)
- Shell Style: EPS with polycarbonate shell
The Vapor is Black Diamond’s premium climbing helmet, bringing down the weight and offering a sleeker, geometric design.
The Vapor was created with a focus on weight, breathability, and comfort, and we found it ticks all three boxes.
It is a similar weight to the feather light Petzl Sirocco and adjusts far better than Mammut’s Wall Rider but it does carry a higher price tag.
The in-mold construction of co-molded EPS foam and polycarbonate shell makes it low profile and light.
Since it is so light, you’ll hardly notice it when worn for extended periods and it does not restrict your field of vision whatsoever.
With its different sizes and ratchet adjuster with padded suspension system, it’s a comfortable fit for even the biggest of heads. It’s also perfect for hot heads, with 12 vents surrounding the entire helmet.
The downside? Some people might find it hard to justify the outlay on an EPS model (bearing in mind that that EPS shatters while EPP absorbs) when there are so many good competitors on the market.
It is also not certified for ski touring, so is best kept for climbing only.
8. Most Durable Foam Helmet
- Weight: 215 grams (for the S/M option)
- Shell Style: EPP with an EPS and polycarbonate shell
Saving the best for last, we get to Black Diamond’s Vision MIPS helmet.
This is the most durable foam helmet in the Black Diamond line-up, featuring a fusion of EPP foam, an EPS foam puck and a polycarbonate shell, making it robust but still incredibly lightweight.
The durable construction benefits from MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) technology for added protection – an idea borrowed from the ski and biking worlds that protects against angled impacts.
We think the Vision MIPS hits the right balance of being light enough to not notice whilst in use, yet does not require delicate handling – so you can chuck it in your bag or even travel with it in checked luggage for overseas adventures.
These polycarbonate shells are able to fend off dings and dents from everyday use.
Because EPP absorbs impacts rather than shattering, it’s a more durable and protective choice and will mean you’re less likely to need to replace it at any point.
Multiple ventilation points keep air flowing and the integrated headlamp clips are low-profile so they don’t snag.
The adjustment system gives a snug fit, meaning you won’t have to readjust or worry about protection throughout the day.
What should you be looking for in a climbing helmet?
The dangers of falling rocks and ice combined with human error leading to falls have made helmets universally popular, and a fear of looking ‘uncool’ is a thing of the past.
No matter your climbing style or frequency, there are enough options on the market to find the perfect helmet for you.
To determine which models are best, you should look at its comfort, adjustability, weight, ventilation, durability and options for headlamp attachment if you’ll be climbing in the dark.
Below we take a look at some helmet traits you’ll want to consider.
ABS and polycarbonate shells are the most common options. Hardshell helmets are typically built with ABS plastic and are more durable, longer-lasting and can absorb sizeable impacts.
Due to the nature of their construction, they are cheaper than their polycarbonate counterparts but also heavier. For any entry-level climbers on a budget, ABS is the perfect option.
For those who want to shave off some weight, polycarbonate shells or crowns are a better option. They are lighter and still plenty protective but just be careful as they are more easily damaged.
You’ll see EPS and EPP foams in every helmet description, so it’s worth knowing the difference, particularly as this will be the main thing protecting your head.
EPS – Expanded Polystyrene
EPS is the long-standing shock-absorbing foam of choice in all sorts of helmets. It is hard and is designed to absorb a serious impact, but only during a one-off incident.
EPS crushes up and fractures on impact, meaning that once it starts showing cracks or fissures, it needs to be replaced.
In some lightweight models, dropping your helmet on the floor will be enough to fracture it so handle with care.
EPP – Expanded Polypropylene
EPP is softer and far more durable but generally more expensive.
Used in car bumpers and other protective items, it is designed to absorb the impact and hold its shape rather than shattering, EPP is becoming the material of choice for more and more manufacturers as time goes on.
Many climbers choose EPP helmets for protection as they are so effective that they could even be used without a polycarbonate or ABS shell – though shells are almost always added for increased durability.
Level of Protection
All climbing helmets are guaranteed by an international standard and therefore all meet certain safety requirements (as long as you buy them from a legitimate retailer).
However, the level of protection against impact varies with EPP and EPS, and the level of coverage also ranges from good to outstanding.
All helmets are built to take impacts from above, but only some will add to this with protection at the front, rear, and sides.
Wraparound coverage is important in some sports more than others, so take this into account when purchasing. If you are a lead climber, definitely invest in full protection.
MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) is built in to many helmets for an additional cost with the intention that when hit at an angle, the helmet’s shell can move just enough to mitigate the forces on the head and brain.
Weight and Comfort
Alongside protection, comfort will be one of the most important traits in the hunt for a perfect helmet.
Comfort is totally subjective and dependent on the size and shape of your skull, so don’t just follow the crowd and be sure to try your helmet out around the house for a few hours before setting off on your climb.
On the whole, heavier means less comfortable and lighter is better. Whilst 500 grams seems like nothing, it will take its toll on you as the hours go on.
Lighter helmets also ride less on the neck and don’t shift around as much when looking up and down.
Sizing and Adjustability
Most helmets are available in multiple sizes, so consider trying out a couple of options. If your helmet perches right on the top of your head then it’s too small.
A good fit would be snug but comfortable and you should be able to nod your head with minimal movement.
Tighten up the rear adjustment and chinstrap and try nodding yes and shaking your head no and you’ll know if it’s right or not.
Some helmets have a strap and buckles to adjust the head strap, whilst others offer a two-sided plastic ratcheting system, which is meant to be adjusted using two hands.
One-handed adjustment systems are more simple but typically reserved for the more expensive helmets.
Touched on above, the durability of a helmet will largely come down to whether it’s made from EPP or EPS on the inside and APS or polycarbonate for the shell.
Typically, weight and durability are inversely correlated – so the lighter the gear, the less durable it is going to be, unless you are able to splash out.
Examples of durable yet light helmets would be the Petzl Sirocco and Mammut Wall Rider.
Be sure to check your helmet regularly, both inside and out, for signs of damage or wear and tear. It’s better to play it safe and replace the helmet when due, as you can’t replace your brain!
For anyone who is climbing in warm or humid conditions, or will be out for extended parts of the day, ventilation will be critical to enjoying your climbing experience.
Helmets that don’t breathe well enough will make for a sweaty, uncomfortable climb. Manufacturers have started to add more and more ventilation, which has also helped to make helmets lighter.
Just bear in mind that if you’ll be hiking in cold conditions, ventilation may actually be a drawback, and numerous large ventilation vents leave more of your head exposed to rock or ice shards.
Nowadays virtually all helmets are headlamp-compatible, though some are much better than others.
For example Petzl helmets generally offer a convenient rear strap that could be done with one hand, whereas others would require you to do it whilst off the head.
Many clips are removable to save weight, but don’t do it unnecessarily as the constant unfastening and refastening of pieces can loosen and weaken the attachment points over time, degrading your helmet’s condition.
Climbing Helmets – Amazon BEST Sellers
|1||PETZL Unisex -Adult's METEOR Helmet, Red/Orange, M/L||51 Reviews||£59.44||Check on Amazon|
|2||PETZL Boreo, Unisex, A042AA01, White, M-L||£42.44||Check on Amazon|
|3||Height Endurance Scaffolding Steeplejack Climbing Work Safety Helmet Hard Hat With Chin Strap...||184 Reviews||£22.00||Check on Amazon|
|4||KONG MOUSE SPORT Climbing Helmet, White, One Size||19 Reviews||£36.06||Check on Amazon|
|5||PETZL Unisex – Adult's Boreo Helmet, Orange, M||£42.44||Check on Amazon|
|6||MSA V-Gard H1 Safety Industry Climbing Helmet - Novent - Black - 52–64 cm - Hard hat with...||3 Reviews||£70.20 £65.00||Check on Amazon|
|7||Height Endurance Vented Scaffolding Steeplejack Climbing Work Safety Helmet Hard Hat With Chin Strap...||131 Reviews||£24.00||Check on Amazon|
Last update on 2020-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API