Categories: ClimbingGear Guide

The Best Climbing Helmets of 2021 by Category – Buying Guide & Reviews

If you're thinking about climbing, ​a climbing helmet is your best friend and can really make the difference between life and death..

You probably have a lot of questions about the rope you should buy, the brand of shoes, the best harness for different climbing types, and why do these ice axes look so funny?

But before you go out and spend money on the perfect rope, the latest climbing shoes, or a few high-performance ice axes, think about how you're going to protect your head from falling rocks or chunks of ice.

But not just any old helmet will do. It has to be strong, light, comfortable and breathable.

There are many helmets on the market, however there are many factors to consider such as ​adjustment, weight and ​price.

That's why I've prepared a summary of the best climbing helmets by category and review them for you.


​Key Features:

Weight: ​​6.6 oz (​187 g)

It is one of the lightest helmets on the market: 6.6 oz (187 g)

With a sleek and airy profile, it's the perfect choice for summer climbing.

A Kevlar sheet and carbon rods ​are inserted between the EPS foam and the polycarbonate shell, eliminating the weight while providing high impact protection.

The suspension system is intuitive, and the helmet includes clips for headlamps.

The interior padding makes it a very comfortable helmet you can wear all day and forget you're wearing it.

Offered at a mid-range price, it's the perfect choice for fast climbers.


The best helmet for women:

​Key Features:

Weight: ​​​7.7 oz (​220 g)

Although most climbing helmets are unisex, women-specific climbing helmets offer women climbers options tailored for them.

They are smaller in size than unisex helmets and are generally available in a variety of colors.

The Vector is extremely versatile, recommended for everything from weekend climbing to long alpine ascents.

The Vector is light 7.7 oz (220 g) and offers excellent protection against shocks.

A polycarbonate shell completes the EPS foam structure.

Like the Vapor, the generous ventilation openings allow good air circulation on hot summer days.

The Vector is easy to adjust thanks to a ratcheting adjuster complemented by molded clips.

The design of the Black Diamond Vector ​allows easy storage in your backpack for long approaches, and it also includes clips for the lights.

If you're a woman climber and you want a helmet that's tailor-made for you, the Vector is the ideal choice.

The best climbing helmet for big heads:

​Key Features:

Weight: ​​​​9.5 oz (​270 g)

If you have a bigger head, it's difficult to find a climbing helmet that fits you.

Although helmets are available in different sizes, many models do not offer extra-large options.

The Salewa Vega is part of a range of helmets suitable for people with larger heads, together with the Black Diamond Vapor above - our best choice for lightness.

The size of the Vega is suitable for heads from 23,2 in to 24,8 in (59 cm to 63 cm).

The Vega is an excellent and versatile helmet that weighs only 9.5 oz (270 g), while maintaining a lasting identity.

Unlike many of its competitors, two layers of foam, including a dense EPS inner layer and a single piece of EPP, provide additional impact protection.

Long and thin vents on the sides and back of the helmet provide decent ventilation.

The Salewa Vega also offers unique features, including a combination of clips on the front and an elastic band on the back to hold a headlamp in place.

Its price may seem expensive, but it is the best value for money in the already limited helmet category for climbers with a larger head.


The best climbing helmet for small heads:

​Key Features:

Weight: ​​​10.4 oz (​295 g)

Petzl is a climbing equipment company that has been around long enough to know how to cover all aspects of climbing helmets.

Although the company qualifies the Borea as a helmet specifically for women, a range of male colors makes it an ideal choice for men with small heads, too.

The Petzl Borea is an ABS-style helmet (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), but it offers superior ventilation compared to other ABS models.

It's comfortable and easy to adjust - and if you're a woman or a man with long hair, you'll love the Omega-shaped cut designed for a ponytail.

There are also side adjustments to help keep the helmet in place.

The Borea can fit heads from 20.4 in to 22.8 in (52 cm to 58 cm), which ​meets the range proposed by my selection of the best children climbing helmet.

Wearing a child's helmet is an option, but the additional features of the Borea make it a more desirable choice for climbers with small heads.

With a weight of 10.4 oz (295 g), it is an ideal climbing helmet, with an affordable price.


The best climbing helmet for children:

​Key Features:

Weight: ​​​10.9 oz (310 g)

If you have a little one who is interested in climbing, you are in luck - there is a lot of kid-specific climbing equipment on the market.

Like most parents, a helmet is probably the first thing you'll buy them, and the Petzl PICCHU is a quality choice.

Petzl designed the PICCHU to meet cycling and climbing standards, making it a two-in-one product that's hard to turn down, especially when you’ll see the price.

The PICCHU is suitable for children between the ages of 3 and 8 years old, with sizes ranging from 18.9 in to 21.2 in (48 cm to 54 cm).

The PICCHU offers complete protection, with an ABS shell and a polystyrene coating for shock absorption.

The interior foam padding is removable for easy cleaning.

The helmet includes multiple adjustment features, including an inner headband, chin strap and side release buckle.

 The part kids will love the most? The helmet comes with three pages of stickers to customize, one of which is reflective for night visibility.

The best alpine climbing helmet:

​Key Features:

  • ​​most durable helmets on the market,
  • ​EPP and EPS foam plus ABS shell,
  • ​affordable price.

Weight: ​11 oz (311 g)

When climbing an alpine route, we usually encounter risky rocky walls where rocks are more likely to collapse.

Therefore, durability must be a key factor in the choice of ​a climbing helmet.

The Petzl Boreo is one of the most durable helmets on the market.

It is made of EPP and EPS foam in addition to a hard ABS shell, which may seem excessive to some people, until a stone falls on your head.

The foams wrapped in the shell also help disperse the impact, making neck protection even more effective.

It's also easy to attach a headlamp which is crucial when starting early in the mountains.

Weighing 11 oz (311 g), it's light enough to carry out an alpine expedition while offering the level of protection you need in the mountains.

 And its affordable price makes it even more attractive.

​The best low budget climbing helmet:

​Key Features:

Weight: ​11.6 oz (330 g)

If you're short on cash, new to rock climbing or looking for something that's proven itself, the Black Diamond Half Dome helmet is for you.

A strong ABS shell protects the inside EPS foam, making it superior to polycarbonate shells in terms of durability.

With a weight of 11.6 oz (330 g), it won't win any awards for its lightness, but it does the job and is ideal for all types of climbing.

The suspension system is extremely adjustable and includes a custom dial for precise adjustment.

The headlamp clamps are among the safest on the market, so you don't have to worry about losing your light.

The only drawback is the lack of adequate ventilation holes, but it's hard to beat this quality/price ratio.


Climbing helmet ​buying guide


Tips, advice

As for cycling and skiing, the use of helmets for climbing has become widespread on cliffs, for the greater good and safety of climbers.

But for an optimal protection, it will be necessary to choose it according to the morphology of your head and the practice of your activity.

Here are a few tips that will help you in your choice.

How to choose your climbing helmet?

The head circumference

The first thing to know will be your head circumference.

As with the climbing harness adjusted to your waist, to wear a climbing helmet it has to fit perfectly on your head, because even if you choose a one size fits all helmet, make sure that:

The helmet is not too small: your head should fit correctly in the helmet, because if it is too small, you will really be uncomfortable and the effectiveness of the helmet will be diminished with a lack of protection on the neck.

The helmet is too big: it doesn't fit well on your head, even if you adjust it tightly​.

Besides the fact that the helmet will constantly move, fall on your eyes and ​block your vision, you also risk losing your helmet during the climb.

The weight of the climbing helmet

The second important point will be the weight of the helmet. If you do some via ferrata during the year, a slightly heavier and less technical helmet will not be a handicap, unlike in multi-pitch climbing or long routes, where you will wear the helmet continuously and where ​its lightness will be important for comfort.

Chinstrap settings

The adjustments on the helmet are more and more ingenious.

The ​better the helmet can be adjusted, the better it will adapt to the shape of your head, making it even more comfortable and safer.

Helmets that offer chin strap tightening and adjustment ​together with a​ dial fit system for the inner helmet ​shell are a must. 

Additional comfort options

Ventilation: this is of paramount importance because the temperature can rise quickly under a climbing helmet. In order to avoid overheating your head, good ventilation is necessary, and the sliding shutters and other ventilators found on the helmets provide a significant amount of comfort.

Headlamp attachments: this is a handy option when mountaineering and you have to leave the hut early before sunrise.

The color

The color is only a question of preference, but we will rather prefer bright colors when we practice climbing in high mountain.

When should you wear a climbing helmet?

In short pitch and long routes: ​the belayer and the climber will wear a helmet at the foot of the cliffs.

In the mountains: as soon as you leave the refuge, and put one foot on a glacier, you will wear it.

In tree climbing and via ferrata: the helmet is mandatory when you engage on a cable route.

In indoor climbing and bouldering, a helmet is unnecessary, but as soon as you tackle the vertical world requiring climbing ropes, you need better protection for your head.

​We may wonder why so many climbing enthusiasts don't wear a climbing helmet when they have one in their bag.

What material are climbing helmets ​made of?

In the above description of the best climbing helmets, I talked about ABS, EPP and EPS and I thought you would want to know more about these materials.

Climbing helmets are mainly made of plastic.

They require all of them to have minimum hardness and impact resistance, so they pass the tests to comply with regulations.

However, some of these materials are lighter than others, hence the distinction between three main types of helmet construction:

Rigid shells: The strongest and most durable.

We can use them in all adventure activities, so it is normal that companies that offer multi-adventure services use them a lot.

They are generally made of ABS plastic (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene),​ a common thermoplastic polymer, with an interior cushion of hybrid construction.

Lightweight shells: The outer plastic layer is thinner, making it less durable but more capable of absorbing impacts.

It is made of a molded expanded foam called EPS (Expanded PolyStyrene).

It can be considered as a hybrid helmet, a mix of materials with which we will quote below.

Ultra-lightweight shells: this is the one that professionals or experienced adventurers appreciate the most because of its great lightness.

They are made in one piece (monobloc) with expanded polypropylene (EPP) or expanded polystyrene (EPS), without the outer layer.

It is necessary to take into account the risk of reducing their protection and the economic cost because of their shorter lifespan.

Conclusion

The climbing helmet is a fundamental part of our equipment.

We would even say that it is mandatory, although in individual activities, like rock climbing, because of the nature of it, no one will require its use.

Let's not forget that the head is one of the most sensitive parts of our body, where any injury can have serious consequences, even death.

To avoid these risks, we must always use a helmet.

The market offers many options and at very interesting prices.

Just look for the most appropriate model for the climbing practices you are going to perform, either you are an advanced climber or just a beginner eager to progress in climbing, always paying attention to the ​durability of the product, if possible, combined with lightness and comfort.

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