The Bern Baker HardHat is a now-classic model from a well established company. Bern makes some interesting choices in their design and business, but provides a quality product. On our test roster, the Baker HardHat is the least expensive and nails average to above average performance scores. This combination is exactly what we look for in the product we choose for our Best Buy award. If you are looking for more nuanced design and performance, including safety certifications, look at our Editors' Choice winning Smith Vantage. If you are an adventurous skier that travels near and wide, and at least occasionally goes into the backcountry, check out our Top Pick Giro Montane for its light weight and modular, portable design.
Bern Baker HardHat Review
Cons: Bold look and no safety certifications.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bern Baker vs. The Baker HardHat
Our Best Buy award winner has been removed from the Bern production line. In its place is the Bern Team Baker. The manufacturer has informed us that the new Team Baker utilizes the same single fit system and snap-in ear pads that were found on the HardHat. Setting it apart from its predecessor, the Team Baker features certified EPS hard foam under the ABS shell. This new dome protector is also less expensive, with a list price of $80.Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the Team Baker shown on the left and the Baker HardHat pictured on the right.
The Bern Baker HardHat is by far the least expensive helmet in our test, the only one with a truly monolithic injection-molded look, and the only helmet that is not safety certified.
Fit and Comfort
The Bern Baker, made with a neutral intermediate oval shape and thick liner foam, offers one of the most forgiving helmet fits in our test. To accomplish this, while remaining secure on the head and not using complicated cables and tensioning systems, is quite a feat and a testament to Bern's long history in the field of ski and snowboard helmets. The construction is simple but effective.
Weight and Bulk
This helmet is the heaviest in our test, but this went largely unnoticed by our testing team. Interestingly, and perhaps a function of Bern's choice to not pursue safety certification, the Baker HardHat is one of the lowest profile and closest fitting helmets in our test. Generally, injection molded helmets like this one are bulky and stick out from the wearer's head. The Baker, however, is relatively thin and close. The smooth outer shell makes sliding a hood on and off a breeze. In short, the bulk is low while the weight is high. Overall score in this category, then, is almost exactly average.
With no vents and thick, conforming ear covers, the Baker HardHat is among the warmest in our test. The ear covers of the Bern are secure and let in little draft. Overall, these ear covers are snug and warm.
The lack of vents in the shell of the Bern Baker HardHat can seem like a significant liability in terms of temperature flexibility. However, in actual application, the greatest ventilating feature is removable ear covers. Of all the helmets we tested, the HardHat has the most easily removed ear covers, which means that the user can start out fully battened down on a cold morning and easily peel some insulation for the hot afternoon. Certainly, there are conditions that warrant, and people that require, a quicker ventilation option. In these rare cases, something like the 21 sealable holes in the shell of our Editors' Choice Smith Vantage will allow the user to somewhat customize the airflow from one run to the next. However, in application our testers found that what might appear to be a significant difference between the Baker and the in-molded helmets is actually not a problem at all.
Just like with all helmets we tested, certain goggle shapes work better with the Baker than others. Models that work well with the greatest number of goggles earned higher scores. Once you are set up with goggles that work well, however, our overall goggle compatibility score is unimportant. Among the helmets we tested, the Baker HardHat is compatible with the fewest goggle styles. The face opening on the Bern is smaller than most, necessitating smaller goggle profiles. Once you choose goggles that work, the Baker will perform well.
The Baker has the most polarizing style in our test. While products like the Smith Variance and Giro Seam appeal to a broad spectrum of possible users, the Hells Angels look of the HardHat isn't for everyone. The monolithic shape and sculpted brim give a refined impression, while maintaining a stylistic edginess. While the aesthetics are indeed aggressive, one middle-aged female tester, certainly a demographic for which this look wouldn't be a first choice, was able to pull it off just fine.
Bern has a strong reputation for making protective headwear. For reasons beyond the scope of this review, they choose to not seek safety certification for their products. This helps keep prices down, but makes their equipment inappropriate for users that are required to wear a helmet in a professional setting. This is an excellent piece for an occasional user or for one that wears a helmet as much for warmth and style as for actual crash protection.
Again, if the lack of safety certification isn't a problem to you, the Bern Baker HardHat is an excellent value. It is warm, comfortable, stylish, and inexpensive. Injection-molded construction is remarkably durable and will last a long time.
With above-average performance scores and the lowest price in our test, the HardHat was an easy choice for our Best Buy award. Proceed with your purchase knowing that Bern has opted to not seek safety certification, but have confidence that this helmet will at least protect you from cold, branches, and wind. And in a more violent crash it is, in our opinion, better than wearing nothing at all.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 26, 2016
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