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.
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Price:  $160 List | $160.00 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Well ventilated, adjustable visor, MIPS, good coverage
Cons:  Sizing runs a little big
Manufacturer:   Smith Optics
By Jeremy Benson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 10, 2019
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 11
  • Protection - 25% 8
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Ventilation - 20% 9
  • Features - 15% 8
  • Weight - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Session is a bit of a departure from the futuristic looks of Smith's 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 good coverage. This helmet also impressed us with its solid ventilation, some of 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 at a reasonable price, 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

 
This Product
Smith Session MIPS
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $160.00 at REI
Compare at 4 sellers
$200 List$219.95 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare at 3 sellers
$230.00 at REI
Compare at 4 sellers
$179.00 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Well ventilated, adjustable visor, MIPS, good coverageCrash detection system, lightweight, good ventilation, comfortable, adjustable visor, MIPS, good coverageWell ventilated, lightweight, great coverage, SPIN system, comfortableAdjustable visor, MIPS, Koroyd protection, improved ventilation, good coverageGreat ventilation, comfortable, MIPS, lightweight
Cons Sizing runs a little bigExpensiveExpensive, visor is less user friendly than the competitionExpensive, still not as ventilated as the competitionVery little visor adjustment, not as much coverage as some
Bottom Line The Session is an all-new model from Smith with great ventilation, ample coverage, and a comfortable fit.The Specialized Ambush comes with a unique crash detection system and is one of the best helmets we've tested.The Tectal Race SPIN has great protection, comfort, and ventilation in a lightweight package, making it one of our favorites.The highly anticipated Forefront 2 replaces the original with the same great fit and several notable improvements.The A2 MIPS is a comfortable, well ventilated, and lightweight helmet from Troy Lee Designs.
Rating Categories Smith Session MIPS Specialized Ambush with ANGi POC Tectal Race SPIN Smith Forefront 2 MIPS Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS
Protection (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Comfort (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Ventilation (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
Features (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
6
Weight (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Durability (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Specs Smith Session MIPS Specialized Ambush... POC Tectal Race SPIN Smith Forefront 2... Troy Lee Designs...
Rotational Impact Protection System? MIPS MIPS SL SPIN MIPS MIPS
Adjustable Visor? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, barely
Number of vents 15 20 15 20 13
Goggle or Sunglasses Guide? Yes Yes, sunglass & goggle integration Yes, Goggle Clip Sunglass & goggle integration No
Weight (Medium) (Ounces) 13.36 oz, 379g size M 12.35 oz, 350g, size Large 12.87 oz, 365g 13.19 oz, 374g size M 13.26 oz, 376g
Sizes S - L S - L XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL S - L XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL

Our Analysis and Test Results

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 match the highest rated models in our test, but it is highly regarded among our testers.

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 is the primary function of a mountain bike helmet and the Session provides a high level of it. 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 the POC Tectal or Specialized Ambush, both of which come slightly lower on both the temples and back of the head, but it's pretty close.

The Session also employs 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 quite comfortable. 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 doesn't have quite as deep of a fit as the POC Tectal, but it doesn't feel like it sits high on the head either. 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 and MIPS liner.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ventilation


We are very impressed by the Session's ventilation. It is one of the highest-scoring models 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 most other helmets in our test selection, even on hot, sunny California summer days.

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.

The Specialized Ambush with ANGi ended up topping the charts for ventilation, with 20 vents and huge internal air channels that move lots of air to keep you cool. The Troy Lee A2 MIPS also edges in front of the Session for ventilation with an air scooping vent design. 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.

Features


The Session is a fully featured mountain bike helmet. We've already mentioned many of this helmet's protective and comfort features in the sections above, like MIPS, Koroyd, the Vaprofit adjustment, and the straps, but it also has an adjustable visor.


The adjustable visor has three positions and is quickly and easily adjusted. It attaches by 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.

Channels in the outermost vents on the front of the Session are also designed to fit the ear stems of sunglasses to hold them securely on your helmet when not in use. A helmet storage bag is also included.

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.

Weight


Weighing in at 379 grams or 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 Specialized Ambush with ANGi weighs in just 29 grams lighter. For comparison, the Oakley DRT5 is one of the heavier models we tested at 476 grams and offers a similar level of protection and comfort as the Session.

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

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. Those seeking the utmost coverage will be better off checking out the POC Tectal or the Specialized Ambush.

Value


We feel the Session is a great value considering the protection, comfort, features, and ventilation it offers. We loved this helmet, and it costs a fair amount less than many of the other helmets in this review. We think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better helmet for less.

Head tester Jeremy Benson testing the Session on the trails in Downieville  CA.
Head tester Jeremy Benson testing the Session on the trails in Downieville, CA.

Conclusion


Smith did a great job designing the 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 eight colors, including Matte Black, Matte White, Matte Gravy (tested), Matte Moss-Vapor, Matte Red Rock-Petrol, and Matte Citron-Deep Ink-Peony, Matte Indigo-Peony-Iceberg, and Matte Mauve-Black.


Jeremy Benson