Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $75 - $110 | Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros: Extremely lightweight, excellent fit, breathable
Cons: Expensive, fragile
Best Uses: Free climbing, clean–aid walls
The Petzl Meteor III + is the lightest climbing helmet we know of and our Editors' Choice winner. It is one–size-fits-all, the most comfy helmet tested and has great ventilation. All this comes at a price — this is the most expensive helmet reviewed. If you are looking for the crème de la crème of helmets and don't have durability as a top concern, you need to try the Meteor III +. If you can afford it, you'll be happy you did, especially if it means taking it to the crags every day and wearing it on every climb (instead of leaving it at home to save weight). It's great for those who "don't like climbing with a helmet 'cuz it throws my balance off." It has total top–of-the-head coverage, is fully adjustable and has a comfortable suspension system.
The Meteor III Plus or Meteor III + is the new name for the Meteor III. We can't tell any difference between the two other than new colors. If you have a Meteor III, no need to upgrade to the +.
If you are on a budget or want a more durable helmet, we recommend checking out the Petzl Elios, Black Diamond Half Dome or the Wild Country 360.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This Petzl helmet stands out for its light weight and comfort. It stays in place and you hardly know you're wearing it because the soft padding evenly distributes what little weight there is. This is the best ventilated helmet we tested and rarely gets too hot. This helmet also fits well while wearing a hat, so cold is not a big issue despite all the vent holes.
The Meteor III + fits snuggly, yet when you move the helmet moves like a bobble–head, meaning that the suspension stays in one one place while the shell moves separately. This is a great feature — far better than when the whole helmet rolls back (suspension and all) when tilting your head back to look up at the leader while belaying.
Like all Petzl helmets, you can adjust the chin-strap while wearing it. This is very nice at belays or during complex descents because it allows you to quickly and safely get more ventilation. Few other helmet manufacturers have chin straps that can easily be adjusted while you are wearing the helmet.
As an extra bonus, this helmet is rated for cycling and water sports making it very versatile. We used it for a few mountain bike rides and found it great in drizzly conditions (keeps water off the top of your head) but it does not offer the same ventilation as a standard bike helmet.
The Meteor III + is expensive; many other highly rated helmets are are close to half the price. The Meteor is not a beginner helmet. It is too costly and needs to be treated with more care than most other helmets on the market in order not to crack it. Constructed with an expanded polystyrene foam liner and thin polycarbonate external shell, the Meteor III + is delicate. It is burlier than its predecessors, the Meteor I and II, but this brain bucket can't be sat on and won't take a beating like plastic-shelled helmets can.
Some people like the look of th Meteor III +. Others feel it looks like a strange bike helmet. We don't score helmets based on looks so this is up to you.
The Meteor III + is the only top-rated helmet that does not have a single wheel for tightening with one hand. This means that while you can adjust the helmet while wearing it, it is best adjusted by taking it off and using two hands. This is not a big deal and it is this design aspect that helps make the helmet so light.
The Petzl Meteor III + works best for hard free climbing, clean aid climbing (you wouldn't want to bounce–test and blow a piton into this helmet) light alpine routes and moderate ice climbing. Do you headpoint? Do you shave every ounce off your rack before the send? This helmet is for the weight–conscious, experienced climber. It's best for hard free climbing, clean–aid routes and those with the light–and–fast mentality. When climbing long routes in Yosemite or ascending El Cap we saw many climbers wearing the Meteor III. They were climbers we reasoned didn't mind trading out extra money for comfort and light weight. It was especially common among big wall free climbers — climbers who count out every wire-gate 'biner on their rack and toss out the oval and D 'biners to shed weight.
The Meteor III has been Chris Van Leuven's go-to helmet for long, hard free climbs, wall climbing in Yosemite and the Fisher Towers and for cragging (the III + is the only cosmetically modified replacement for the III). He found the Meteor III more comfortable than the Black Diamond Tracer — a helmet that Chris Mac found sits too low on his brow — as it sits higher on CVL's forehead, which he likes. He loves how the suspension keeps the shell from pushing against his head and provides optimal coverage.
Chris Mac owned earlier versions of the Meteor and always found them light but not the best fit. The Meteor III and III + have resolved the fit problem. In addition, it might be the breakthrough needed to get people at all crags and sport climbs wearing a helmet. Chris McNamara has known a few people who have died or been seriously injured climbing "routine" crag climbs. If they had been wearing helmets they might have lived or not required rescues.
It used to be weird to wear a helmet skiing. Now it is weird not to. Hopefully the Meteor III + and other lightweight helmets like it will in the next decade make it crazy ever to climb without a helmet.
This helmet costs more than the others reviewed and is also the most fragile. So budget conscious climbers might consider a more durable option in the $60 range like the Petzl Elios. The main lightweigh helmet competition, the Black Diamond Tracer, is a little less expensive but not by enough to make a big difference in value. Because this helmet is so popular, you can usually find the Meteor III + on sale for under $90.
— Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: September 8, 2012
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