Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, secure headlamp clips, low profile harness, well placed vents, comfortable
Cons: Less durable than hard plastic helmets, only comes in one size
Best Uses: All types of climbing from sport to mountaineering
The Petzl Meteor III + is our favorite climbing helmet, and wins our Editors' Choice Award. The III+ is constructed from lightweight polystyrene foam covered by a thin plastic shell. The Meteor is very adjustable, which allows you to wear it comfortably over a beanie in winter or alone in summer. We recommend the Meteor to all types of experienced climbers from multi-pitch trad climbers to multi-week mountaineers. We think the Meteor is even light enough for super hard sends on steep sport crags.
By their nature, lightweight foam helmets like the Meteor suffer in the durability department when compared to hard shell plastic helmets like the Petzl Elios or Black Diamond Half Dome. We think that experienced climbers who understand this will get plenty of use out of this helmet while appreciating all of the benefits of a lighter, better fitting helmet.
Petzl has just announced a new version of the Meteor, which will simply be called the Petzl Meteor. We have just gotten our hands on one, and expect to do a full review of this helmet in the near future. Based on what we've seen so far, the helmet has slightly larger vents, uses a redesigned rear adjustment band, and has a magnetic buckle similar to the one found on the Petzl Sirocco. It also comes in two sizes instead of just one. It is likely that there will be some great deals on the Meteor III + version soon, as retailers make room for the new version.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Petzl Meteor III + is a lightweight foam climbing helmet with all of the necessary features. It has a fully adjustable harness and a well shaped rigid rear adjustment band which holds it securely in place. Its headlamp clips are both secure and easy to use. It is only available in one size which may be too large for people with small heads.
This helmet is one of the most comfortable helmets we've tested due to a combination of its light weight, well designed harness, and just enough foam padding. We think that the mark of a comfortable helmet is that you forget you area wearing it, and the Meteor does just this. Only the super-light Petzl Sirocco is less noticeable.
Ease of Adjustment
The Meteor has all of the necessary adjustments, including a rigid rear adjustment band, a webbing harness with fore/aft adjustment, and a well designed chin strap clip which integrates the two adjustments in one.
The low profile rear adjustment band requires two hands to adjust, as opposed to a wheel which can be done with just one hand, like is found on the Black Diamond Half Dome. Our testers found that they would set the band once and then forget about it for the rest of the climb. The wide size range of the band allows for any type of headwear under the helmet, from a beanie for winter climbing to nothing at all on warm days.
Before putting it in our pack, we like to shorten the adjustment band as much as possible so that it can collapse fully into the helmet. This not only takes up less space in our pack, it also protects the rigid band from being damaged when stuffed. If it isn't fully collapsed we found that the edges of the band knife into the unprotected foam on the inside of the helmet. Again, we are huge fans of lightweight foam helmets but you have to understand that the trade off of being lighter in weight is that they are less durable and need to be treated with a little extra care.
One drawback to the Meteor III + is that it is only available in one size. We found that the sizing is most similar to to the larger size 2 of the other Petzl helmets or the M/L Black Diamond helmets. Most of our testers found that they fell within the Meteor's range of adjustment, but many women or people with small heads may be better served with a different helmet. A good alternative is the Black Diamond Vector which is available in a S/M size. The S/M size is also sold as a women's specific version in two more feminine colorways. The new version of the Meteor, which is due out very soon is supposed to be available in two sizes which should cover the full range of head sizes.
The four lightest helmets in our test are all lightweight foam helmets like the Meteor. The Meteor is the third heaviest of the four, but not by much. Our scale put the Meteor at 7.9 ounces, which is 0.5 ounce lighter than the Black Diamond Vector but 0.7 ounce heavier than the Black Diamond Vapor. The difference in weight of these three helmets is so small that it is hardly noticeable on the head. The Petzl Sirocco, which is the lightest climbing helmet on the market by far, weighs 2.1 ounces less than the Meteor, which is more than a 25% weight savings. The difference the two between can definitely be felt when you compare the two side by side.
All of the hard shell helmets we tested weighed over 11 ounces. The lightest being the Petzl Elios at 11.6 ounces and the heaviest being the Mammut Skywalker II at 13.7 ounces. Most of our testers agreed that once you go with a lightweight foam helmet it is hard to go back to a heavier hard shell helmet.
The Meteor uses 17 vents distributed around the rear, sides, and front to keep your head cool. Like all climbing helmets designed to protect from falling objects from above, the top of this helmet is solid. The Meteor's side vents are placed closer to the top of the helmet than any of the other helmets which allows for more even airflow. The best ventilated helmet we've tested is the Black Diamond Vapor, which has more open space around the rear and sides of the helmet than the Meteor. We found that lightweight foam helmets provide for much better ventilation than any of the hard shell helmets which only use a few small vents and tend to trap heat around the top of the head.
Petzl gave the Meteor four plastic clips to secure a headlamp. We found this design to be the best of the bunch and is our absolute favorite for securing a headlamp. The clips are well designed, durable, and we can't think of any way they could be improved. You simply need to pull the headlamp band tight between two hands and slip the band underneath. The position of the clips near the recesses of the vents as well as the shape of the clips themselves allowed this to be done successfully the first time, every time. The clips on the Black Diamond Vector are equally as secure, but sometimes require a couple of tries and some lifting of the edge of the clip to get the band underneath.
For any helmet, we recommend taking the helmet off briefly while attaching a headlamp to make sure it is securely attached so you don't loose it to the dark abyss below. Whenever possible, attaching your headlamp to your helmet before it is completely dark makes a lot of sense.
By their nature, lightweight foam helmets are less durable than hard shell helmets and need to be treated with more care, however the Meteor is the most durable of the light foam helmets we tested. It was less prone to small dents and scratches than both the Black Diamond Vector and Vapor. It is also far more durable than the feather light Sirocco, which has no outer shell and actually cracked when stuffed in a pack.
The Meteor's polycarbonate shell wraps around the bottom edges of the foam like on high-end bike helmets, which protects the foam when the helmet is off the head. The polystyrene foam is still slightly vulnerable to sticks poking through the vents if you are extreme bushwacking on the way to or from a climb, but we don't think this is worth worrying about.
The most durable helmets in out tests were the Black Diamond Half Dome and Petzl Elios, both of which are hard shell suspension helmets. These helmets have a much thicker outer shell and will likely stand up to more abuse than any of the light foam helmets.
This is the perfect choice for climbers and mountaineers looking to protect their head from falling debris while saving weight.
Two winters ago one of our testers was wearing a Petzl Meteor III while walking back to the parking lot in Lee Vining Canyon, California after a day of ice climbing. The large granite talus slope was covered in a few inches of light snow. The tester's foot slipped out on a snow covered foothold sending him headfirst into a gap in rocks. The tester fell approximately six feet and landed head first on a pointy chunk of granite. The Meteor's foam compressed and dented an inch deep, but his head was unharmed. This tester is pretty convinced that this helmet prevented a skull fracture or possibly a deadly head injury. What did this tester then do with this helmet? He replaced it with a new Meteor III +. Did he get his money's worth? You bet.
At $100 the Meteor is priced the same as the Black Diamond Vector, however some retailers are now selling the Meteor for $110. We think that both of these helmets are a better value than the much lighter but less durable Sirocco at $130 or the slightly lighter but less adjustable Black Diamond Vapor at $140.
If spending the least amount of money to simply protect your head is your goal, then we would recommend a less expensive though much heavier hard shell helmet like the Petzl Elios or our Best Buy Award winner the Black Diamond Half Dome which retails for just $60.
Remember that no matter how much money you spend on a climbing helmet, it does you no good if you don't wear it because it is uncomfortable or too heavy. Spending $40 more on a helmet that you wear every time may be much more worth it in the end. If you need some convincing check out Petzl's Helmet Stories.
Petzl also makes the Petzl Meteor, $100. This helmet now comes in two sizes and is slightly lighter at 7.6 ounces (in the larger size 2) as opposed to 7.9 ounces for the previous version. The Petzl Meteor has a new vent pattern for increased ventilation and a more flexible rear adjustment band.
The Meteor III + is our favorite climbing helmet for any application. It edges out the very similar Black Diamond Vector for the Editors' Choice Award due to subtle details like the integrated yoke buckle strap clip which eliminates two pieces of hardware and makes for less clutter around your face.
— Luke Lydiard
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Most recent review: January 1, 2014
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