Helmets: My Two Cents

Earlier this summer a question on the Great Outdoors StackExchange site led me to look further into the standards for climbing helmets.  The question itself, a basic “can I use my bicycle helmet for climbing”, was fairly simple and has been asked many times in many places.  The development of lightweight foam climbing helmets has also caused some confusion in this area, with even experienced people confused as to where these new designs sit on the spectrum from traditional hard-shell climbing helmets and ultra-ventilated bicycling helmets.

For example, one person wrote: “there are helmets sold as climbing helmets which are basically one-hit-wonders. Those are constructed similar to bike helmets that are meant to crack as they absorb the force of an impact. Once they are so compromised they are pretty much useless. A proper mountaineering helmet would be one built with high impact plastics and other shock absorbing features that allows them to absorb multiple impacts and keep on ticking.

My immediate thought was this writer has rather unrealistic expectations about both types of helmets.  As you’ll see at the end of this post, the relevant climbing (and cycling) helmet standards call for each test helmet to receive impacts in a few different spots (e.g. two on the crown, one on each side, etc.).  Contrary to many expectations, the bicycle helmet standards seem to have just as much emphasis on these “multiple impacts” as do the climbing helmet standards!  Additionally, most “hardshells” currently on the market are actually single-impact hybrid designs.  So, let’s dig into this a bit more…

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