Sporting the ideal combination of protection from both top and side impacts and encased in a solid ABS shell, the Petzl Boreo is the most rugged and protective helmet in this review. Considering its level of comfort, low price, and great durability, this helmet is also a great candidate for our Best Bang for the Buck award, which we instead awarded to the Black Diamond Half Dome, a similarly durable and comfortable helmet that costs a few dollars less. Regardless, climbers who want a helmet that offers the most protection for their dome, while also being rugged enough to absorb more than one blow (depending on what you are unlucky enough to be beneath, of course!) should look no further than the affordable Boreo.
Petzl Boreo Review
Compare prices at 4 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 Petzl Boreo was released during the winter of 2018 and replaces the Petzl Elios helmet. It 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, such as our Editors' Choice award-winning Mammut Wall Rider. 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 snuggly 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 sat on our head, we felt like it was right up there with the Petzl Meteor, but in truth, the extra weight difference compared to the lightest helmets, like the Black Diamond Vapor, was noticeable on long days. We gave it 8 out of 10 for comfort.
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 adjust the fit around the head. This system works well and is easy to adjust. 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. This feature is very similar to that found on the Black Diamond Vector.
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 and adjustable chin strap found on the Black Diamond Half Dome.
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." This ranked it at the low end of the weight scale, as you can see in the following chart:
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 Sirocco, the difference is very noticeable. It still weighed in at an ounce or more lighter than the other ABS shell helmets we tested, such as the Mammut El Cap. 5 out of 10 points.
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 the minimally vented BD Half Dome, but of course, it is not nearly as cool as the lattice-work design found on the BD Vapor. 7 out of 10.
Like most 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 were super simple, easy to use, and held the headlamp in place great.
Only the clips found on the Black Diamond Half Dome were as good as the ones found on the Boreo. 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, such as the BD Vapor or Petzl Meteor, or simply leaving the EPP foam exposed, as helmets such as the Petzl Sirocco do. 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.
Our Top Pick as the most Rugged and Protective helmet is a great choice for anyone who is looking for great value. It is a great choice for beginner climbers, or for those who are concerned more about longevity than weight. With all-sided protection and an ABS shell, it will protect you equally as well for falling objects, as well as impacts from falling. It is very versatile, and makes a great choice for long trad climbs, ice climbing, or sport climbing, and can even be pulled into service for other adventures, such as skiing or biking if need be.
This helmet retails for $70, making it one of the more affordable models in our review. It wasn't quite as cheap as the Black Diamond Half Dome, which is why we didn't award it as our Best Bang for the Buck but offers very similar value.
The Petzl Boreo is our Top Pick as 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