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Hands-on Gear Review
Petzl Sirocco Review
Cons: Expensive, fragile, textile rear adjustment band is difficult to use, comes only in bright orange
The Petzl Sirocco is the most unique helmet on the market and was the most asked about helmet by other climbers at the crag during our tests. It is made from a single layer of expanded polypropylene as opposed to expanded polystyrene with a plastic shell like other light foam helmets. The single layer of polypropylene actually has a small amount of flexibility which likely aids in impact absorption.
The Sirocco is like a sub 9mm rope, it's best reserved for hard sends and light and fast missions where every ounce counts. And just like a super thin sending cord, the trade off is a lack of durability. The Sirocco needs to be treated somewhat carefully especially when cramming it into a pack.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Our testers received more questions about this helmet while at the crag than about all the other helmets combined. We attribute this to it being new to the market and to its unique construction. The Petzl Sirocco is the lightest climbing helmet on the market today. It is constructed from a single layer of foam without a hard plastic covering. The harness is composed of very thin webbing, including the rear adjustment band. The chin strap is secured with a unique magnetic buckle which allows the user secure the helmet one handed.
The Sirocco is so lightweight that it is easy to forget you are wearing this helmet. It feels like wearing a ball cap. The rear adjustment band cinches the head forward into the sweatband, and is very comfortable. The textile harness and foam sweatband are free from pressure points, but what really makes this helmet so comfortable is the lack of weight.
The Sirocco is available in two sizes. We tested the larger Size 2, and found it to be very similar to the single size Petzl Meteor in terms of sizing. Climbers with small heads that find the one-size-fits-all Meteor too big may be better served by Size 1 in this helmet.
Ease of Adjustment
The Sirocco uses an all-textile harness to secure the helmet to your head. While this harness saves weight and collapses easily into the helmet for packing, it does not keep the helmet in place as well as a hard plastic rear adjustment band. It also requires more adjustment time when putting it on since you have to make sure the rear webbing band is in the correct place. We found it necessary to fully loosen the rear cinch buckle, and then tighten it down, each time we put the helmet on. The lack of a rigid band isn't a big deal in terms of security because the helmet is extremely light and doesn't move around much. The same webbing harness wouldn't keep a heavier helmet in place, but works on the super light Sirocco.
One advantage of the lack of a rigid adjustment band is when packing. Once you take the helmet off, the entire harness collapses into the helmet without any adjustment. With other helmets we found that the rear band needs to be collapsed to its smallest size to fit well into the helmet where it will take up the least space in the pack and not be damaged.
The Sirocco secures with a unique buckle which uses a small magnet within the buckle to draw the two halves together. The buckle actually secures with plastic clips rather than the force of magnetism. The magnet does, however, help the user clip the buckle blind with one hand. We found that the magnet would engage both the plastic clips about 75% of the time. The other 25% of the time the the buckle needed a little squeeze to fully close. We think it is a good idea to give this buckle the extra squeeze to make sure it's secure, and the instruction booklet from Petzl depicts this as well. Either way, clipping the buckle can be accomplished with one hand thanks to the magnet. We can't think of any reasonable situations where you would only have one hand to clip the helmet, but it's still good to have the option. Our testers thought that this type of magnetic buckle would be more useful on a bike helmet where you are likely to make adjustments while riding and would be able to keep one hand on the bars. This is currently the only helmet in the Petzl line which uses the magnetic buckle, but we've heard a rumor that the next iteration of the Meteor will use a magnet as well.
One small problem with the magnet is that it tends to pick up small bits of apparently metallic sand. The instruction booklet from Petzl warns about this with one of those Petzl pictographs. We found it easy enough to blow or wipe off the grains of sand that became attached to the magnet, but they can prevent the buckle from clipping completely.
This is the lightest climbing helmet currently available, which is why we've awarded it a Top Pick Award. These awards are given to unique products which serve a specific purpose, and the Sirocco is the ultimate lightweight weapon for super hard sends or competitions which require helmets. Its lack of weight is its most distinguishing feature. It is impressively light in hand and barely noticeable on the head. Our testers agreed that they've worn heavier beanies.
At 5.8 ounces, the Sirocco is 1.4 ounces lighter than then next lightest helmet, the Black Diamond Vapor. That's almost a 20% decrease in weight over the Vapor, which is the lightest helmet from Black Diamond. The weight savings of the Sirocco is achieved by a combination of a very minimal textile harness and a lack of a hard shell. The Sirocco is constructed of a single layer of expanded polypropylene as opposed to the usual polystyrene surrounded by a thin plastic shell on other light foam helmets.
The Sirocco seems to have replaced the Meteor as the helmet which most of the Petzl athletes are wearing in contests and print ads. Petzl's marketing department is doing a good job of getting this helmet noticed. The neon orange color helps too.
The overall shape of the Sirocco is very similar to the Petzl Meteor, but uses a different vent pattern, which provides about the same amount of ventilation. Both of these helmet earn top scores in terms of ventilation, as opposed to some of the less expensive helmets which have less vents and a noticeable heat build up.
The two front headlamp clips are a slightly slimmed down version of the clips found on the Meteor, and they hold a headlamp band well against an upward pull. Instead of these well designed clips on the back, the Sirocco uses an elastic band. The elastic is permanently attached in two places below where the headlamp strap sits, and attaches with a single plastic clip above the strap, forming a "V". The plastic clip releases with an upward pull, which is the direction a headlamp usually wants to pop off. We wish that Petzl had used the same simple plastic clips on the rear as on the front of the helmet.
As with most ultra-light gear, the drop in weight means a drop in durability. The Sirocco is the least durable helmet we tested. This helmet is made from a single layer of expanded polypropylene without any type of hard covering, and this lack of a hard shell allows the helmet to be slightly flexible. The helmet can actually be squished slightly with two hands and will return to shape. We don't recommend doing this, however. Our test helmet cracked across the front while being crammed into a pack, which is disappointing for such a pricy piece of gear. None of the other helmets we tested would have had any problem with this type of trauma. Petzl replaced this helmet for us under warranty, but reminded us that this is a hyper specialized piece of gear which sacrifices durability for weight savings. If long term durability is your number one concern, we think you should consider a hard plastic helmet such as the Petzl Elios or the Black Diamond Half Dome.
This helmet excels in area where ounces count, such as sport climbing, competition climbing, super light and fast alpine ascents, or any time you would elect to not wear a helmet due to its weight and bulk.
The Sirocco is a ultra-light tool for specialized situations where minimizing weight makes a difference. If you are simply looking to protect your head from falling debris then there are definitely less expensive and longer lasting options. Our favorite bargain helmet is the Petzl Elios, which retails for just $66 and wins our Best Buy Award. The hard plastic Elios is much more durable than the Sirocco and will outlast the Sirocco for everyday use, which makes it a much better value.
The retail price of the Sirocco recently increased from $110 to $130. At $130 the Sirocco retails for $30 more than our favorite helmet, the Petzl Meteor. Only the Black Diamond Vapor retails for more than the Sirocco, at $140. There are still a few retailers selling the Sirocco for $110, but probably not for long. If this is the helmet for you we recommend you get one before the price increases everywhere.
The Sirocco is an ultra-light helmet which should be reserved for the hardest sends where every gram counts. It is not durable enough for everyday use. We think that most climbers would be better served by the less expensive, more durable, and slightly more adjustable Meteor, which wins Editors' Choice Award. However, climbers who would otherwise skip the helmet due to the weight should consider the Sirocco.
— Luke Lydiard
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