The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Climbing Helmets

Friday October 25, 2019

We started our updated helmet review by carefully researching over thirty different climbing helmets. After selecting the highest rated ones across a range of types (hardshell, foam, and hybrid), we put them to the test using our side-by-side testing process. We wore them on long days in Red Rock Canyon, in Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra, and while cragging at Smith Rock, OR, to test them on a range of routes and conditions. Then we scored them according to the following criteria:

Our testers hard at "work"! We climbed in all of these helmets for several months  comparing their features and comfort levels.
Our testers hard at "work"! We climbed in all of these helmets for several months, comparing their features and comfort levels.

Comfort


While wearing each helmet, we noted how comfortable we felt, and if there were any pressure spots or other features that impacted our comfort. As this is a relatively subjective metric, we had several people wear each helmet and then try to come to a consensus on the score. Since comfort relates to fit, what feels comfortable on one person might not feel the same on another.

You want a helmet that is comfortable enough for all-day wear. We wore each helmet for hours on end while climbing and belaying to help determine what makes one more comfortable than the other.
You want a helmet that is comfortable enough for all-day wear. We wore each helmet for hours on end while climbing and belaying to help determine what makes one more comfortable than the other.

Adjustability


We looked at both the ease of adjusting each helmet and also how much each one could be adjusted. We tried them on a variety of head circumferences and shapes and noted how quickly we could dial in our fit. Those that are easily adjustable while they are on the head scored higher. Also, we noted how easy it is to adjust the smaller parts of the helmet, such as the location of the chin strap and v-yoke that goes around the ears.

Swapping out helmets at the crag. We tried them on a variety of different sizes and shapes of heads.
Swapping out helmets at the crag. We tried them on a variety of different sizes and shapes of heads.

Weight


We weighed each helmet on a digital scale, and were surprised by how well the numbers we recorded matched up with the stated manufacturer weight — this is not always the case! Helmets that weigh less receive higher scores.

Ventilation


We wore these helmets on long hot routes in the desert, and in Yosemite, before the cool temps arrived. We noted how cool we stayed, or not, and rated each model accordingly. We also compared the number and area of the holes in each helmet, and noticed that holes in the front provide slightly more ventilation. Helmets with internal harness systems that provide space around the head also seem to allow for better ventilation, so we also noted these.

Wearing your helmet is always a good idea  as it can't help you if you don't wear it. For the runout bolt-protected faces of Smith Rock  it not only adds protection but a bit of confidence.
Wearing your helmet is always a good idea, as it can't help you if you don't wear it. For the runout bolt-protected faces of Smith Rock, it not only adds protection but a bit of confidence.

Headlamp Attachment


We attached the same headlamp to each helmet both while on our heads and off. We noted how easy it was to slide the strap under the clips, and if it felt secure or not.

Durability


Since this is a user review, we did not perform any scientific crash tests to evaluate the protection they provide. Climbing helmets have to pass a rigorous CE certification, and some choose an even more rigorous UIAA certification as well. But, we did climb many pitches while wearing each model, spread out over several months, and then compared the wear that we saw. We also reviewed a host of other user reviews to look for durability patterns, and compared any older models that we had to see how they held up to long-term use.