The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Smith Session MIPS Review

The Session is an all-new model from Smith with great ventilation, ample coverage, and a comfortable fit.
Top Pick Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $160 List | $160.00 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Well ventilated, adjustable visor, MIPS, good coverage, reasonable price
Cons:  Sizing runs a little big
Manufacturer:   Smith Optics
By Jeremy Benson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 31, 2018
  • Share this article:
82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Adjustments - 20% 8
  • Features - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Ventilation - 10% 9
  • Weight - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Smith added the Session to their 2018 line-up. This helmet is a bit of a departure from the futuristic looks of their popular Forefront helmet. It has a more classic and crowd-pleasing style. Testers immediately fell in love with the Session for its high level of comfort, great fit, and generous coverage. This helmet also impressed us with its excellent ventilation, the best in the test, with massive vents that keep the air flowing. Smith's Vaporlock fit system works well to dial in the fit, and the adjustable visor flips way up for google compatibility. This MIPS equipped helmet retails for the reasonable price of $160, so you don't have to break the bank for a stylish, well-ventilated helmet that offers excellent protection and comfort.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

New for 2018, the Session falls roughly in the middle of Smith's range of mountain bike helmets. This helmet more or less took the place of the Rover MIPS, which is now only offered without MIPS, as their mid-range MIPS equipped mountain bike lid. The Session is a versatile helmet that proved to be a tester favorite for its excellent combination of head protection, comfort, ventilation, and adjustable features. It can't quite top the POC Tectal Race SPIN to take over as our Editor's Choice Award winner, but it sits comfortably as our third highest rated helmet and our Top Pick for Ventilation Award winner.

Performance Comparison


Testing the Session high above Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Testing the Session high above Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Protection


Protection isn't one of our rated metrics (mostly because we don't have pedaling crash-test dummies perfected yet), but the purpose of a helmet is to protect your head. So we feel that it is important to go over the protective features of each helmet. Testers feel the Session provides some of the best head protection of all the models we tested, just slightly less than the Smith Forefront 2 and our Editor's Choice Award winner, the POC Tectal Race SPIN.

The Session's coverage is quite good, with a shell design that comes down relatively low on the back of the head. It doesn't have quite the same level of coverage as that offered by the Tectal, which comes slightly lower on both the temples and back of the head, but it is pretty close. The Session also has Smith's "Koroyd," a proprietary impact absorption technology, strategically placed on both sides of the helmet. The Koroyd looks a lot like a honeycomb and Smith claims it absorbs more energy upon impact than traditional materials while still maintaining airflow. The Session employs significantly less of the Koroyd than the new Forefront 2 and has significantly better ventilation as a result.

Smith has strategically placed Koroyd around the Session for enhanced impact protection.
Smith has strategically placed Koroyd around the Session for enhanced impact protection.

The Session comes equipped with a MIPS liner, the industry standard for reducing the rotational forces of impacts. Other brands, like POC and Leatt, have developed their own impact protection systems, but Smith has chosen to stick with the proven performance of the MIPS system.

The MIPS liner of the Session.
The MIPS liner of the Session.

Comfort


Comfort is somewhat subjective, but our testers found the Session to be one of the most comfortable models in our test selection.


The Session has a great shape with a length and width that will fit the shape of most riders heads well. It is very middle of the road in this regard and doesn't put any extra pressure on any part of the head. It is minimally padded, but the padding is placed strategically from the temples across the brow, with just a little on the top of the head, only in the places your head makes contact with the shell.

The rest of the fit is dialed in with the Vaporlock fit system which works well and provides a great range of adjustment. The Vaporlock system is similar to the size adjustments on most other modern helmets, with a dial at the back of the head that pulls tension evenly on both sides. It cradles the occipital lobe and can be adjusted up or down on a four position internal ladder to personalize the fit. The front attachment points of the Vaporlock system also have three positions of fore and aft adjustment by the temples.

Testers found the Session to be super comfortable  but the strap design has room for improvement.
Testers found the Session to be super comfortable, but the strap design has room for improvement.

Much like its more expensive sibling, the Forefront 2, one of the places the Session lost ground to the competition in comfort is the straps. The straps work well and are reasonably comfortable, but testers found it difficult to get the straps to lay completely flat. It is easy enough to adjust the locking strap splitter to avoid contact with the ears, but the nature of the design is such that they never sit perfectly flat. We feel the strap design on the POC Tectal Race SPIN, with a wider fixed yoke under the ear, is superior and more comfortable.

It is also worth noting that the sizing of the Session seems to run a little bit large. One of our testers who has a chronically size large head fit into our medium test model perfectly. Several reviews found online also back up this assessment of the sizing.

Adjustments


The Session has several adjustable features that allow the user to customize the helmet for comfort and fit. The straps are easily adjustable with locking strap splitters to shorten or extend the straps by the ears. This adjustment allows the user to position the straps comfortably without any unwanted contact with the ears. Under the chin, the straps come together at a traditional plastic buckle with several inches of adjustment to dial in the tension to your preferences.


The Vaporfit system is the most frequently used adjustment to tighten or loosen the Session snugly on the riders head. The dial is large and easy to turn, even with gloved hands, and provides up to 5 centimeters of tension adjustment. The attachment points of the Vaporlock system are also adjustable to further dial in the fit for your head shape and size.

The Vaporfit dial on the Smith Session is easy to use even with gloves on.
The Vaporfit dial on the Smith Session is easy to use even with gloves on.

The Session has a three position adjustable visor and is quickly and easily adjusted. The visor attaches to the temples and rotates, clicking into three positions: down, middle, and all the way up. This adjustable visor feature makes the Session compatible with goggles for the enduro and downhill crowd. Testers liked the range of adjustment and preferred it over the visor on the POC Tectal Race SPIN that requires the loosening of a screw to adjust. The visor on the new Forefront 2 proved to be the tester favorite, however, with a great length, sturdy feel, and metal hardware at the hinges.

Weight


Weighing in at 13.36oz in the size medium we tested, the Session is competitively lightweight.


This weight is very close to several other models we tested, like the Troy Lee A2 MIPS and the Leatt DBX 3.0. Our Editors Choice Award winner, the POC Tectal Race SPIN weighs in just 0.49g lighter.

Not the lightest helmet around  but the Session is far from heavy.
Not the lightest helmet around, but the Session is far from heavy.

Ventilation


We were very impressed by the Session's ventilation. It was our most highly rated helmet in this metric.


A total of 15 vents, 5 in the front, 5 in the middle, and 5 in the back, keep the air flowing to keep your head cool. The front vents are large and scoop lots of air that runs from front to back in the helmet's air channels. Testers found the Session to keep their heads cooler than other helmets in our test selection, even on hot, sunny California summer days. The Giro Hex was our other highest rated helmet for ventilation, with a whopping 21 vents. While we found the ventilation on the new Forefront 2 to work much better than the original version, it still can't match the A/C like flow of the Session.

The Session's ventilation works well no matter how hot or sunny it gets.
The Session's ventilation works well no matter how hot or sunny it gets.

Features


The Session is a fully featured mountain bike helmet. We've already mentioned most of these features above, but here we'll lay them all out together.


First, the Session has a couple of features designed to protect your head in the event of a crash. It is equipped with a MIPS liner, the industry standard for reducing the forces of rotational impacts. Smith has also strategically placed Koroyd on both sides of the helmet, a proprietary honeycomb-like material which is intended to absorb more impact while still allowing for airflow.

The Session also features Smith's Vaporfit system, a quality, and effective size adjustment. The straps are adjustable at both the strap splitter under the ears and under the chin for a personalized fit.


The visor is also easily and highly adjustable to accommodate for goggle storage on the front of the helmet. Channels in the outermost vents on the front of the helmet are designed to fit the ear stems of sunglasses to hold them securely on your helmet when not in use.

Channels in the front vents fit the ear stems of glasses when not in use.
Channels in the front vents fit the ear stems of glasses when not in use.

Durability


So far, the Session appears to be a very durable helmet. The in-mold "Aerocore" foam is covered almost completely by the hard plastic external shell. The shell and foam fit together perfectly with no gaps or foam exposed in damage-prone areas. The outer shell is two pieces, upper and lower halves, that come together with a very clean seam in the middle of the helmet.


The Vaporfit size adjustment has and continues to work well, and the straps and padding show no signs of wear other than some salty sweat stains. The three position visor remains perfectly functional and securely locks into its positions.

Best Applications


The Session is an incredibly versatile mountain bike helmet that is well suited to all types of riding. No matter what type of riding you do, the Session is comfortable, protective, well-ventilated, and it looks good too. Half shell wearing enduro and downhill riders will also love the range of adjustment and goggle compatibility of its visor.

Value


At a retail price of $160, we feel the Session is a great value considering the protection, comfort, features, and ventilation it offers. It is one of our top-rated helmets and costs $60 less than our Editor's Choice Award winner, the POC Tectal Race SPIN. We think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better helmet for less.

Testing the Session on the trails in Downieville  CA.
Testing the Session on the trails in Downieville, CA.

Conclusion


Smith did a great job designing their new Session helmet. This versatile lid is great for all types of riding, with an outstanding combination of protection, comfort, features, and ventilation at a reasonable price. If you're looking for a new mountain bike helmet, we don't think you can go wrong with the Session.

Other Versions and Accessories


Smith makes a range of helmets for mountain and road biking for both men and women. The Session comes in three sizes, Small (51-55cm), Medium (55-59cm), and Large (59-62cm). It is available in six colors, including Matte Black, Matte White, Matte Gravy (tested), Matte Rise, Matte Acid Burst, and Matte Violet Burst.


Jeremy Benson