Searching for the best climbing helmet? We bought 13 of the most popular options to test side-by-side as we continue building on our extensive experience with more than 40 different climbing helmets over more than a decade of testing. With the possibility of being struck in the head from falling rock or ice or slamming your head into the wall after an out-of-control fall, wearing a helmet while climbing is simply a good idea. Our team of experts takes these helmets cragging on single-pitch routes, up long adventurous trad climbs, and on multi-day alpine objectives. We carefully evaluate each helmet across six performance metrics: comfort, adjustability, weight, ventilation, features and durability. No matter your preferred climbing style, there are solid helmets available at every price point.
Editors' Note: This review was updated on May 15, 2023, to add new information to our scoring metrics, remove low-scoring and discontinued products, retest updated helmets from CAMP and Black Diamond, and add new helmets from Black Diamond, Smith, and Julbo.
Weight: 9.7 oz. | Shell Style: EPP and EPS, ABS Shell with MIPS
REASONS TO BUY
Includes MIPS technology
Very comfortable and highly adjustable
Side impact protection from EPP foam
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the lightest
We consider the Black Diamond Vision MIPS the best climbing helmet on the market today. The addition of the MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) harness – technology that is now standard in both bike and ski helmets – reportedly reduces the chances of concussion by deflecting certain impacts and reducing impact forces. We see no reason this technology should not become standard in climbing helmets. The Vision MIPS is also really comfortable, highly adjustable, and well-ventilated. We reach for this helmet the most often for our personal climbing and guiding, which just goes to show how versatile and comfortable this helmet is.
The MIPS harness and more durable ABS shell make this helmet heavier than most other foam options. That said, we don't really feel the weight difference over a long day of climbing, and the added durability and protection are well worth the weight increase. And it still certainly feels lighter than any helmets that use a full hard-shell design. The technology incorporated in this helmet increases the price, but we don't consider the price outrageous compared to other high-end foam helmets. If you want the best protection from your climbing helmet, in the most comfortable and adjustable package available, then the BD Vision MIPS makes that decision easy.
Weight: 12.7 oz. | Shell style: Hard ABS Plastic with EPS Foam
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to adjust
Great headlamp clips
REASONS TO AVOID
The Black Diamond Half Dome is an affordable and very protective helmet that is one of the most popular climbing helmets in the world. It provides more protection and offers more durability than any other helmet at an unbeatably low price point. Our testers love the click-wheel adjustment system on the back because it's super easy to use with only one hand and offers a wide range of size adjustments to suit any dome.
One flaw seems to plague all hardshell helmets we've tested — weight. At 12.7 ounces, the Half Dome weighs more than twice as much as the lightweight Petzl Sirocco. Although it might only seem like a few ounces, this difference is very noticeable after a long day. The Half Dome also doesn't ventilate well and isn't the most comfortable helmet compared to other, better-padded options. We worry that the annoyance of the weight, limited ventilation, and lack of comfort might translate into some climbers wearing this helmet less often, thereby negating the purpose of a helmet altogether. That said, the Half Dome's attractive price likely outweighs these downsides for new climbers or those shopping on a tight budget.
Weight: 6.1 oz. | Shell style: EPP and EPS, Partial Polycarbonate Shell
REASONS TO BUY
Protects head from both top and side impacts
REASONS TO AVOID
Less adjustable than many
The Petzl Sirocco is almost the perfect climbing helmet, being so lightweight and comfortable that we sometimes forget we are wearing it. It is protective enough for most common forms of climbing, like sport climbing and single-pitch trad climbing in well-traveled venues. It has a small hard-shell patch on the very top of the head to protect from falling objects, and high-quality foam around the sides to protect against lateral impacts. The fit is perfect, with a lightweight and comfortable fabric harness system for the head that offers plenty of adjustability. And, of course, plenty of vents increase airflow on hot days.
The Sirocco has some downsides, though, including price and durability. The exposed foam is susceptible to damage, and although this helmet lasts a decently long time, we notice that dings and dents tend to add up over time. It also costs a lot of money, and this significant investment will eventually be damaged and need replacement, even without sustaining a major impact. Qualms aside, this is the helmet you will see on many professionals for a good reason. No matter what kind of climbing you engage in, the Sirocco is optimal.
The Petzl Meteor balances low weight and durability with affordability. It features a hard-shell design, with a polycarbonate plastic shell covering the entire helmet. This shell adds significant durability compared to more expensive, exposed foam designs, but it isn't as heavy as shells that use ABS plastic. The result is a helmet that is light enough to feel minimalist and comfortable for all-day use, durable enough to withstand plenty of abuse, and affordable enough for climbers on a budget who also want a high-performance helmet.
The Meteor is easily adjustable via a plastic slider bar on the back of the head. Still, this system isn't as comfortable as the lightweight fabric straps that the most comfortable helmets use. It has tons of ventilation holes for climbing when the weather is hot or when you are sweating, making it a great choice for mountaineering and ski mountaineering. It isn't as cheap as the most inexpensive helmets or as light as the lightest helmets, but it presents an attractive balance between the two.
Weight: 14.4 oz. | Shell style: ABS and Polycarbonate
REASONS TO BUY
Dual-certified for both climbing and skiing
REASONS TO AVOID
The Smith Summit MIPS is the best dual-certified climbing and skiing helmet currently on the market. It stands out from the competition for its pristine comfort and perfect fit. This helmet is more comfortable to wear than any other we have ever tested, thanks to a cocoon-like BOA adjustment mechanism and a shape that cradles your head. Thanks to the mostly ABS plastic shell, it can take a beating, ensuring your investment will last. The MIPS interior liner adds considerable protection against head injuries and also increases comfort by improving airflow. If you are a backcountry skier who climbs occasionally, this helmet is a great choice.
Unfortunately, this helmet is heavy compared to other climbing-specific helmets, making it a poor choice for high-performance climbing and big days on the rock. Due to the design of the BOA system, it lacks a wide range of sizing adjustments, so double-check those size measurements before ordering. It also carries an astronomical price tag. But purchasing this helmet instead of two separate climbing and skiing helmets might save you some money.
After researching the market, we purchased 13 of the top climbing helmets available today. Our helmet testing takes place in real-world situations — that is, on the rock. We wear these helmets daily while climbing routes large and small, often bringing multiple helmets to the crag so that we can compare them one after the other. We also lend them to friends and climbing partners to get opinions from as many different people as possible. Ultimately, we combined these experiences with measurable data to assess performance characteristics and formulate our overall ratings. Thanks to our intensive analysis and hands-on testing, you can be sure we recommend the very best climbing helmets.
Our climbing helmet testing is divided into six rating metrics:
Andy is a well-seasoned climber with decades of experience under his belt. A former guidebook author and publisher, he has spent most of his life climbing small and tall rocks worldwide. He lives in the mountains of southern Colorado.
Jeff is an IFMGA Mountain Guide based in Boulder, Colorado. He climbs and skis around the world for fun and work, always with a trusty helmet in tow.
Cam is a well-traveled rock warrior that has been climbing for over 20 years. Currently based in Las Vegas, she frequents the big colorful walls of never-ending multi-pitch heaven in Red Rocks. Before this, she spent many years climbing Yosemite's granite walls and working on Yosemite Search and Rescue.
In addition to testing by our lead reviewers, helmets were given out to friends, both professional and amateur climbers, to use on all sorts of climbs, from long multi-pitch to overhung bolted routes.
Analysis and Test Results
Wearing a climbing helmet is never a bad idea. Regardless of which model you decide to buy, it won't do you any good if you don't wear it. This reason is why we feel it's important to get one that matches your needs. We reviewed plenty of great options, so you'll surely find the right helmet for your style. To determine the best models, we assessed these helmets across six important characteristics: comfort, adjustability, weight, ventilation, features, and durability.
Climbing helmets range from affordable to downright expensive. In general, you get what you pay for. The best helmets incorporate features like EPP foam, MIPS technology, and lightweight shell components. All of these additional features contribute to a helmet's price tag. Unfortunately, the best climbing helmets shave weight by limiting the hard shell component to just the top of the head, which leaves foam exposed around the sides. This foam will get dented and punctured over time during normal use, like packing the helmet into a backpack and banging your head against the sides of a chimney while climbing. The more durable options tend to be less expensive but aren't as pleasant to use, especially if you get out often.
That said, many opportunities exist to score a great helmet without paying too much. The Black Diamond Half Dome is a protective and durable helmet at a very low price point, making it the best value on the market. The Petzl Boreo is very similar to the Half Dome in performance and price. We also like the durability, affordability, and relative comfort of the Petzl Meteor. This helmet costs a bit more than the most basic models but delivers performance near the top of the market.
Comfort is the most important consideration when choosing your new helmet. Most helmets, especially those made of foam, are molded into a specific shape, and even with adjustable harnesses that help you adapt the fit, you will never be able to change the shape of the helmet. Some helmets are deep and oblong, while others are shallower or rounder. Since we all have different head shapes, what fits one person perfectly may not work for someone else. This fact also makes grading for this metric rather subjective, so we were sure to talk to as many people as possible to nail down what folks liked and didn't like about each model.
The harness system inside the helmet is a critical component of comfort since it tightens against the back and sides of the user's head. If any plastic components stick out into the user's scalp, comfort will obviously suffer. We love the fabric patch on the BOA tightening knob of the Smith Summit MIPS. This patch is pulled snugly against the back of the head when tightening, cocooning the head in soft, velvety comfort.
The Black Diamond Vision MIPS is also super comfortable, thanks to a low-profile plastic ratcheting adjustment band and a well-contoured shape that can rest comfortably on top of any head. It also has a MIPS slip liner, allowing the helmet to pivot without rubbing against the top of the head. This increases comfort and protection.
The Petzl Sirocco is another all-star for comfort. It is deep, well-ventilated, and ever-so-slightly oblong, with a very minimalist harness system inside the helmet. It is also the lightest helmet we've ever tested, which is a major determinant of how comfortable it feels to wear all day. It features removable pads that cushion your head from the helmet's foam. These pads are designed to absorb sweat and can be removed to be washed. Many helmets, including the Sirocco, come with two sets of pads.
Another comfortable choice is the Mammut Wall Rider MIPS, which also features a lightweight harness and offers a similar amount of ventilation to the Petzl Sirocco. However, the shell is a bit more round and it fits more shallowly on the head. If your head isn't the ideal shape for the Sirocco, you may have better luck with the Wall Rider MIPS. Also popular among testers for comfort are the lightweight and very well-ventilated Black Diamond Vapor and Petzl Meteor.
Climbing helmets must be adjustable to fit each user's head properly. A secure fit increases security, comfort, and climbing ability. When considering adjustability, we looked for plenty of room for adjustment in the helmet's size and how well the size adjustment mechanisms work.
Manufacturers employ three methods for adjusting each helmet's circumference: a click-wheel, a plastic slider bar, or lightweight straps and buckles. Using only straps and buckles provides the lightest solution but usually the least adjustability. Plastic slider bars allow more length adjustment. But they can be difficult to figure out without looking, and also introduce plastic components that might stick out into the user's head, which would, of course, decrease comfort. Click wheels usually provide the largest adjustment range (but not always) and are the easiest to adjust. Additional adjustment features include the V-yoke that comes down on either side of your ears to join the chin strap.
The Black Diamond Half Dome is one of the most adjustable helmets in this review and is also one of the easiest to adjust. It uses a click wheel at the back that makes tightening or loosening the fit simple. It also has easily adjustable straps on the V-yoke and chin. We give it top honors in this department because even the tensioning band that the click wheel is attached to can be adjusted up or down along two pieces of webbing to accommodate hair better.
The Petzl Meteor is the most adjustable and easiest to use among the lighter-weight helmets. It incorporates a plastic slider bar to adjust the sizing and a sliding V-yoke adjustment mechanism to adjust the chin strap. The Black Diamond Vision MIPS also uses a plastic slider bar with plenty of length adjustment but no V-yoke adjustment. The Petzl Sirocco also has good adjustment via a fabric strap and sliding V-yoke strap.
Comparing the plastic sliding bars of the Petzl Meteor (left) and the Black Diamond Vision MIPS (right).
Climbing is a battle against gravity and the weight of your equipment matters. Shaving a couple of ounces on each piece of gear can add up to pounds over your whole kit, which might mean the difference between sending your project and flailing at the crux – or worse, falling in dangerous terrain. Weight is also a key factor in comfort since we're often craning to look upwards while belaying, especially when cragging.
The Petzl Sirocco and Black Diamond Vapor are the lightest helmets on the market, weighing just over 6 ounces each. These helmets achieve such a low weight by minimizing the amount of hard shell material used and employing light fabric harnesses with relatively small ranges of adjustment. These helmets are perfect for sport climbing and relatively safe – even difficult – trad and multi-pitch routes. They are also used by world-class alpinists who count every gram.
Other exposed foam designs, like the Edelrid Salathe, Black Diamond Vision MIPS, and Petzl Meteor, also weigh less than most helmets on the market. Among the hard shell helmets, the Singing Rock Penta stands out for its incredibly low weight of just 7.2 ounces, thanks to its thin polycarbonate shell.
Even in subzero temperatures, it's easy to work up a sweat while climbing. Our heads get hot while climbing in helmets, insulated by our hair and the helmet's protective foam.
To combat this insulating effect, ventilation holes are needed to allow hot air to escape and cooler air to flow through the helmet, enhancing evaporative cooling. The helmets with more vent holes provide better airflow, and holes on the front of the head are key for moving air past the scalp.
The standout in this category is the Black Diamond Vapor. Its design is the most open of any of the exposed foam models we tested and provides superb ventilation. The Petzl Sirocco, Petzl Meteor, and CAMP Storm also feature a lot of vents.
Among the ski-certified helmets, we were pleasantly surprised by the ventilation capabilities of the Smith Summit MIPS. Although it has small vents to pass the ski certification tests, the vents are well placed around the entire head to facilitate airflow.
Climbing helmets don't need too many bells and whistles, but they do need to accommodate a headlamp for pre-dawn starts and deep, dark chimneys. They also might need to accommodate goggles for wintertime objectives. Newer features like the MIPS slip liner are notable additions to many modern helmets. We examined all of the available features on each helmet and tested how well they work.
Headlamp attachments are usually composed of two lightweight plastic clips around the front of the helmet that keep the bulb component in place squarely on the forehead. Sometimes, helmets incorporate additional clips in the rear, or an elastic band doubling as a goggle clip. We love the combination of large plastic clips on the front and the elastic strap on the rear of the Black Diamond Vision MIPS that easily accommodates goggles. The MIPS liner completes the perfect set of features on this helmet. Other helmets incorporating two front clips and a rear elastic strap are the Petzl Sirocco and Petzl Meteor, the Black Diamond Vapor, Edelrid Salathe, and the dual-certified Julbo The Peak LT.
The clips on the Petzl Boreo, Black Diamond Half Dome, Black Diamond Capitan MIPS, and CAMP Storm are the simplest and most natural to use. Each of these helmets incorporates four plastic clips, one on each corner of the helmet. A headlamp effectively stays in place all day, and it's super easy to slide the strap up under the clips to secure it in place.
A front and back view of the four well-designed headlamp clips on the CAMP Storm.
Climbing helmets are designed to protect your head from falling objects, but their protective materials are generally designed to deform from a serious impact. Most climbing helmets can withstand a few small-sized rocks or a couple of good-sized chunks of ice but will need replacement after any big hit. We look for something that can hold up to the normal wear and tear of loose rocks, roofs you didn't see coming, and a modest amount of ice shelling without needing replacement. We also want something we can pack in our backpacks or accidentally drop from a few feet without worrying about it shattering. While all of the climbing helmets in this review passed a series of standardized impact tests, their day-to-day durability varies substantially.
The Black Diamond Half Dome is the most durable helmet on the market, thanks to a thick ABS hard shell that is nearly impenetrable. This thing can take a beating for years without showing much sign of wear. We were also impressed with the durability of the very similar Petzl Boreo. However, the surface of its shell seems more prone to cosmetic scrapes than the Half Dome.
We also love the durability of the Smith Summit MIPS. This dual-certified climbing and skiing helmet has a thick ABS shell that stands up to rock and ice climbing and fast downhill skiing. We took it to the Alps for a 6-week climbing and skiing trip, and it didn't falter once despite being tossed around hotel rooms, crammed into train luggage compartments, and protecting our lead tester's head on mountain adventures.
The polycarbonate shells of the Julbo The Peak LT and Petzl Meteor are thinner and slightly more fragile than ABS shells, but we found these two models to provide good durability.
Exposed foam helmets aren't as durable, which makes sense. Foam is a soft material that is highly susceptible to the firm and sharp surfaces found while rock climbing. Among these helmets, the Black Diamond Vision MIPS is the most durable, thanks to its high-coverage shell design. This helmet has the largest hard shell covering of any exposed foam design we tested, making it the most durable of the lot.
Climbing helmets have come a long way in recent years. Manufacturers are churning out ever lighter, more comfortable options for today's adventurers. Our comprehensive review has presented a wide range of options, and we hope you heed our advice to quickly sort through the market to find the best helmet for your needs and style. We'll see you at the crag!
Andy Wellman, Cam McKenzie Ring, and Jeff Dobronyi