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Helmet... when?

Probably one of those "common sense" kind of questions (if you have to ask, you already know the answer...).  But, I'll give it a go anyway.

My friend and I have been catching more and more peaks around our area.  Generally speaking, we try not to venture onto any routes that are more serious than a solid 3.  In other words, we don't rope and will do a little hand-over-hand climbing. 

Looking at our docket for the coming year, we have a few more challenging trips planned.  And, while most remain within the confines of what we have done in the past, I have started to think that a mountaineering helmet might be a logical purchase.  Mind you, we still will not be roping or doing any routes that explicitly require that kind of equipment.

The real concern that I have is taking a good tumble down a slope and wanting my head covered.  Rarely, do I find myself actually "under" my friend on a slope where he could dislodge a chunk o' something and do some damage.

Would you carry/wear a helmet as a precaution with these kind of pursuits in mind? 

Thanks!  Looking forward to your wisdom.

On a partially-related side-note, I have a large head (just shy of a size 8).  I have paired down my shopping list for huge helmets to:

Grivel Salamander XL- $$
Black Diamond Vector M/L - $$$
Camp Stunt - $
Petzl Ecrin Roc (new version) - $$

Any I am missing or want to take out of the running?

Basic rule - If there is any possibility of a head injury from objects from above (your buddy knocks a rock down the slope - loose rocks can bounce on very irregular paths and only rarely fall straight down the slope, rocks come loose due to melting snow/ice, idiots above you believe in tossing rocks down when they get to the summit - yes, there are people like that), or if there is a possibility of falling due to tripping, handhold pulling out, etc, wear a helmet.

As for the cost of the helmet, look for the CE or UIAA logo on the helmet. All climbing helmets must meet these standards (CE is most common and what you see on European brands. Comfort is important, which means also look for easy adjustability.

I mostly use the Petzl Ecrin Roc.

When I took my climbing class years ago, one of the guides got bonked on the head with an ice axe. Can't remember what happened, but the gash wasn't as bad as it looked. Shallow head wounds tend to look worse than they are, or at least that was the case here. In any event, a helmet might have avoided the whole thing. We did have them, but he had his off at the time.

I'm a big believer in helmets. I've been hit by cars on a motorcycle and bicycle and crashed a few times on skis. Each time, a helmet came in handy, if nothing else, it prevented some bad road rash, but in the motorcycle crash, it prevented a serious head injury.

Me: Firefighter (wildland and structural), high angle rescue technician, skateboarder, recreational tree climber, bicyclist, SAR tecnician...

I have an activity-specific helmet for all of the above.
My answer to the question: "Helmet... when?" Only when I don't want to die.
Cost? One of my favorite quotes is "Buy a $10 helmet for a $10 head."

Incidentally, with the opposite problem as Cleric, I've found that the small Grivel Salamander climbing helmet has worked best for my size 6 3/4 head too. Good all around coverage. Petzl helmet have never provided a good fit (for me) and many people I see wearing them look like they have a margarine tub strapped up top. That being said, because of good availability, I did purchase 12 Elios' for our public tree climbing activities at the nature center. I wear my Salamander.

I think it would be foolish to do anything with someone above without a helmet. It seems like you are saying that SINCE you are not roped, it is less necessary. I would say it is just as needed as if you were on a rope of belaying someone above you.

Got it!  That was what my gut was saying... and, as always, the gut is right (with the exception of that one sushi parlor).

Thank you all for keeping my head screwed on straight... or without a rock in it.

F Klock - Thanks for the additional feedback on the helmets.  I read a review a while ago that said that Grivel's customer service is a bit lacking... not a lot of support here in the states.  And, while the Salamander XL certainly seems to be the best fit for my gourd at the moment, I always hesitate to pull the trigger on a company that has a sketchy customer service record.  Any thoughts?

I have tried, but one helmet does NOT fit all activities.


Pacific Rescue Kevlar (SAR)


Grivel Salamander (climbing)

Pro-Tec Cutaway (skate)

Fox Flux (bike)

This chart will tell you who certifies helmets for what activity:

As long as it fits, has good suspension and is comfy, a helmet meeeting these certs ought to work. 

Many of the certifications listed work for multiple sports.  It looks like one meeting the Snell N-94 rating might be the most versitile.




Very helpful Jeff!  Thank you!

cleric, go with a helmet. Their not that uncomfortable, not all that hot, and provide so much more safety than without.

I personally use a helmet that CAMP makes - the price was a big factor, but after a lot of research I found it to be reliable according to people's reviews.

The selling factor for me was a documentary I've watched repeatedly because I love it, of climbers climbing through the Khumbu icefall on Everest, and climbing up the Lhotse Face on Everest, while wearing the helmets by CAMP. 

If it's good enough for Everest, it's probably good enough for just about anywhere.

Go with a helmet. It takes hardly more than a pebble falling 100 feet, to do serious damage to your noggin. Bicycle helmets are made for one impact, not multiples. As you are trying different ones, you know that fit is very important.

I like the Grivel

Yes where a helmet

Yes, a helmet can save your life, get a good one thats made for more than one impact. Slipping on a snow slope and sliding into rocks below head first. Wind, Freeze, Thaw, Animals and people, any number of things can dislodge rocks and Ice above you. The wind can blow you off your feet in some areas. I've experienced most of these things at one time or another in the mountains.

Mtn Guide,

Just curious about your background. You have something over 15 posts (with good beta) and several gear reviews (informative), so you apparently have some good background. Your profile lists nothing, however. Please expand your profile. Are you a professional guide (AMGA?) with a guide service? One of the things we like to know is what affiliations in the industry members have, if any. This helps in understanding where people are coming from (as well as how much reliance to put on what they post - so far your posts indicate a fair amount of real-life experience).


Always. every time you hould wear one.

I have a small helmet collection too... :)

I've used this once for a class rock climbing outing. But have used this more for guided spelunking trips. Love it!!!

Random ATV trips. Sadly the last time I used it was for an indoor go-kart outing. NO WAY I'm sticking my head in other stinky smelly helmets!!!


lol and this one is to be used for a zombie apocalypse... ;) (prop from Resident Evil: Afterlife film)


so I say, USE PROTECTION!!!! Safety first!!! Yes to the helmet!!!

October 30, 2020
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