The Petzl Elia is one of the only helmets 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 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 (now discontinued) 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. Despite the women-friendly design, this ABS shell helmet is heavy and not exactly a top performer, although it is equipped to handle any sort of climbing adventure you might dream up.
Petzl Elia - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Accommodates a ponytail, durable, easy to adjust chin strap, removable and washable foam padding.
Cons: Have to adjust it every time you put it on, only one size available.
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Our Analysis and 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 tied at the nape of your neck.
The Petzl Elia is the most comfortable of the ABS style helmets that we tested, and as such we've given it high marks for this category.
The first 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 squish their ponytail under the back uncomfortably? 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 like 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 the 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 isn'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. Unfortunately, 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 like the single chin strap, which you can adjust with one hand. There are no slider buckles to adjust the helmet up around your ears though, which made it not quite as stable on our heads like the ones that have this feature. Because it is available in one size only, it might not work for every woman (or man with a ponytail). It did fit our female tester's 56 cm head well.
This helmet is 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 isn't as light as EPS or EPP foam style helmets, the Elia does 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 has better ventilation than the other hard plastic models that we tested, so we rated it the highest 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 better ventilated.
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 it.
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 durable standard buckle, in contrast to other Petzl models that use the magnetic buckle, which has some noticable downsides.
This helmet retails for a great price point for something that will last for years, barring a catastrophic hit. Its MSRP is roughly the same as the other ABS style helmets in this review, so you don't have to pay a premium for a unique design. However, it's still a heavier and less breathable ABS style helmet, which, when given a choice, we'd rather not wear if we have the choice of wearing a lightweight foam one instead.
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