Petzl Boreo Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable, very protective, versatile for many different types of climbing, affordable
Cons: Heavy, not as adjustable as others
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Boreo was updated by Petzl in 2020. While we have not had a chance to test the newest version yet, as far as we can tell it remains virtually the exact same, but with a variety of new colors to choose from. Most notably, it now also comes in a women's version, the Borea, which has a notch in the sliding adjustment band in the rear so pony tails will sit better. This review describes the older version of the Boreo, which was released in 2018, and again, seems virtually the same as the new version.
The Petzl Boreo has some great qualities, as well as a few drawbacks. The top of the head is protected from falling rocks or other debris by super heavy duty EPS foam, while the rest of the head is protected from knocks or impacts due to falling by slightly lighter weight EPP foam. Both of these foam layers are encased in a hard plastic ABS shell, which not only protects the foam and increases the durability and longevity of your helmet but also disperses the load of any impact so the foam can more easily absorb it through deformation. Simply put: this helmet is very protective and durable. It also comes at an excellent price and is fairly comfortable.
There are also a few downsides. For one, it is far heavier than the state of the art lightweight foam helmets available these days. It also lacks the adjustability of the chin strap found on many models. It comes in two sizes — S/M and M/L — but we found our size M/L to be a bit smaller than comparable Black Diamond sizes, a slight concern for those with very large heads, but a benefit to those who prefer smaller sizes.
The Petzl Boreo is one of the more comfortable helmets in this review. Its adjustment system does a great job of holding it snugly to the head, limiting any sort of jostling movement when climbing. It has removable fuzzy pads on both the top of the head and the forehead area that provide adequate cushioning. In terms of how well it sits on the head, we feel like it is right up there with the best, but in truth, the extra weight difference compared to the lightest helmets is noticeable on long days.
The adjustment system on this helmet is straightforward and easy to use but lacks some of the buckles and adjustment points that make a very highly tuned fit possible. Like most helmets in this review, it has a light plastic strap across the back of the head with dual adjustable buckles and corresponding grooves that adjusts the fit around the head. This system works well and is easy to manipulate. We recommend first opening the helmet up all the way, putting it on, then sliding the buckles together until the most comfortable and secure fit is found.
However, this is also one of the few helmets in this review that has fixed and sewn v-yokes for the chin strap where it splits off from the straps that surround the ears. The ear straps themselves can be adjusted with the helmet off reasonably easily, but without the typical adjustment points for the chin strap, there is a chance some people won't end up with a perfectly comfortable fit. For maximum ease of adjustability, we still prefer the click wheel combined with an adjustable chin strap.
Our size M/L Boreo helmet weighed in at 11 ounces on an independent scale. The M/L size designation is the same as other Petzl helmets labeled as "size 2." Frankly, for the amount of foam and ABS shell protection that you get when wearing this helmet, it seems remarkable that it only weighs 11 ounces. However, for those who have spent a long day wearing only the ultra-light Petzl helmets, the difference is very noticeable.
The Boreo has offset vents in the ABS shell versus the EPP foam beneath it, such that some of the foam is visible, an interesting visual effect. However, the net takeaway is that there are eight total vents, of reasonable size; four on each side of the head. This helmet sits right in the middle of the range for ventilation. Notably, the adjustability of the vents found in the older Elios model, which this one replaces, is now gone. On hot days we felt far more airflow than with other minimally vented ABS shell helmets, but of course, it is not nearly as cool as the lattice-work designs found on the lightest weight foam helmets.
Like many helmets, the Boreo sports four clips on each of the "corners" of the helmet designed to hold a headlamp firmly in place. Unlike many of the designs employed these days, the clips on the Boreo are super simple, easy to use, and hold the headlamp in place great.
Gone are the old indents in the Elios that made the clips hard to hold open. On his first try, with the helmet on his head and no mirror to look into, our head tester managed to easily secure his headlamp in place in less than 10 seconds. We also found that a little tooth on the underside of each clip effectively grips the headlamp band, holding it in place over the long term.
For full disclosure, we did not have time to wear and test this helmet for multiple seasons before releasing this review. However, we did store it dangling from the outside of our pack for the multiple months of testing we put it through, just so that it would have more opportunities to get thrown around and banged up. It withstood this abbreviated test quite well!
There is no debating that the thick hard shells found on the outside of ABS helmets are incredibly more durable and longer lasting than either the thin polycarbonate plastic shells found on many helmets these days, or helmets simply leaving the EPP foam exposed. Frankly, the durability and longevity of a helmet are dependent on how large of a blow it takes. Avoid a significant knock, and this helmet could last you for many years or even longer.
On the other hand, all helmets, even ABS style helmets, are only designed to protect you from one hefty impact and should be retired afterward. The impact resistance comes from deformation of the various types of protective foam, and once they have been deformed, they should not be counted on to resist another impact. Regardless, the Boreo has the most protective foam found in any helmet in this review, paired with an ABS shell. That is why we call it the most protective and rugged, and its durability will depend on what happens to it.
This helmet is one of the more affordable models in our review. It isn't quite as cheap as our Best Bang for the Buck award winner, but still presents a similar value.
The Petzl Boreo is quite possibly the most rugged and protective helmet in this review. If protecting your dome piece at all costs is your number one priority, then we don't think you could find a better option. It is also affordable, reasonably comfortable, and accommodates a headlamp very well. While the very lightest helmets are tantalizing, the Boreo is one you can rely on.
— Andy Wellman