According to all of our testing and the opinions of multiple people who climbed in it, the Petzl Sirocco is the best climbing helmet that you can buy. It is far and away the lightest climbing helmet in our review, a trait that has quite a bit of carry-over into other attributes as well, such as comfort. Lighter helmets are more comfortable, but we also found this helmet to be deeper and slightly more "head-shaped" than some other shallower and rounder versions, increasing the comfort level. We applaud the mix of lightweight, resilient EPP foam, augmented with a more impact resistant EPS plate over the top of the head where one might be hit by falling rocks or ice, combined with the hard plastic exterior plate for greater durability. In short, this helmet perfectly blends the competing desires of safety and lightweight to be the most comfortable, and is therefore the most likely model that we would wear for every pitch. Whether for sport or trad climbing, alpine, or even ski mountaineering, the Sirocco is a perfect choice.
Petzl Sirocco Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Super light, very comfortable, great ventilation, versatile for use while ski mountaineering, protects all sides of head
Cons: Not as durable as ABS options, expensive, less easily adjustable, magnetic buckle not for everyone
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sirocco is Petzl's top of the line helmet, made with a combination of many different materials. The entire helmet is EPP foam, which is a bit softer and more resilient than EPS foam, and can take multiple blows without cracking. However, it doesn't provide quite as substantial impact protection as EPS foam, so an EPS plate is inserted on the inside on the crown of the head to give extra security against impacts from falling objects. The same area of the head, the crown, is protected on the outside by a hard polycarbonate shell that increases the durability, so there is less concern about needing to retire the helmet after "smaller" impacts, preserving its foam for the more significant ones. It uses a very lightweight webbing harness system to hold itself firmly in place on the head. The inside of the helmet includes a couple of foam pads covered in soft felt to cushion the head against the foam, and your purchase comes with an extra set of these pads, attachable via Velcro, to swap out if the first pair flatten out or get too funky from sweat. It also comes with a soft felt sack for storage, not a terrible thing to carry it around in to protect the exposed EPP external foam. Lastly, attachment holes for Petzl's VIZION eye-shield, a flip down visor for use while ice climbing, are pre-drilled on the sides. In addition to being a fantastic climbing helmet, it is CE certified as a ski mountaineering helmet (different than the certification for downhill skiing helmets) and is a great lightweight option for all types of mountain pursuits.
Our testers unanimously agreed that the Sirocco is the most comfortable climbing helmet among those we tested. This consensus is in large part due to how light it is, which we also grade for down below, but can't help but notice when assessing for comfort. Simply put, less weight means less discomfort, especially over a long day. One tester who repeatedly asked to wear only the Sirocco summed it up best, "I love this helmet because I never even notice that I have it on. With all of the others, I know I am wearing a helmet."
Much like the other lightweight EPP foam options, the Sirocco pads the head on the inside with tiny cushion inserts, providing a replacement pair as well. While we thought these could be thicker, the reality is they are all that is needed to cushion the head. While plenty of other helmets are also very comfortable, they can't all claim to be as "unnoticeable" as the Sirocco.
This helmet uses a minimalist and lightweight webbing harness system to hold it on the head, and while we found it worked well enough, it wasn't the easiest to adjust, nor did it allow the widest range of adjustment. For instance, the webbing on the back of the head is only adjustable via one plastic buckle on one side of the head, versus two of the same sort of buckles on the most other helmets with a similarly minimalist webbing design, which allow for better centering of the helmet on the head if you need to tighten it up considerably. The Sirocco comes for sale in two different sizes, with some overlap between the two, but if your head doesn't fit the sizing perfectly, it may not feel quite as comfortable.
The other adjustable parts of the helmet are the location on the v-yoke of the chin strap, which is nice to fine-tune. This adjustment is easy to manipulate and is much appreciated. The chin strap itself is also adjustable, as you would expect. In the end, we feel this helmet is adjustable enough, but if this is a primary consideration, far more adjustable models are probably worth checking out first.
The magnetic buckle feature is worth mentioning here. Our testers found this feature to be somewhat gimmicky for rock climbing. On a few occasions, magnetic properties in the sediment where we laid our helmet would attract to the buckle's magnet, making it harder to fully latch the buckle. Sure, this didn't happen every time, but it is very much possible. There is also an advantage to this buckle system. Our testers reported that when wearing gloves (alpine climbing, ice climbing, etc), it makes latching the buckle vastly easier than other models' simple, non-magnetic buckles. Again, nothing huge here, but worth noting, as it can be slightly frustrating or slightly more appealing, depending on your usage.
The large version of this helmet weighs 6.1 ounces, as verified by our independent scale. That's crazy lightweight for a climbing helmet, and we've tested a great many of them.
While some people may consider all of these helmets to be light, our experience is that the heavier ABS shell helmets add a considerable amount of fatigue to a long day, and are thus less comfortable. Also, the lighter a helmet is, the more likely you are to wear it all the time, and this is the only way that it can truly protect you as a climber.
This helmet offers incredible ventilation, and by our count has 24 vents scattered throughout the front, sides, and back, providing ventilation coverage that is as good as any of the best helmets you can buy.
We particularly like the two large vent holes on the front of the helmet, which seem to cool our forehead a bit in a breeze, and help provide an "airy-er" feel than the helmets that didn't include these front vents. Although the layout of vents and actual ventilated space is slightly different, we think this helmet is right in line with other top choices as some of the best ventilated you can choose.
The headlamp attachment system is a combination of two clips on the front of the helmet, and one elastic bungee held in place by a hook on the back of the helmet. While the front clips are slightly recessed, we found it very easy and quick to add our headlamps to the top, and the bungee in the back is faster and easier than two additional clips. The bungee helps hold headlamps with a large rear battery pack more firmly in place than the four clip model and is designed to be versatile for holding ski goggle straps in place as well, an ideal and necessary feature for ski mountaineers.
One of our testers found that with a massive front battery style headlamp, the light weight of the helmet allowed it to be pulled down over the forehead while walking, so that may not be the best design for use with this helmet. While we found the four-clip systems to be perhaps even more straightforward and more natural, there's no arguing they aren't as versatile for skiing or mountaineering.
There is no question that this helmet is more durable than the original Sirocco, the all-foam light orange colored one. Even though plenty of softer EPP foam is left exposed on the outside, we noticed no dings, scrapes, or dents from our test period, and we weren't all that careful to protect it while carrying it around and didn't use the provided felt sack either. The hard polycarbonate shell top is hard, and not prone to deformation.
Worth pointing out is that our assessment of the durability is only for the cosmetic durability and everyday wear and tear over the course of a few years of climbing. We are saying nothing about the ability to protect from impacts or falls. However, this helmet does meet CE and UIAA standards for those instances.
This helmet is not cheap. It ties as the second most expensive helmet in this review, due in large part to the EPP foam used to construct such a lightweight helmet. In this case, you are certainly getting what you pay for, and while it is more than double the cost of our Best Buy winner, it is also more than doubly enjoyable to wear. We think it presents fantastic value, especially if it inspires you to wear it more often, as it did for some of our testers.
The Petzl Sirocco is the lightest and most comfortable climbing helmet you can buy. These reasons alone make it worthy of our Editors' Choice award as the best overall, and it is also our top scorer. If you can afford the slightly elevated price tag, we don't think there is any reason to look further.
— Andy Wellman