The likelihood that a helmet will prevent a serious injury at some point in you climbing career is relatively high.
– We extensively tested 12 climbing helmets.
– A detailed review of the 5 BEST climbing helmets and their respective strengths and weaknesses.
The Best Climbing Helmets
Overview of the 5 Winners
Best All-round Climbing Helmet
Mammut Wall Rider
- The Wall Rider beat the competition due to its combination of low weight (just 220 grams) and stability.
- The design is simple, and the helmet fits very well.
- The closure system allows for easy and quick adjustments. The helmet not only looks good but is also suitable for any application.
- The perfect allrounder!
Best Lightweight Climbing Helmet
Petzl – Sirocco
- The Sirocco was the best back when it was first introduced, and it remains THE best lightweight helmet available.
- At 160 grams, the helmet is barely noticeable, making it the perfect choice for anyone who wants to be safe without being restricted in any way.
- The logical consequence of the low weight is a somewhat increased fragility. So please don’t sit on it!
- Ideal helmet for beginners.
- If you don’t mind the slightly higher weight of 359 grams, the Zodiac is a solid helmet for any situation.
- The helmet is durable and adapts well to any head shape thanks to its versatile adjustment options.
- We liked the design, and the helmet’s firm fit on the head, which separates it from other products in this price range.
Best Climbing Helmet for Women
Black Diamond – Vector
- The Black Diamond Vector was developed specifically for women’s heads.
- The narrower shape and overall slightly smaller size of the helmet left us feeling convinced.
- The Vector beat the competition in terms of fit and weight.
- Another plus – the helmet was a lot more visually appealing than most other women’s models.
Best Climbing Helmet for Children
Petzl – Picchu
- The Picchu is the winner of the children’s climbing helmet category.
- It offers extra protection and can be flexibly adjusted to fit children aged 3 to 8 years (head circumference 48-54 cm).
- Another plus is the Picchu’s multi-functionality, which means that it can be used for biking in addition to climbing.
Our 9 Test Criteria
It goes without saying that all helmets reviewed here comply with the safety standards for climbing helmets. This means they were all tested and found to protect your head as well as possible from external hazards.
In addition to standard safety, we included 9 other criteria to evaluate the climbing helmets.
As I elaborate on below, I have had my fair share of experiences with poorly fitting helmets. Fit is one of the most important criteria when buying a climbing helmet. A helmet that wobbles or slips around is not acceptable.
Of course, the fit is subjective and varies from person to person, but some helmets just fit significantly better than others, regardless of head shape.
What we judged by:
- How comfortable is the helmet?
- Are there any pressure points or friction points?
- Does the helmet wiggle on top of the head and look clunky?
- Does it offer flexible adjustment options?
- Does the helmet sit firmly on the head, or does it slip and wobble?
I’m not a fan of heavy helmets when it comes to climbing – nowadays, a helmet should not be too heavy. For helmets that are exclusively for climbing, 360 – 380 grams is the maximum.
The lightest climbing helmet in our test weighs just 160 grams.
The lighter the helmet, the more sensitive it is, of course. We awarded helmets that weren’t overly sensitive despite their low weight.
The durability of a helmet largely depends on its weight. Hardshell helmets are extremely durable but are heavier and not as comfortable to wear.
All helmets are subject to the same regulatory standards and reliably protect against falling rocks, etc. This level of safety is a prerequisite for all helmets, so we tested how sensitive the helmets are to transport, scratches, and wear.
Helmets made out of rigid foam can’t be expected to have the same level of durability as hardshell helmets and must be treated accordingly. While hardshell helmets can take just about anything, you should transport lightweight helmets carefully.
4. Closure System
How well can the helmet be fastened and adjusted?
Is the closure system well thought out and easy to use? – Or does the attempt to adjust the helmet end in a frantic “fumbling around” as is often the case with older models?
We awarded extra points if the system was practical and easy to use.
5. Visual Appearance and Shape
The visual appearance is always a matter of personal taste but plays a role regardless. Who wants to buy a helmet, or anything else for that matter, that doesn’t look good?
Some manufacturers offer their models in a variety of colors.
Does the shape fit? How does it sit on the head? What kind of overall impression does it make – sporty or rather dorky? We took appealing appearances and a good profile into account in this test.
On hot days, a well-tuned ventilation system is ESSENTIAL. I personally advise everyone against buying completely black helmets. Why? Because it gets unbearably hot in the summer.
We looked at how well the helmets were ventilated. The comparison of several models showed that significant differences become apparent after just 15 minutes of wearing time (at room temperature).
7. Headlamp Attachment
Every helmet needs a headlamp attachment, so we awarded points for practical and well-thought-out attachments. We tested the helmets with our headlamps from Petzl and Black Diamond.
8. Price-Performance Ratio
Climbing helmets don’t need to be very expensive, so a reasonable price tag was important. For this reason, we can’t recommend some of the helmets we tested, despite strong performances in our test.
In my opinion, 150 or 160 Dollars for a climbing helmet is simply too much. If you’re looking for one regardless, all you need to do is do a quick Google search for “overpriced climbing helmets”.
9. Customer Reviews
What are the customer’s opinions on the helmets? What do all the people who have bought and tested the helmet have to say about it?
We combed through some of the most popular review sites (Google, Amazon, Facebook…) and looked for recurring complaints and mentions of defects. Of course, we also took good reviews into account.
Best Climbing Helmets – Full Reviews
Best Allround Climbing Helmet
Mammut Wall Rider
Type: hybrid helmet
Outer shell: polycarbonate
Inner shell: EPP (expanded polypropylene)
Weight: 195 – 220 gram
This hybrid helmet is very light yet durable – the perfect all-rounder.
That’s achieved by a clever combination of very light EPP foam (black) and an additional durable hardshell (white).
The helmet combines the best of both worlds – the hard shell protects against falling rocks, the EPP ensures low weight.
- The minimalist adjustment system works very well and gives the helmet a snug fit on the head. All test participants were thrilled by the fit.
- The vents provide good airflow and a cool head without sacrificing safety.
- Headlamps are easy to attach, even with cold fingers. The lamp is attached via two clips and a convenient rubber strap.
Weight: The Wall Rider can definitely keep up with ultra-lightweight helmets. Compared to cheaper models, it’s about 100 – 150 grams lighter… so about 30 % lighter, which is definitely noticeable.
Price: Needless to say, it’s somewhat more expensive than the cheaper heavyweights.
Application: The Wall Rider feels right at home everywhere – classic all-rounder.
The Petzl Meteor took second place among the all-rounders. It’s a bit heavier, but in turn, it’s certified for ski touring.
Best Lightweight Helmet
Type: rigid foam helmet
Outer shell: EPS foam
Inner shell: EPP foam (expanded polypropylene)
Weight: 160 – 170 g
Lightweight – for free spirits and everyone who doesn’t like wearing helmets.
The Sirocco is not only very lightweight and comfortable to wear, it also reliably protects you against falling rocks and hitting your head despite its lightweight construction.
High-tech and comfort have their price, though, and this helmet is not one of the cheapest, but you’re paying for some obvious advantages.
- If you don’t like wearing helmets and are trying to find a lightweight and comfortable helmet, you can stop looking – the Sirocco is exactly what you need!
- Anyone who frequently spends a long time wearing a helmet and is looking for one that is super comfortable – virtually not noticeable, in fact –look no further, this is the perfect match. In our opinion, this is the most comfortable helmet there is.
- If you’re looking for a helmet that is very durable and can just be thrown in a backpack and maybe even sat on, this lightweight helmet certainly isn’t right for you.
Comfort & fit: in a class of its own
Headlamp attachment: good
Adjustment options: minimalist – fewer options than heavier helmets but sufficient nevertheless.
By the way, our second place in the lightweight climbing helmet category went to the Black Diamond Vapor, which is a bit pricier but also fits like a glove.
Best Price – Climbing Helmet
Type: hardshell helmet
Outer shell: ABS shell
Inner shell: EPS foam
Weight: 359 grams
Ideal For Beginners – this hard shell helmet is designed for durability and longevity.
Well thought-out adjustment options both on the chin and the back of the head ensure an amazing fit.
The Edelrid-Zodiac can be precisely adjusted to fit any head shape.
Despite its weight, the helmet still fits relatively well even when the headlamp is mounted.
The ventilation is unfortunately not quite up to par with other models. For the price, you will have to accept some sweating.
A brilliant helmet for beginners.
The sturdy construction makes the helmet long-lasting and very durable. The closure system is easy to use, and the weight of 359 grams is appropriate for this price range.
Field of application: Via Ferrata, Rock climbing, shorter alpine tours.
You might also be interested in our second place in the price-performance ratio category: the Black Diamond Half Dome costs a little more but is also worth a recommendation.
Best Climbing Helmet for Women
Black Diamond Vector Women’s Model
Type: hybrid helmet
Outer shell: polycarbonate
Inner shell: EPS foam
Weight: 230 grams
The Vector is a lightweight helmet with a slightly narrower shape than the men’s version and is tailored specifically to women’s heads.
The helmet is equipped with a high-quality closure system that gives you precise adjustment options.
In our test, the helmet consistently received top marks for fit, no matter the head shape.
Attaching the headlamp admittedly requires a bit of fiddling, but once it’s mounted, it stays in place. The additional weight of the lamp didn’t affect the helmet’s great fit.
The reasons why we chose the Vector over the Elia (2nd place) ultimately came down to the fit, shape, and look.
2nd place in the women’s category went to the Petzl Elia. We think the cutout for long hair is a good idea, but some test participants weren’t happy with the helmet’s fit. The Vector also beats the Elia in terms of weight.
Best Climbing Helmet for Kids
Type: multifunctional helmet
Outer shell: ABS shell
Inner shell: EPS foam
Weight: 310 grams
The Picchu is a multifunctional helmet that can be used for biking in addition to climbing.
At 310 grams, the helmet is slightly heavier than the competition but offers better impact protection in turn. It can be adjusted via the closure system at the back of the head and the chin straps so that the helmet fits well and doesn’t wobble.
You can also tell from the vents that this helmet is clearly designed with safety in mind.
Finally, we were convinced by the design, fit and multifunctionality of the helmet.
The Edelrid Kids Shield 2 came in second. Compared to the test winner, the Shield weighs slightly less and is better ventilated, however, it’s more expensive and sports a design that may not appeal to every child.
What Are the Different Types of Climbing Helmets?
There are 3 different types of climbing helmets.
Each type of climbing helmet has its strengths and weaknesses, and we’ll take a look at what they are in detail here.
1. Hard Shells – Super Durable
As the name suggests, hard shell helmets consist of a very hard plastic outer shell (polycarbonate), which mainly protects against falling rocks or the like.
The inside of these helmets is usually made out of a thin layer of rigid foam and provides the necessary comfort.
Extremely durable and worry-free.
You can sit on them if you like (not a recommendation) and you don’t have to worry about transporting them in a backpack – these helmets are very rugged.
Solely the weight (300 – 400 grams) and the associated wearing comfort are hard shell climbing helmet’s weaknesses.
Anyone who climbs on long tours or has a sensitive neck (long belaying without safety goggles) should consider choosing a lighter helmet. These helmets are often used as rental helmets and for training purposes.
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2. Foam shell – Lightweights
These climbing helmets are mostly made of rigid foam (EPP foam – expanded polypropylene). The foam is often covered with a very thin and lightweight layer of plastic.
These helmets are similar in design to bicycle helmets and have their vents on the side to best protect the head from falling rocks.
Light & Safe
These helmets are extremely lightweight, coming in at 160 – 200 grams – which is a boon for anyone who doesn’t like wearing helmets. According to recent studies, rigid foam climbing helmets offer the best protection against impact injuries (when the head hits the wall or ground) when compared to other types of climbing helmets.
What are their weaknesses?
Due to their lightweight materials, these helmets are sensitive. They offer reliable protection against falling rocks and the like but have a shorter life expectancy than, for example, the aforementioned hard shell helmets.
The impact of a falling stone is absorbed by the foam but can leave a decent dent in the helmet. So, depending on the size of the impact, you might have to replace the helmet. Caution should also be exercised when transporting this type of helmet.
It doesn’t get more comfortable
Wearing these helmets is magnificent and doesn’t make you feel restricted in any way, so they’re something for purists who love their gear and take good care of their equipment.
3. Hybrid Helmets – Relatively Durable Yet Lightweight
Hybrid helmets aim to combine the advantages of rigid foam and hard shells – but do they really pull it off? I think they do – which makes these helmets the ideal all-rounders.
Combination of materials
Hybrid helmets combine a rigid foam core with a hard plastic shell. These kind of helmets aren’t as durable as hard shell helmets and also not as light as rigid foam helmets, but, depending on the model, lie somewhere in between.
Manufacturers are constantly releasing new innovative products and it’s exciting to watch in what ways they manage to improve their designs.
Although this is the ideal compromise for me personally, the other two types of helmets definitely also have their place.
The advantages of hybrid helmets lie in the compromise between stability and weight. They’re not quite as lightweight but somewhat less sensitive in turn. Nevertheless, caution should still be exercised when transporting hybrid helmets.
A good climbing harness is:
We tested 14 climbing harnesses – take a look at the 6 Best Climbing Harnesses.
Which Helmet for What Activity?
Basically, if you wear a climbing helmet at all, you’ve already made a great choice – no matter what model it is.
Which type of helmet is most suitable for what discipline usually depends on weight, durability, and personal preference.
The helmet should be relatively lightweight yet durable. The best choice for sport climbing are hybrid helmets since they’re not quite as fragile as rigid foam helmets.
To me, both hybrid and rigid foam helmets make sense here. On long tours, lightweight helmets have a clear advantage. However, if there’s a high risk of falling rocks, I tend to use a hybrid helmet.
Ice Climbing / Technical Mountaineering
Long approaches, a lot of gear – every gram counts. For me, it’s either hybrid or rigid foam helmets.
For via ferrata, I recommend hard shell helmets. Since falling rocks are especially common on popular via ferrata routes, hard shell helmets make a lot of sense here. They are very durable and won’t be bothered by small falling rocks.
If you want to combine climbing with another sport, multi-sport helmets could make sense for you. They’re usually (but not always) a little heavier, but very versatile. A detailed description and examples of such helmets can be found below.
- Super save and durable
- Soft catch
- Best bang for the buck
Climbing Helmets for Women
There are some manufacturers that offer special women’s models. What makes a women’s helmet a women’s helmet, and what’s the difference to a “normal” unisex climbing helmet?
Most women can climb with any model and can wear unisex climbing helmets just fine.
There are special models available for women with very long hair or a small head circumference.
The structure of women’s helmets is the same, the differences lie in the slightly narrower shape and an extra recess for hair that some models offer. This recess allows hair to be worn as a pony tail without impacting the fit of the climbing helmet.
An example of this is the Petzl Elia, which wasspecifically designed for women. It has a recess on the back of the helmet that provides some room for the hair so the fit of the helmet isn’t affected.
Climbing Helmets for Kids
Children’s helmets are obviously very similar to adult helmets. For children, comfort is clearly the most important factor, so the helmet shouldn’t be too heavy, but still durable.
For beginners, hard shell helmets or very durable hybrid helmets make the most sense.
In my opinion, rigid foam helmets are out of the question, as they are far too sensitive and would not last long. Edelrid offers a relatively lightweight (248 grams) and sturdy helmet that is perfect for kids who love climbing.
Climbing and cycling
If you often bike to your climbing spot, a multi-functional helmet might be a good choice. These helmets meet the requirements for both rock climbing and cycling. An example of this is the Petzl Picchu –This helmet is certified for biking in addition to climbing, which makes it super practical on the one hand, but also slightly heavier than pure climbing helmets (310 grams) on the other hand.
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How Much Does a Good Climbing Helmet Cost?
Basically it goes like this:
- Heavy and unsophisticated helmets are cheaper.
- The lighter the helmet the higher the price.
- Lightweight yet very durable helmets are high-end products and have a price tag to match.
For beginners, a solid helmet for around 50 euros is usually more than sufficient. If you go on a lot of long tours, then a larger investment is definitely worth it. High-quality helmets are about 70 – 90 euros.
The most expensive helmets are about 150 euros.
How to fit Climbing Helmet
To adjust a climbing helmet, you usually have a headband that wraps around your head, plus a chin strap. The shape of the helmet and the position of these adjustment options must be suitable for your head shape. Some helmets just don’t fit, and no amount of fiddling with the adjustment system will help.
Good climbing helmet fit – what to look for:
- The helmet should fit as tightly as possible.
- Shifting or twisting is not acceptable.
- The helmet should remain snug no matter how you move or tilt your head.
- It should not restrict your field of vision in any way.
- It shouldn’t cause pressure points or friction points anywhere – neither on the chin, ears, temples nor on the top of the head.
- Even with a mounted headlamp (additional weight) the helmet should still sit firmly and not shift.
Fit – My Climbing Helmet Experience
“Damn… I forgot my helmet!”
Fortunately, my partner had a spare helmet with him.
On a multi-pitch tour in the Dolomites, I experienced what wearing a helmet that doesn’t fit is like. The basic hard shell helmet I had to wear was adjustable, but I still wasn’t able to get a good fit on my head. The tour lasted a total of 6 hours and I was constantly trying to get my helmet to stop moving around. Especially on long tours, a well-fitting helmet is extremely important. A bad helmet requires constant attention, a good helmet doesn’t get in the way of your experience.
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Climbing Helmet Certifications
Every helmet that is sold must meet certain safety standards. Standardized tests are conducted to ensure that ALL helmets provide adequate protection. To pass the test, climbing helmets must withstand certain impacts.
Weights are dropped on the helmet from various positions and heights. During the “penetration test”, pointy weights simulate falling rocks during climbing. The vents and the strength of the chin strap are also tested.
Climbing helmets provide excellent protection against falling rocks, but only offer limited protection in the event of an impact. Bicycle helmets or ski helmets, on the other hand, are designed to protect the head from impact in the event of a fall. Helmets are given a specific EN standard:
- Climbing helmets: EN 12492
- Bicycle helmets: EN 1078
- Ski: EN 1077
Can I Use a Climbing Helmet as a Bicycle Helmet?
No! Unless it’scertified for biking, which climbing helmets usually aren’t. Pay attention to the certification (EN 1078 for bicycle helmets). A climbing helmet doesn’t provide sufficient protection in the event of a bicycle accident!
There are a few climbing helmets such as the Meteor 3+ from Petzl that are certified for biking. This helmet is suitable for both climbing and cycling.
Can I Use a Bicycle Helmet as a Climbing Helmet?
I don’t recommend it! Thegreatest danger when climbing is rocks falling from directly above. Bicycle helmets have relatively large ventilation openings that are usually right on the top of the helmet, which can be dangerous if a rock hits you from above.
The construction of bicycle helmets is not designed to protect you from falling rocks, but rather for impact protection. The material used is softer than what is used in climbing helmets, so a stone falling from above could penetrate the helmet and cause serious head injuries.
Of course, wearing some kind of helmet is better than not wearing one at all, and having some protection is better than having none at all – but a bicycle helmet is far from ideal for climbing.
Can I Use a Climbing Helmet as a Ski Helmet?
Climbing helmets are not designed to provide sufficient protection in the event of a fall and impact while skiing. Ski helmets are much thicker and heavier than climbing helmets and offer real protection in the event of hitting your head. A climbing helmet may protect you from a falling ski pole but not from the impact with an ice plate.
Some helmets, such as the Mammut Alpine Rider, are certified for both climbing (EN 12492) and skiing (EN 1077).
In addition to climbing, the new Petzl Meteor, for example, is suitable for ski touring.
Climbing helmet durability
The average lifespan of a climbing helmet is estimated to be about 5 years. The lifespan depends on the following factors:
Solar radiation: UV radiation weakens the material and shortens the lifespan.
Damage: Any impact can shorten the lifespan. If the helmet shows any signs of fractures or fine cracks, please replace it immediately.
Harmful storage: Humidity, temperature (heat, frost) and sunlight will shorten the lifespan.
A climbing helmet that is hardly ever used and stored properly (dark and dry) can last up to 10 years.