The Giro Union MIPS vs. The Montane
Giro has dropped the award-winning Montane from their line of ski helmets, and the Giro Union MIPS is now available to fill the void. This new helmet introduces differences in construction and features. The Union utilizes Multi-directional Impacts Protection System (MIPS) technology in its construction, and maintains a low-profile design. This new dome protector also has adjustable vents and XT2 anti-odor protection, aimed to give you more control in your helmet's ventilation and keep your smell factor low. Ready for your next rad snowsport film-making adventure (or hilarious blooper reel), the Union also comes with a POV camera mount. This new model does cost $20 more than the Montane, ringing in at $150. We haven't had the opportunity to test this new helmet yet, but hope that performs on a similar or better level as the Montane, which we were quite fond of.
Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the Union MIPS shown on the left and the Montane pictured on the right.
The Montane is ultralight, with just a couple of features that make it more suitable for exploratory and backcountry skiing.
Top Pick Giro Montane on Mammoth Mountain.
Fit and Comfort
The Montane, like the Giro Seam is shaped to fit long oval shaped heads. Most of the helmets in our test from other manufacturers are contoured to fit intermediate and rounder heads. If you are in the minority that has an elongated and skinny head, you'll be psyched on the Giro fit. Even if you have a more round head, don't be afraid to try on the Montane. The wheel and cable RocLoc fit system adjusts the circumference as well as the shape of the primary contact points. This sort of system, similar to what is found in our Editors' Choice Smith Vantage, allows for a little more forgiving fit. The chin strap, ear flaps and the entire skull liner are soft foam, fleece and mesh. All can be removed for laundering.
Weight and Bulk
The Montane is by far the lightest helmet in our test. The in-molded construction and lightweight auxiliary hardware and pieces are all optimized for low weight and low profile. In normal ski resort use this is valuable for reducing neck strain and allowing easy hood deployment. Low weight really comes into its own in the backcountry, when you may be carrying the helmet for hours and hours. In a ski world where more and more people are heading out of bounds, and more and more people are wearing helmets, it is nice that Giro is considering more adventurous users in their designs.
The ultra light construction of the Giro Montane is welcome in the backcountry, as well as on warm and slushy spring days in bounds.
This is not the warmest helmet in our test. In fact, on account of the thin and flimsy ear pads that allow drafts in, it is the draftiest in our test. If you purchase this helmet for backcountry usage, however, this shouldn't be a huge problem. It is less common to ski in the backcountry in really poor weather. More importantly, backcountry skiing is more physical, even on the way down, than ski resort use. We almost always dress lighter for the backcountry than under similar conditions at the resort. You'll be the warmest climbing up in the backcountry, slightly cooler while skiing down, but a lot cooler at any point in a ski resort day. We chose the Montane as our Top Pick for its backcountry performance, both in terms of light weight and in terms of minimal insulation value.
In all the helmets we tested there are inherent tradeoffs between a product's warmth and ventilation. The warmest helmets have fixed, tensioned ear covers and thick shells. The best ventilating helmets are lower profile, and most importantly, have removable ear pieces. The Giro Montane fits under this latter description. More vent holes let in marginally more air, but the greatest cooling effect in any helmet comes with the option to remove the ear pieces. Even with the minimalist ear pieces on the Montane, a fair amount of air can flow around.
The Smith Variance on the right and the Top Pick winning Giro Montane on the left. Two in-molded helmets couldn't be more different. The Smith is heavy and warm, while the Montane is ultralight and vents well.
In the interface between a user's helmet and goggles, the forehead interface is the most important part. Helmets with the best goggle compatibility have a single radiused forehead profile. All helmets must be curved to match a human forehead, but some are shaped to go straight across above the user's eyebrows, while others are curved up, higher over the center of the forehead than they are over the corners of your eyes. The Giro Montane has a dual radius forehead profile. This design somewhat limits the number of available goggles. As is typical across the board, helmets and goggles designed to work together will mesh more reliably than any other combination. Giro makes a small selection of goggles that work very well with the Montane. More than with other helmets we tested, we recommend shopping carefully for goggles.
The Giro Montane had below-average goggle compatibility scores. The radiused forehead area made fitting goggles a bit problematic. However, it only takes a little searching and trying to find a suitable gear combination.
The look of the Montane is not our favorite. Perhaps it is the high forehead, or the rounded lines, but the Montane never inspired high style marks. Again, though, if you choose the Montane for its backcountry chops, fewer people will be seeing you anyway.
A couple award winners. And some OutdoorGearLab helmets. The green Smith Vantage and the blue Top Pick winning Giro Montane.
The Montane is an excellent all-around helmet, with a purpose built backcountry acumen. The light weight as well as the clever Trip Clip system endeared it to our backcountry-oriented testers. The Trip Clip is simply the goggle elastic, disengaged and reversed to the inside. Pull the elastic tight and clip it to your pack with the included small carabiner. This is an elegant solution to the flopping helmet. A swinging helmet is annoying at best, and the Montane's Trip Clip eliminates this. Now, it is worth noting that many backcountry packs have integrated helmet attachment methods that also eliminate swing. Consider the Trip Clip to be a special perk on a lightweight and unique-fitting safety helmet.
As always, helmet and goggle fit influences the users experience a great deal. Aim for a seamless fit like this combination.
The Montane is an average priced piece of equipment. For specialized or general use it will last well and protect you as thoroughly as any other similarly certified product on the market.
Twins in award winning helmets. The blue Top Pick Giro Montane and the black Best Buy Baker HardHat.
On first inspection, the Montane seemed like a generic, average product. With further investigation, testing, and usage, particularly in the wild away from chair lifts, the subtleties of this product came to be more appreciated. If you fancy yourself an adventurous skier, valuing low weight and backcountry features, check out the Montane.
All the award winning ski and snowboard helmets, on Chair 9, Mammoth Mountain. Left to right: Giro Montane, Bern Baker HardHat, Smith Vantage.