Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Accommodates a ponytail, durable, easy to adjust chin strap, removable and washable foam padding
Cons: Have to adjust every time you put it on, the ponytail feature slips over time
Best Uses: Multi-pitch climbing, big walls, ice climbing, climbing anywhere there is loose rock
The Petzl Elia helmet is the only women's helmet that we tested that has well-thought out women's specific features other than a smaller size and different colors than the men's version. The Elia incorporates a beneficial ponytail accommodating feature for women. This feature added to the already inexpensive and durable design of the Petzl Elios makes this a great all-around helmet for the price, which is why it wins our Best Buy Award for women's helmets. It is not as comfortable or as lightweight as some of the foam helmets like the Petzl Meteor III+ or the Black Diamond Vector - Women's, and it's $5 more expensive than the Camp Armour Lady, but it is the only helmet out there with a ponytail system for the ladies. This is the only women's specific helmet that we would consider buying even if we already owned a unisex helmet, because the ponytail feature would be worth it.
Here is a Petzl Video on the Elia
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
There are a lot of Women Specific products out there that in reality have no altered functions, but just follow the shrink it and pink it marketing philosophy to appeal to more customers. (Women specific headlamps? Shovels and probes?) At first, helmets seemed to fall in this same category, but the Elia proved that theory wrong.
Comfort and Ease of Adjustment
The Petzl Elia actually has some very different and highly functional features that many women would benefit from. The most obvious is the OMEGA ponytail system. How many long haired women have been climbing with a helmet, only to have to uncomfortably squish their ponytail under the back? Its hard to wear it all day when it feels that awkward. Pigtails are one solution, but sometimes those get in the way, and there is no way you can leave long hair flowing over your shoulders while climbing a long route. (Heaven forbid it gets snagged in your belay device!) The Elia solves this problem by taking the band that goes around the back of the head and molding it in an upward curve so that there is a perfect slot for a ponytail. This band adjusts in two ways: up and down so you can pick the appropriate height on your head, and it adjusts width- wise so you can fit the circumference of your head. These adjustments make it so the helmet fits snugly and comfortably on your head, doesn't slide around, and still leaves room for the most common athletic female hairstyle.
Another great feature of this helmet is the easy to adjust chin strap. It can be done quickly with one hand, where the W's Camp Armour requires two hands to slide the webbing through the buckle.
The primary downside to this helmet is that it takes slightly longer than usual to adjust the helmet every time you put it on. With the unisex Elios and the Camp Armour Lady, it can be adjusted once and then left that way. This helmet needs some slight adjusting every time you put it on to make sure you get the ponytail system at the right height on your head every time, so it makes donning the helmet extra fiddly. It is difficult to use the slider adjustments on the top of the helmet while wearing gloves, and occasionally they stick if there is grit in them.
After testing this hemet over time, we have noticed that the ponytail adjustment feature slips frequently, leaving the helmet loose and crooked on your head. We have found that we need to constantly fuss with it to keep the helmet properly in place, and this becomes a pain over time.
Since it is made for women, who typically have smaller heads than men, it comes in only one size instead of two, like the Elios. This makes it slightly lighter than the size 2 version of the Elios, which is a bonus. It is also a bit lighter than the Women's Camp Armour, weighing 9.8 ounces.
Hard plastic doesn't ventilate well, but there are some attractively styled holes in the top of the helmet to allow some air flow.
The attachment on this helmet is fairly easy to use. A headlamp can be put on the Elia much easier than on the Camp Armour, which has especially tight attachment clips.
This is a fantastic all around helmet. It can be worn on all day trad climbs, ice climbs, or for single pitches. This is a durable hard plastic, so it will last for years.
The Elia costs the same amount as the Elios, which is on the less-expensive end of helmets, so if you are in the market for a helmet, it does not cost you anything more to go for the women's specific version over the regular unisex version. It is slightly more expensive than the Camp Armour Lady, but has many more beneficial features which would be worth the extra six dollars. It is much less expensive than the lighter Black Diamond Vector- Women's and is also more durable, so would last longer. This durability plus low initial price win it our Best Buy Award for women's helmets.
This is the best deal for a women's helmet. If you already own a unisex helmet and find squeezing it over your hair is uncomfortable, then you may want to consider an upgrade to the Elia.
Older Model Review Video
— McKenzie Long
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Most recent review: September 12, 2013
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