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Hands-on Gear Review
Petzl Elia - Women's Review
Cons: Have to adjust it every time you put it on, only one size available.
Bottom line: A good choice for those with a lot of hair.
The Petzl Elia is the only helmet on the market today that has been designed specifically for women, and as such we've given it our Top Pick for Women award. All of the other "women's" models that we tested were really just a small version of the men's with "female" colorways, which we understand since there's not a huge difference between the male and female noggin. Petzl, on the other hand, took their popular Elios helmet and converted it into a women's version by redesigning the suspension system and creating a cutout for your ponytail. If you're a lady (or a man) with a lot of hair, you know the struggle is real. It can be difficult to tighten many models effectively, or the suspension and tightening system pushes against your ponytail uncomfortably and makes it fall out. Our lady testers truly appreciated the design and comfort of this model, as did our male testers with long hair, though they weren't so sure about the color choices! We are a little disappointed that this is only available on their ABS helmet, though, and would love to see it on the Petzl Meteor in the future. If you're looking for a lighter and more ventilated foam helmet, both our Editors' Choice winner, the Mammut Wall Rider, and our Top Pick for Lightweight, the Petzl Sirocco, could accommodate a ponytail through the suspension webbing.
RELATED REVIEW: The 12 Best Climbing Helmets
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Petzl Elia has an ABS shell and an expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner. It comes in one size only, (50-58 cm), and three colors, white, green and a "red" which is on the pink side. This helmet comes with a cutout tightening system to accommodate a ponytail that is tied at the nape of your neck.
The Petzl Elia was the most comfortable of the ABS style helmets that we tested, and as such we've given it high marks for this category.
The main way that this helmet is so comfortable is the OMEGA ponytail system. How many long haired women have been climbing with a helmet, only to have to uncomfortably squish their ponytail under the back? It's hard to wear it all day when it feels that awkward. Pigtails are one solution, but sometimes those get in the way too, and there is no way you can leave long hair flowing over your shoulders while climbing a long route. (Heaven forbid it gets snagged in your belay device!) The Elia solves this problem by taking the band that goes around the back of the head and molding it in an upward curve so that there is a perfect slot for a ponytail. This band adjusts in two ways: up and down so you can pick the appropriate height on your head, and width-wise so you can fit the circumference of your head. These adjustments make it so the helmet fits snugly and comfortably on your head, and still leaves room for your long hair, should you have it.
We also liked the single chin strap, for less bulk under our chin, and there's some soft padding at the brow so that the plastic band isn't rubbing against your forehead. Because the whole band slides up and down, we felt a gentle pressure around our entire head, as opposed to on just one spot in the back where some helmets have a tightening knob.
The tensioning system on this helmet takes some getting used to, and it wasn't the easiest or most intuitive system. It's also only available in one size, so those who fall outside of the range (50-58 cm) maybe have trouble getting a good fit.
Instead of a tightening knob or slider at the back, there is one on each side of the head, and the whole plastic mechanism also rotates up and down a few degrees. While the Petzl Elios can be adjusted once and then left that way, this helmet needs some slight adjusting every time you put it on. It is difficult to use the slider adjustments on the top of the helmet while wearing gloves, and occasionally they stick if there is grit in them.
We did like the single chin strap, which can be adjusted with one hand, unlike the doubled-up strap found on some helmets like the CAMP USA Armour. There are no sliders to adjust the helmet up around your ears though, which made it not quite as stable on our heads as the ones that have it, like the Petzl Elios. Because it is available in one size only, it might not work for every woman (or man with a ponytail). It fit our female tester's 56 cm head well, but those with much smaller heads might want to check out the "ladies" version of the CAMP Armour instead.
This helmet was actually the lightest ABS style helmet that we tested (10.1 ounces) though part of that weight savings probably comes from it being slightly smaller than the Size 2 and M/L sizes that we tested and weighed every other helmet in.
While it wasn't as light as our Top Pick for Lightweight, the 6.1 ounce Petzl Sirocco or the 7 ounce Black Diamond Vapor, the Elia did have the smallest profile, at only 27 inches circumference.
There's nothing like climbing on a hot day to make you not want to wear a helmet, and the older-style ABS helmets are notorious for poor ventilation. This helmet actually had better ventilation than the other hard plastic models that we tested, and we gave it a 7/10 for this category.
There are seven different vents at multiple levels on each side to encourage airflow. The OMEGA headband system keeps the shell up a little off your head as well, which in turn keeps you cooler.
The headlamp attachment on this helmet is fairly easy to use. The clips are secure, but not too tight as to be impossible to get a headlamp strap under.
Once you have a headlamp on it does sit over the adjustment tabs on the side of the helmet, but we were still able to operate them. This helmet is also compatible with Petzl's VIZION eye shield for ice climbing.
We were impressed with the Durability of the ABS plastic used on this helmet, and it received a high score for this category.
In addition to the tried and true ABS plastic, which lasts for years, the chin strap uses a normal buckle, unlike the magnetic one used on the Petzl Meteor and Sirocco models. That buckle loses functionality once it gets dirty, so we appreciate a standard (and smaller) buckle that will last a long time instead.
The Petzl Elia is a fantastic all-around helmet. It can be worn on long trad climbs, ice climbs, or for single pitches. The hard plastic shell is durable, so it will last for years. And best of all, it accommodates your ponytail. Men with long hair might even want to consider this helmet as well (if they can get a good fit), and it comes in a "gender neutral" white.
This helmet retails for $65. This is a great price point for something that will last for years, barring a catastrophic hit. However, it's still a heavier and less breathable ABS style helmet, which, when given the choice, we'd rather not wear. Consider bumping up instead to the Mammut Wall Rider, our Editors' Choice winner, which is a lightweight hybrid option.
The Petzl Elia is a great choice for anyone looking for an ABS hardshell-style helmet that also has a lot of hair. In the future, we'd love to see the ponytail design option available on even lighter and more breathable EPS style models.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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