Edelrid Salathe Review
Cons: Pricey, adjustment harness is limited in range, v-yolk doesn’t clear ears
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Our Analysis and Test Results
John Salathe (pronounced Sah-la-thay) was a Yosemite climbing pioneer who made the first big wall ascents in the valley, including the Lost Arrow Spire and the famous chimney route — the Steck/Salathe — on Sentinal Rock. The Salathe Wall on El Cap was named in his honor by the first ascensionists, and is now perhaps the most famous free climb in the world. The Edelrid Salathe helmet is the perfect choice for any of these iconic long routes, as its light weight will minimize fatigue over the course of long days, and its EPP foam construction will protect you from falling objects from above as well as from head trauma should you hit your head in a fall. Its shape is a bit different from the other similar lightweight helmets made by Petzl or Mammut, so if you are having trouble finding the perfect fit for your head, this one may be a good bet. That said, we found its minimalist webbing harness system to be the poorest adjusting of any in this review, and in particular, it was difficult for us to get the v-yolk to fit correctly around our ears.
How comfortable this helmet is for you will depend on your head shape, as foam helmets such as this one are molded in a certain shape that cannot be adjusted if it doesn't fit you just right. The fit is rather deep and slightly oblong, closer to the fit of Petzl helmets than to that of Mammut foam options. We tested the larger of the two sizes, and while the fit will depend on the individual, we did not find the helmet large enough to wear a beanie or visor on beneath it.
Our main complaints with discomfort come from the fit of the v-yolk around the ears. Basically, it doesn't hang down from the helmet far enough, and the webbing is simply too short. While it is adjustable in some ways, no matter how we adjusted it we had to choose between having the yolk go over the ears, which is particularly annoying, having it bite in behind the ears, or having the chin strap apply far too much pressure against the throat. While you may not have the same problems we did, we simply point out that the very similar webbing harnesses in competing helmets fit us just fine with no discomfort.
In general, lightweight helmets with simple webbing harnesses offer the least adjustable fits, and are nowhere near as adjustable or as convenient as either slider bar or click wheel adjustment systems. Of all the similar designs that we've tested, we found this one to be particularly difficult, mostly because the webbing is a bit too short to give the widest range of options, and because there are bar tacks sewn into the v-yolk that block how far the chin strap can slide forward or back. As mentioned, the v-yolk was difficult for us to adjust to fit comfortably around the ears, but when we did manage a comfortable enough fit, then the chin strap was too tight against our throats, with the unnecessary bar tacking blocking a more comfortable adjustment.
The plastic slider buckles where the webbing can be adjusted have teeth on them to better hold the webbing in place, but we found this feature to be unnecessary, as the webbing doesn't tend to move on its own anyway, and the teeth make it difficult enough to slide the buckles that you must take the helmet off. On the rear of the head there is a single pull tab that tightens the fit.
The larger of the two versions of this helmet weighed in at 7.7 ounces on our independent scale, which is pretty darn light. There are still a few helmets in this review that came in lighter, however, but when wearing it for many hours on long multi-pitch routes we never felt as if our helmet was heavy and weighing down on our head.
One of the great advantages of lightweight foam construction is that it allows for a myriad of ventilation openings. This helmet has 17 total vents, including some rather large ones on the front over the forehead. While it doesn't have the most vent holes, it offers plenty of spaces for hot air to escape. However, we found that the fit doesn't afford much room for air to circulate within the helmet, and climbing on pleasant spring days, found that we could easily work up a sweat and soak the absorbent pads on the inside, suggesting that it still runs a bit hot.
To attach a headlamp, or ski goggles as Edelrid recommends, one simply needs to slide the band up underneath two plastic clips on the front, and then attach it in the back via the single elastic strap. We found the clips very easy to use, and after one or two practices, thought it was straightforward and easy to put a headlamp or goggles on this helmet without taking it off. In fact, this is the easiest of all of the similar designs with an elastic strap in back to use, mostly due to the perfect amount of tension and accessibility of the front clips, which are not overly tight or recessed to prevent easy access.
This helmet is made entirely of EPP foam, which is a bit more resilient than EPS foam, and so does not need to be completely covered with a polycarbonate shell. The foam has the ability to spring back after taking minor blows, but can become a bit nicked up if you treat it roughly, so be careful how you place it in your pack. It comes with a stuff sack cover to keep it looking nice and unscratched while transporting or storing it, but we used it for many months without this sack and cosmetically the foam is still in great shape.
This helmet is not cheap, but is priced a bit lower than many of the other top end foam climbing helmets. Considering the performance, we think it provides pretty solid value as long as it fits you correctly and you don't experience the issues with the v-yolk fit that we did. While we like other EPP helmets a bit better, ultimately fit and comfort are the deciding factors for each individual, and if this one fits the best, there is no reason it won't serve you well for a long time.
The Edelrid Salathe is a viable lightweight helmet that offers impact protection from the top, sides, and rear, making it one of the best and most versatile options. While it is nearly double the price of the least expensive helmets, we think you are far more likely to wear your helmet, and enjoy wearing it, with a lightweight foam option such as this one.
— Andy Wellman