Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Durable, large buttons on adjustment band, durable hardware
Cons: Heavy, hot, vent shutters are gimmicky and difficult to slide, headlamp clips recessed too much
Best Uses: Any type of climbing from hard mixed in Alaska to sport climbing in Vegas
The newly redesigned version of the Petzl Elios is an excellent inexpensive helmet for nearly any type of climbing. This new version of the Elios loses the click wheel adjuster and replaces it with two large buttons which require two hands to adjust. This helmet was just barely edged out for our Best Buy Award by the Black Diamond Half Dome, which scores slightly higher and costs $5 less. That said, many of our testers preferred the Elios to the Half Dome and the general consensus is that the Elios is more comfortable. Both helmets are composed of an ABS shell over polystyrene foam, and fall into what we consider the "hardshell" helmet category.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The classic Elios was recently updated with some new features and adjustments, and is one of our favorite hardshell climbing helmets. This new version is available in two sizes and four different colors. This helmet is compatible with, and makes a sturdy platform for Petzl's Vizion eye shield for ice climbing.
The Elios is the most comfortable hardshell helmet we tested. We find it to be just slightly more comfortable than the Black Diamond Half Dome for two reasons. First, the brow padding is soft and fuzzy compared to the firm smooth padding of the Half Dome. Secondly, the way the rear adjustment band contacts the occipital area is more ergonomic and feels better when the helmet is tight.
Thought this helmet is comfortable, our testers think that lightweight foam helmets are the king of comfort. This is mostly due to the difference in weight. Lightweight foam helmets weigh 30-50% less than hardshell helmets, and the difference in weight is noticeable. The two most comfortable helmets we've found are the Petzl Meteor III + and the featherweight Petzl Sirocco which is so light that it's barely perceptible.
Ease of Adjustment
Adjusting the Elios is quick and easy, and it has all the necessary points of adjustment. Petzl replaced the click wheel found on the previous version with two rather large red buttons which size the rear adjustment band. You need to use two hands to tighten the band, but can get away with one if you just want to loosen it up a notch or two. The buttons are larger than the tabs found on the Meteor III + or the Black Diamond Vector, which makes them quicker and easier to operate, even with gloves on. If you really miss the click wheel you should consider the latest version of the Black Diamond Half Dome which has an improved wheel and is very similar in weight to the Elios.
The chin strap can be positioned fore/aft with plastic buckles which lock in place. The chin strap is then closed with a buckle similar to the one found on the Meteor III + which requires a familiar pinch to release. While the locking fore/aft adjusters are a nice touch, we wish Petzl had used the same buckle found on the Meteor. That buckle combines the fore/aft adjuster with the chin strap clip which eliminates two pieces of hardware.
At 11.6 ounces, this is one of the heavier helmets we tested, however it is the lightest hardshell helmet we evaluated. Due to their thicker, more durable plastic shells and more complicated harnesses, hardshell helmets all weigh more than lightweight foam helmets. The difference in weight between this helmet and the lightest we tested, the Petzl Sirocco, is 5.8 ounces which is akin to nearly six Black Diamond Oz carabiners. Performance oriented climbers will likely look to other helmets, but if you aren't one to add up grams before leaving the ground, then you may not care about the difference.
The Elios uses ten vents in the outer shell to keep the air flowing. While this is more than the other hardshell helmets, two of the vents are barely large enough to slip a quarter through. Number of vents aside, our testers found this helmet to have slightly better ventilation than other hardshell helmets, but not as good as any of the foam helmets, which have a much larger percentage of open area.
A new feature on this updated version of the Elios is a sliding shutter which can be adjusted to cover the vents in wet or windy conditions. The shutters, which are made from the same ABS as the shell, are sandwiched between the outer shell and the polystyrene liner. At first we found the shutters hard to move, with a tiny tab located in the front, but after a while they slid more easily. We suspect that the shutters wore the polystyrene away slightly, allowing for them to move more freely. Overall there isn't a huge amount of perceivable difference with the shutters closed on windy days, and we could do without them. We find the feature a little gimmicky and wish that Petzl had either skipped them or at least made them removable.
This helmet uses four headlamp clips just like nearly every other helmet. These clips are small and sleek but somewhat hard to use. They are positioned in subtle dimples in the shell, which means that sliding a strap underneath is difficult. Since most climbers don't have much in the long fingernail department, prying the clip up to slide the strap under is not an option.We found that the quickest way to get a headlamp strap underneath is to bend the outer shell slightly to open up a gap between the shell and the clip.
Durability is where hardshell helmets really shine. The Elios is no exception, and we gave it, along with the Black Diamond Half Dome, our highest score in durability. Both helmets have a tough ABS plastic outer shell which won't dent under normal bumps from climbing or packing. These shells do a good job of protecting the more vulnerable polystyrene foam.
The Elios's rear adjustment band is hinged near the temples and can be collapsed into the helmet for packing. We've found this feature is nice because it takes up less room in the pack and also protects the band from being tweaked.
Petzl climbing helmets have a three year warranty, as opposed to Black Diamond's one year warranty. We are pretty sure that this won't cover wear and tear or impact damage, but it's something to think about.
This helmet is suitable for any type of climbing.
Hardshell helmets like the Elios are both more durable and considerably less expensive than foam helmets, so they are a much better value. The absolute best value we found in a helmet is the Black Diamond Half Dome, which wins our Best Buy Award. The Elios narrowly missed getting this award because it costs $5 more and scored just slightly lower than the Half Dome, but we still think it is an excellent value and a high performing product. If you are looking to get the most helmet for your dollar, we recommend using our price finder, where you will likely find one of these helmets on sale.
The Elios is an excellent choice for beginner climbers, climbers on a budget or people who are rough on gear.
Petzl makes a women's version of the Elios, the Petzl Elia, which has an adjustable band shaped to accommodate a ponytail. They also make a kid's version, the Picchu, which is aimed at three to five year old rock ninjas.
— Luke Lydiard
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Most recent review: March 17, 2014
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