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

Best Climbing Helmet of 2021

Photo: David Allfrey
Monday May 17, 2021
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Searching for the best climbing helmet? We bought 13 of the most popular options to test side-by-side and build on our extensive experience from testing over 30 different models in the past 10 years. 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 a good idea. There are solid models available at all price points and made with various types of foam and plastic shell combinations. We've tested helmets while cragging on single pitch routes, as well as climbing alpine routes on huge mountains. We carefully evaluated each helmet across six different metrics that play critical roles in their performance.

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 6 - 10 of 13
 
Awards     Best Buy Award 
Price $116.95 at Amazon
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$84.95 at Backcountry
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$179.85 at Amazon
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$129.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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71
71
68
67
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Pros Easy to adjust, light, comfortable, durable plastic top pieceFully adjustable harness, rigid plastic rear adjustment band, lightweight, excellent headlamp clipsMIPS BPS technology, lightweight, well-ventilated, comfortableLight, side and rear impact rated, easy headlamp and goggle attachmentAffordable, hard plastic shell is very durable, wide range of adjustability, easy to adjust
Cons Not as light as lightest helmets, pricey, difficult headlamp clipsNot as well-ventilated as other lightweight helmetsExpensive, not super adjustablePricey, adjustment harness is limited in range, v-yolk doesn’t clear earsHeavy, not super comfortable, not much ventilation, not easy to adjust v-yoke around ears
Bottom Line A solid lightweight helmet that’s a good alternative to the SiroccoA comfortable and lightweight helmet with good adjustability, but not very durableA beefed up version of our one of our favorite helmets, but with MIPS technology added inA viable lightweight option that has a different mold shape than other EPP options, so may be the best fit for youA great choice for the budget conscious, but nowhere near as light or comfortable as our top choices
Rating Categories Mammut Wall Rider Black Diamond Vector Mammut Wall Rider MIPS Edelrid Salathe Black Diamond Half Dome
Comfort (30%)
8
8
8
7
6
Adjustability (20%)
6
7
6
4
10
Weight (20%)
7
7
6
8
3
Ventilation (10%)
8
7
8
7
5
Headlamp Attachment (10%)
7
7
7
9
9
Durability (10%)
7
5
8
7
9
Specs Mammut Wall Rider Black Diamond Vector Mammut Wall Rider... Edelrid Salathe Black Diamond Half...
Measured Weight in Ounces (largest size) 8.5 oz 8.6 oz 9.0 oz 7.7 oz 12.7 oz
Shell Style EPP foam, hard plastic top piece EPS foam with Polycarbonate EPP foam, hard plastic top piece Foam injected EPP core, partial ABS hard shell EPS foam with ABS shell
Number of Sizes 2 2 2 2 2
Number of Colors 2 4 1 1 4
Warranty Lifetime 1 year Lifetime 1 year 1 year

Best Overall Climbing Helmet


Black Diamond Vision MIPS


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 9
  • Adjustability - 20% 7
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Ventilation - 10% 8
  • Headlamp Attachment - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 8
Weight: 9.7 oz. | Shell Style: EPP and EPS, ABS shell, with MIPS
Includes MIPS technology
Very comfortable and highly adjustable
Side impact protection from EPP foam
More durable ABS used instead of polycarbonate shell
Expensive
Not the lightest
Black color

The Black Diamond Vision MIPS thoroughly impressed us. We think it is the best climbing helmet you can currently buy. The addition of the MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) harness on the inside, technology that is now standard in both bike and ski helmets, helps reduce the chances of concussion by deflecting certain impacts and reducing impact forces. We see no reason why this technology should not become standard in climbing helmets and laud Black Diamond (and also the Mammut Wall Rider MIPS) for giving climbers an option to use this technology. The Vision is also really comfortable, highly adjustable, and features a best of both worlds combination of an EPS foam puck on the top of the head to protect from falling rock and an EPP foam shell surrounding it for repetitive side impact protection. This is all covered with ABS, a more durable type of plastic shell than the very thin and easy-to-dent polycarbonate found on BD's other helmets.

The addition of the MIPS harness and the ABS shell combine to make this helmet heavier than most other foam options. However, numerous friend testers commented on how light it felt, and it still weighs a lot less than a BD Half Dome or other full shell helmets. It also only comes in black at the moment, which can be hot when you're climbing in the sun. You will have to pay a steeper price for the technology incorporated, and while it's not cheap, it's not out of line compared to other high-end foam helmets. If you want the very best protection currently available from your climbing helmet in the most comfortable and adjustable package, then the Vision MIPS is certainly the helmet for you.

Read Review: Black Diamond Vision MIPS

Best Bang for the Buck


Black Diamond Half Dome


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Adjustability - 20% 10
  • Weight - 20% 3
  • Ventilation - 10% 5
  • Headlamp Attachment - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 9
Weight: 12.7 oz. | Shell style: Hard ABS plastic with EPS foam
The price is right
Durable
Easy to adjust
Great headlamp clips
Not lightweight
Poor ventilation

The Black Diamond Half Dome is an affordably priced and very protective helmet that is also one of the most popular climbing helmets out at the crag. Since it can serve anyone on a tight budget well, we are happy to recognize it as great value. Our users love the click-wheel adjustment system on the back of the head because it's super easy to use with only one hand and offers a vast range of adjustments. We also appreciate the enhanced durability and extended life span from a hard ABS shell. This helmet costs half of what the super-light foam ones run.

It's worth noting, though, that one flaw seems to plague all hardshell helmets that we've tested — weight. At 12.7 ounces, the Half Dome weighs more than twice as much as the Petzl Sirocco. Although it might only seem like a few ounces, this difference is easy to notice after a long day. The Half Dome also doesn't ventilate well, and it isn't the most comfortable helmet when compared to others side-by-side. 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, for new climbers or those on a budget, these downsides are likely outweighed by the Half Dome's attractive price.

Read review: Black Diamond Half Dome

Best Lightweight Climbing Helmet


Petzl Sirocco


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 8
  • Adjustability - 20% 5
  • Weight - 20% 10
  • Ventilation - 10% 9
  • Headlamp Attachment - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight: 6.1 oz. | Shell style: EPP and EPS, partial polycarbonate top
Extremely light
Protects head from both top and side impacts
Great ventilation
Comfortable
Pricey
Less adjustable than many

The perfect climbing helmet would be so lightweight and comfortable that you could easily forget that you even have it on. It would also protect your head from impacts from above (falling rocks or ice), as well as on the sides (hitting your head while falling). The Petzl Sirocco does all of these things and more, and our testers love it for its "barely there" design. Weighing a mere 6.1 oz., this featherweight product has never left our necks feeling tired, and more often than not, we forgot we had it on. We also appreciate the carefully molded combination of EPP foam on the sides — a softer, light, and more malleable foam that protects from side impacts and is impressively resilient — combined with an EPS foam and polycarbonate piece on the crown of the head that provides more bomber protection from projectiles falling from above. This winning combination remains super light and provides respectable protection everywhere it's needed. Add in a comfortable fit, excellent ventilation, and easy-to-use headlamp clips that are also compatible with ski goggles for ski mountaineering missions, and the Sirocco is a helmet that's truly ideal for all purposes.

All good things still have their downsides, and the Sirocco is no exception. It is pricey, so it may not be the ideal choice for someone on a budget. The minimalist straps keep the weight down but aren't nearly as easy to dial in as a slider bar or click wheel. Finally, since it's not completely covered in polycarbonate, care is needed to ensure that it doesn't get damaged inside or outside your pack. Qualms aside, this is the helmet you will see on the vast majority of professionals, and for a good reason. No matter what kind of climbing you engage in, the Sirocco is an optimal choice.

Read Review: Petzl Sirocco

Great Value for a Lightweight Helmet


Petzl Meteor


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Adjustability - 20% 8
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Ventilation - 10% 8
  • Headlamp Attachment - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
Weight: 8.5 oz. | Shell style: EPS, Polycarbonate
Easily adjustable, even while on head
Lots of ventilation
Affordable for a lightweight helmet
Versatility for ski mountaineering
Heavier than the lightest helmets
Magnetic chin clip attracts dirt

When you're climbing, every piece of gear you wear or use must be hauled up with you, so weight is critical. This is doubly true for helmets because the load rides on top of the head, a place that's not used to carrying extra ounces. In our experience, heavier helmets lead to noticeably more strain and fatigue in our necks and the parts of our head where the helmet rests when worn for more than a few hours or a long day. That said, super lightweight helmets often come at a price that many may be unwilling or unable to afford. Luckily there are a handful of still very light helmets at slightly more reasonable prices. We think the best of these is the Petzl Meteor. It provides perhaps the best value among the lightweight helmets. It isn't as affordable as the BD Half Dome — but at only 8.5 ounces, the amount of weight savings for the extra cost is significant.

The Meteor is comfortable and very easily adjustable via a plastic slider bar on the back of the head, which can be manipulated while wearing the helmet just as easily as when it's off. It has tons of ventilation holes for climbing when the weather is hot or when you are sweating, so it is a good choice for mountaineering and ski mountaineering. Except that it isn't as cheap as the most inexpensive helmets or as light as the lightest helmets, we find little to complain about. It seems to strike an ideal balance between high performance and lower price and did better than the similarly constructed EPS/polycarbonate helmets against which we tested it. If you are on a budget but are still worried about minimizing weight for maximum enjoyment on objectives a long way from the car, we highly recommend checking out the Petzl Meteor.

Read Review: Petzl Meteor

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
78
$160
Editors' Choice Award
The optimal combination of the MIPS harness with EPP foam for side impact and a durable ABS plastic shell
77
$110
Top Pick Award
You want a helmet that you are never annoyed to wear, and this is that helmet
77
$140
Lightweight and comfortable but can't even be put in your pack without denting it
74
$90
Best Buy Award
A highly adjustable climbing and ski mountaineering helmet made of EPS foam
72
$100
Not the lightest foam helmet but more adjustable than others
72
$120
Not as light or as comfortable as the Sirocco, but may still be a better option for some
71
$85
Lightweight, comfortable, and adjustable
71
$180
Extra security for your brain comes at a low cost price and weight-wise
68
$130
A solid and well made lightweight helmet with a harness system that isn’t easily adaptable if it doesn’t fit you well
67
$65
Best Buy Award
A very popular helmet with a killer price point, but also a bit of a clunker
65
$70
A good choice for the value conscious
62
$70
An excellent value purchase for those lucky enough to have the right-sized head
52
$60
Not a helmet we would readily recommend, despite its affordability

The Kain Ridge on Bugaboo Spire is an amazing easy route, topping...
The Kain Ridge on Bugaboo Spire is an amazing easy route, topping out at 5.6, allowing us to enchain it with Snowpatch Spire in the background in the same day. The lightweight Petzl Sirocco helping protect us from the potential of falling debris, while not costing us much in weight in the pack for the long approaches.

Why You Should Trust Us


Our expert panel provides voices from Andy Wellman and Cam McKenzie Ring. Andy is a well-seasoned climber with decades under his belt. A former guidebook publisher and author, he has spent most of his life climbing rocks, tall and small, around the world. He lives in the mountains of southern Colorado, where there are plenty of quality crags and ice climbs to choose from, but also where loose rock and falling ice is a fact of life — a good place for helmet testing. 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 to friends in the area to use on all sorts of climbs, from long multi-pitch to overhung bolted routes.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Helmet testing takes place in real-world situations. That is, on the rock. We wear these helmets day in and day out 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 out to friends and climbing partners to get opinions from as many different people as possible. In the end, we combined these experiences with measurable data to assesses a range of performance characteristics and formulate our overall ratings. Due to our intensive analysis, as well as hands-on testing, you can be sure we are recommending the best climbing helmets to you.

Related: How We Tested Climbing Helmets

Wearing the Petzl Sirocco while rappeling off Bugaboo Spire in...
Wearing the Petzl Sirocco while rappeling off Bugaboo Spire in British Columbia.

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. Common excuses for not wearing one are: it's too heavy, uncomfortable, moves around too much, or it's too hot. We've found models that solve all of these problems, so you will have no excuse not to wear one. To determine which models are the best, we assessed six characteristics: comfort, adjustability, weight, ventilation, headlamp attachment, and durability.

Related: Buying Advice for Climbing Helmets

Value


Climbing helmets come at a fairly wide range of price points, with any given model's location on the spectrum typically dependent on the types of materials it is made from. While it isn't always true, in the case of climbing helmets, our testing reveals that the higher-priced models tend to be the highest performers, while the budget options don't stack up as well in overall performance. The best helmet for you is the one you will wear, so it might be worth ignoring the price so you can be sure you get one that's so light and comfortable that you won't ever find a reason not to wear it.


However, if you want a climbing helmet bargain, one important aspect of value that's worth considering is weight. All helmets should be durable enough to protect you from an impact, but some seem to hold up better to the rigors of regular use. Simply put, a hard plastic helmet like the BD Half Dome is likely to last longer than a foam model, so it thus offers a better overall value. In general, foam helmets are more prone to minor dents and dings, and users need to be careful about how they're packed to avoid damage while they're transporting the helmet to and from the crag.

After months of the rock climbing in a variety of locations and...
After months of the rock climbing in a variety of locations and conditions, we scored each model for its comfort, adjustability, weight, ventilation, headlamp attachment, and durability. Keep reading below to see which were the best in each category.
Photo: Leici Hendrix

Comfort


Comfort is probably 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 of the helmet is a critical component of comfort. It provides the method of adjustability so that the helmet can be fitted to each individual while also attaching to the chin strap to hold the helmet on the head and hopefully minimize movement. While harnesses are designed to be adjustable, simply moving things around a bit doesn't always bring comfort. In general, the minimalist harnesses comprised of just a few straps are the most comfortable, but they also tend to be the least adjustable. In contrast, plastic bands that encircle the head allow for the most adjustability, but they tend to be less comfortable when worn all day. These tensioning bands can also lead to stuck hairs, something to consider if you have long hair.

Given the choice between a plastic band and click-wheel against the...
Given the choice between a plastic band and click-wheel against the back of our head or a few pieces of webbing, like on the Mammut Wall Rider, we'd opt for the webbing. It's functional enough to keep a light helmet in place, is comfortable against your head, and won't give you a headache.
Photo: Cam McKenzie Ring

Beyond the fit and harness system, most helmets are lined with removable (typically Velcro) cushions or pads that provide a buffer between your head and the helmet's foam. These pads are designed to absorb sweat and can be removed to be washed. Many helmets even come with two sets of pads. The shape and location of these pads play a small role in how the helmet rests on top of your head.

There's so much going on under there that even the soft fleece can't...
There's so much going on under there that even the soft fleece can't make it comfortable. We much prefer the single strand chin strap over the doubled-up option here.
Photo: Cam McKenzie Ring

In our opinion, the Black Diamond Vision MIPS is the most comfortable helmet you can buy. It has a large and deep shape that can rest comfortably on top of any head, and the adjustment band in the back is very low profile. We also love the Petzl Sirocco. 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 has an outsized bearing on how comfortable it feels to wear all day. Other comfortable choices are the Mammut Wall Rider MIPS and the standard version of the Wall Rider, which have similar amounts of ventilation and a lightweight harness compared to the Sirocco. However, they fit a bit more shallowly on the head and are rounder. People whose heads aren't shaped ideally for the Sirocco may have better luck with one of these helmets. The lightweight and very well ventilated Black Diamond Vapor and the slightly beefier Vector were also popular choices for the most comfortable among testers. As the most important metric when considering a purchase, we factored comfort in as 30% of a product's overall score.

Adjustability


Being able to adjust a helmet so that it fits properly on your head will enhance your comfort and keep the helmet from moving around and distracting you while climbing, which is potentially critical from a safety standpoint. When considering adjustability, we looked at how widely adjustable a helmet is, thereby allowing it to be used by the greatest range of people. We also judged each adjustment system's efficacy — how easy it is to adjust properly and how quickly this can be done with the helmet on the head.


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. Adjustments are made with one or two buckles and pull tabs on the back of the head, and while some of them can be adjusted while wearing the helmet, it's also fairly common to need to take the helmet off to fine-tune the adjustments. On the other hand, plastic slider bars have notches or grooves cut out of them where another piece of plastic latches, keeping the helmet tight. These are more adjustable than simple webbing and are simple to adjust with the helmet on the head. However, these designs and generally heavier and slightly less comfortable. The most adjustable system uses the click wheel. This design has a small wheel on the back of the head that you turn (it clicks as you do so) to tighten or loosen the helmet's tensioning band. The click wheel is the easiest to adjust quickly. Still, it comes with the downsides of being heavier and bulkier with an added drawback of being surprisingly easy to over-tighten, which you may not realize until you notice a headache an hour later.

Adjusting the fit of this helmet is done by pulling on the two tabs...
Adjusting the fit of this helmet is done by pulling on the two tabs of webbing that run through these two buckles. It is best done with the helmet on the head to nail the fit perfectly, and if you know what you are reaching for, this is rather simple.

The tension of the harness inside the helmet is not the only way that helmets are adjustable. The v-yoke is the v-shaped straps that come down on either side of your ears to join the chin strap. Most helmets have slider buckles that allow for quick adjustment of the v-yoke so that it sits comfortably around rather than over your ears. Most helmets, however, must typically be taken off for this adjustment to be made. The chin strap itself should also be adjustable, and most are simple and easy to use.

The V-yoke is not always adjustable, like on the Black Diamond Vapor...
The V-yoke is not always adjustable, like on the Black Diamond Vapor (left). Being able to cinch it up, like on the CAMP USA storm (right), helps keep the chin strap in position and the helmet stable on your head.
Photo: Cam McKenzie Ring

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, something the Mammut Skywalker 2 is unable to do. In every other way, however, the Skywalker 2 is highly adjustable and features a similar click wheel tensioning system. Among the lighter helmets, the Petzl Meteor was the most adjustable and easiest to use. It incorporated a plastic slider bar to adjust the fit. While we typically find the helmets that use a webbing and buckle tensioning system to be the most comfortable and lightest, all of them scored low for adjustability, so if you buy one of these helmets, be sure it fits your head reasonably well without needing too much adjustment. Adjustability accounts for 20% of a product's final score.

Like all helmets that use a similar click wheel, adjustment of this...
Like all helmets that use a similar click wheel, adjustment of this helmet is very easy by simply turning the click wheel one way to tighten the tensioning band, and the other to loosen it. Since this helmet rides high on the head, we found we had to tighten it more than we preferred in order to keep it in place, which could eventually cause discomfort.

Weight


At the most basic level, climbing can be thought of as a battle against gravity. Your gear's weight affects your climbing no matter your ability level, and all helmets weigh something. Even more importantly, we found that weight is a major factor in overall comfort. Simply put, lighter climbing helmets are less noticeable, more comfortable, and are more likely to be worn. On the other hand, lower weight usually corresponds with lower durability when it comes to climbing helmets. The heavier hardshell models are also considerably cheaper because the fancy foam used in the lighter models is expensive. We tested the largest size of each model available, except for the Singing Rock Penta and Mammut Skywalker 2, which are only available in one size.


The models that we tested ranged in weight from the 6.1-ounce Petzl Sirocco to the 13.5-ounce Mammut Skywalker 2. The difference between the two almost equates to a #3 Black Diamond Camalot. Ever left one of those behind because you didn't want the weight? We have. Now picture wearing two of them on top of your head for ten pitches — we're sure even the strongest folks would notice the difference.

Light is right, especially on the head, where a helmet that is too...
Light is right, especially on the head, where a helmet that is too heavy can cause neck fatigue and headaches over the course of a long day, like this one - doing a mandatory rappel along the summit ridge of South Howser Tower after climbing the Beckey-Chouinard route. Happy we have on the ultra-light and comfortable Sirocco.

The Sirocco uses expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam that doesn't require a polycarbonate shell over the entire helmet to distribute the impact. That helps keep the weight down compared to EPS foam models. The EPP foam also offers some rebounding properties, absorbing some impacts without cracking. A small polycarbonate plate protects the EPS foam "puck" that ensures adequate protection from falling objects that might hit on the top of the head. Helmets with a similar design, such as the Edelrid Salathe, the Mammut Wall Rider MIPS, and the Black Diamond Vision MIPS, have larger, more substantial plastic coverings, which may contribute to greater durability, but also make them a tad heavier.

Nearing the summit of Mt. Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, on a ski...
Nearing the summit of Mt. Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, on a ski mountaineering mission. The Wall Rider is a great option for adventures like this because it's light and allows for wearing a beanie underneath.

No discussion of weight would be complete without mentioning the Black Diamond Vapor, which at seven ounces is the second lightest model in this review. While it appears to be more air than any solid material, it's made of a combination of EPS foam, a polycarbonate shell, and carbon rods to reinforce the structure. It does pass the required CE safety standards. However, our experience is that this helmet acquires cosmetic dents very easily, so long-term durability is not one of its primary advantages.

Among the most affordable models, the Singing Rock Penta stands out for its incredibly low weight of just 7.2 ounces. The polycarbonate shell with EPS foam combines to be several ounces lighter than any model even close to its price range. That said, it only comes in a single size, which most of our male testers found to be too small. If it fits, as it did for one of our female testers, this low-priced option has a huge upside in the weight department. Its less-accommodating fit, though, kept it from being very useful to many of our testers. Weight accounts for 20% of a product's overall score.

The Penta is a very affordable and lightweight foam helmet that...
The Penta is a very affordable and lightweight foam helmet that comes in "one size fits all," yet fits quite small. We found that it fits most women's heads better than the male heads that we tested it on. If it fits, then it presents a fantastic value. Elizabeth on a crack at Trout Creek, OR.
Photo: Andy Wellman

Ventilation


We often heard testers complain that a helmet was too hot, but we never heard someone say that a helmet kept their head too cold. Even in perfect, subzero temps, it's easy to work up a sweat while climbing, and especially so on the top of your head when it's encased by hair and a large, insulating foam helmet. In fact, the EPS foam used in many of these helmets is no different than the polystyrene that is commonly used as an insulator in cheap coolers and take-out containers. To combat this insulating effect, ventilation holes are needed to allow hot air to escape and cooler air to flow through the helmet and enhance evaporative cooling.


In general, helmets that ventilated well included more holes than those that ventilated poorly. The holes were also bigger, and we really noticed that holes on the front of the helmet and the sides and back helped promote airflow. Lastly, there needs to be space within the helmet for air to move around. Hardshell helmets typically have more space within the helmet for airflow but fewer holes to allow air in and out. On the other hand, foam helmets with tons of ventilation openings often rest right on top of the head and hair, with little room for air to move around the head.

The standout in this category is the Black Diamond Vapor. Its design is the most open of any of the EPS foam models that we tested, with a plethora of significant vents and substantial ventilation. The Petzl Sirocco and Mammut Wall Rider also feature a lot of vents.

The vents on the Black Diamond Vapor are large, and placed all over...
The vents on the Black Diamond Vapor are large, and placed all over the sides and rear for maximum ventilation.
Photo: Cam McKenzie Ring

Overall, all of the EPS foam models have a lot more openings in the shell, and therefore much better ventilation than the hard shell models. We think ventilation is a smaller consideration for purchasing, so it only accounts for 10% of our overall scoring.

This helmet has a lot of ventilation holes on the sides of the head...
This helmet has a lot of ventilation holes on the sides of the head, including two in the front over the forehead region, as well as plenty in the back. While it isn't the single "coolest" helmet we reviewed, it is still one of the best.

Headlamp Attachment


Whether you get benighted on a climb or simply want to use a pre-dawn start to beat the crowds, you need to be able to attach a headlamp to your helmet. There are two common methods. The first is four plastic clips spaced evenly around the helmet, with slots that the band of your headlamp slides into to hold it securely in place. These clips are sometimes removable and often recessed into the design, so they don't stick out to catch on gear, clothing, or your environment. The tension of these clips varies from model to model--the clips with more tension seem to grip headlamp bands better but can also be a lot harder to get the band into in the first place.


The second method uses two clips in the front and a single elastic strap with a pull tab that loops around a hook in the back. This method is becoming more common, especially on the higher-end EPP helmets, and is easier to operate with the helmet on the head. It can also be more versatile because the rear strap can be large enough to accommodate ski goggle straps, which are usually much thicker than headlamp bands.

We like the functionality of the clips on both the CAMP USA Storm...
We like the functionality of the clips on both the CAMP USA Storm (front) and Black Diamond Vector (back).
Photo: Scott Ring

The clips found on the Petzl Boreo and the Black Diamond Half Dome are the simplest and most natural to use. A strap effectively stays in place all day, and it's super easy to slide the strap up under them in the first place. We also find the elastic strap method found on the Black Diamond Vision MIPS, Petzl Sirocco, Meteor, and Edelrid Salathe to be quite easy and effective.

With four very simple and easy clips to hold the headlamp band in...
With four very simple and easy clips to hold the headlamp band in place, it doesn't get any easier than the Half Dome. No other helmet could accept a headlamp as quickly as this one.

We found the clips on the Black Diamond Vapor and the Mammut Wall Rider to be a bit harder to use, although they were still reasonably effective at their jobs. As a useful feature that is not the most critical aspect of helmet performance, headlamp attachment accounted for only 10% of a product's overall score.

Durability


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. What we look for is 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.


For the most part, the heavier ABS hardshell models prove more durable for everyday climbing than the lightweight foam ones, which rely on thinner polycarbonate shells to protect their foam interiors. The model that held up the best to climbing and cramming into a pack was the Black Diamond Half Dome. This thing can take a beating for years without showing much sign of wear. We were also impressed with the durability of the Petzl Boreo. However, the surface of its shell seems more prone to cosmetic scrapes than the Half Dome.

The Black Diamond Half Dome is the most affordable helmet in this...
The Black Diamond Half Dome is the most affordable helmet in this review, making it a great choice for beginners. It is surprisingly comfortable despite its weight, and its incredible durability makes it a great value.

The large plastic top piece aids in durability by protecting from...
The large plastic top piece aids in durability by protecting from top impacts as well as nicks and dings to the foam. In general, the EPP foam is able to bounce back and recover from small impacts, making it more durable than EPS alternatives, although it also comes with a stuff sack for carrying it in your pack.

On the other end is the Black Diamond Vector, whose shell punctured the first time we set our backpack down. The Black Diamond Vapor is also very light-duty when it comes to dents, dings, and other cosmetic damages that could occur with regular use. We didn't experience any durability issues with the Mammut Wall Rider, and the plastic shell on top should help increase the durability over a polycarbonate-only shell. With super-light models like the Sirocco, the polycarbonate top piece will protect the foam from small impacts, but be sure to keep it at the top of your pack, if at all, and don't sit on it.

Black Diamond recommends not putting their lightweight foam Vector...
Black Diamond recommends not putting their lightweight foam Vector and Vapor models in your backpack, so we attached it to the outside instead and it got punctured when we put our pack down. While this divot is cosmetic, it was a little dissappointing that it dinged up so easily.
Photo: Cam McKenzie Ring

Eventually, there comes a time when your climbing helmet should be retired. Whether that's from funk build-up, age, or fending off a tremendous impact, no helmet will last forever. Petzl recommends retiring your climbing helmet ten years after its manufacture date at the latest, and that's assuming you've stored it inside because UV rays can degrade plastic and textiles. If you do take a big hit to your helmet, either from rock, ice, or a fall, check it thoroughly for any deformities in the plastic shell or cracking of the inner foam. If anything looks out of place, it's time for a new one — better safe than sorry.

Conclusion


Climbing helmets have come a long way in recent years. Manufacturers are churning out ever lighter, more comfortable options for today's adventurers. The onus is on you to actually wear them. We hope that this review has helped you to choose the right model for your budget and climbing needs.

Its light weight means it works well for sport climbing as well as...
Its light weight means it works well for sport climbing as well as long multi-pitch, and can protect from an unexpected upside down fall where you may hit the wall. Here testing at the Elona crag in Leonidio, Greece.

Andy Wellman & Cam McKenzie Ring