Best Climbing Helmets: The Top 5 of 2018
Climbing helmets are unisex, but if you’re interested, click here for the list of women-specific climbing helmets.
|Climbing Helmet||Retail Price|
|Top Pick: Petzl Meteor||$$|
|Best Value: Black Diamond Half Dome||$|
|Lightweight Pick: Petzl Sirocco||$$$|
|Best for Large Heads: Black Diamond Vapor||$$$|
|Most Comfortable: Black Diamond Vector||$$|
We’ve all seen this poster at our climbing gym before. You’ve probably looked at it so many times that you don’t even register it anymore. It’s the truth, though. Climbing is a dangerous sport, especially when done outdoors. However some simple steps can be taken to decrease the risk, such as wearing a climbing helmet.
Since they are so important, we’ve compiled here a list of the best climbing helmets available today. All of these are solid options for most forms of climbing, but we’ve tried to help you find the right one for your needs by indicating who and what each helmet is best suited for.
Table of Contents
Top Pick: Petzl Meteor
Weight, comfort, and protectiveness are arguably the most important factors of a climbing helmet.
For manufacturers, it is hard to balance these three factors because, oftentimes, the lighter the helmet the more comfortable but less protective it becomes. The Petzl Meteor earns our top pick as the best climbing helmet because it is surprisingly protective given how comfortable and lightweight it is (the larger of the two available sizes maxes out at 7.94 oz).
Beyond this impressive balance, the Meteor is a well-designed helmet that comes with 14 large vents for good ventilation. It has a place to attach a headlamp and a magnetic buckle on its chin strap which lets you securely close it with just one hand. The helmet adjusts easily and can fit a variety of head shapes. Women with ponytails can comfortably wear the helmet, too.
The Meteor is suited for mountaineering, alpine climbing, and all forms of rock climbing. It will protect your head whether you take a whipper, have a rock fall on you from above, or ding your head against a roof or chimney.
The versatility of the Meteor makes it a solid choice for most climbers in most scenarios. However, if you are interested the most durable option on the list take a look at the Black Diamond Half Dome (reviewed next). Or if you need the lightest option, we recommend the Petzl Sirocco.
Best Value: Black Diamond Half Dome
According to Black Diamond, the Half Dome is the most durable climbing helmet they make. And, according to us, it is also the best value climbing helmet available.
The Half Dome is good looking and comfortable. It comes with easy-to-use headlamp clips that can fit a GoPro. There is also a wheel adjuster which makes the helmet’s fit highly adjustable.
Depending on the size you get, it will weigh either 11 or 12 oz. That makes the Half Dome the second heaviest helmet on this list, but for those who are looking for durability and/or value (or who don’t mind a slightly heavier helmet) this is your best bet.
The Half Dome was designed to be a workhorse, all-around climbing helmet. It will protect climbers from whippers and both belayers and climbers from falling rocks and ice.
Lightweight Pick: Petzl Sirocco
Limiting the collective weight of your climbing gear can be incredibly important in certain scenarios. In these scenarios, the helmet you wear needs to be lightweight but still able to protect your noggin. The Petzl Sirocco is the best lightweight climbing helmet because it offers decent protection while being shockingly light.
Maxing out at 5.82 oz (165 g), the Sirocco is the lightest climbing helmet currently available. It is great for speed climbing, multi-pitch climbing, light and fast alpine climbing, or for when you need to pack as lightly as possible (e.g. an international climbing trip).
Also, the helmet is well-ventilated so, as its name might imply (a sirocco is a hot, dry wind), it is good for warm days when you want a helmet that won’t cause you to be uncomfortably hot. Indeed, it can feel like you aren’t even wearing a helmet at times which encourages you to keep it on even in the heat.
The lightness of the Sirocco does come with some trade-offs, though. It is the most helmet expensive on the list. It also the least durable helmet on this list for obvious reasons, and it can get dinged up relatively easily. Lastly, possibly related to its being made as one single piece, the Sirocco is only available in one color, a slightly garish orange.
The Sirocco isn’t for everyone, but for climbers in need of the lightest climbing helmet possible, it is the best option.
Best for Large Heads: Black Diamond Vapor
If you have a particularly large…brain, and have had trouble with finding a climbing helmet that fits your head, consider the Black Diamond Vapor (M/L size).
The Vapor is the largest helmet on this list and is designed to fit domes 58-63 cm (23-25 in) in circumference.
It offers lots of cranium coverage and is capable of withstanding plenty of abuse. It can fit on large heads even if a beanie is involved. What’s more, despite its size it is still lightweight and comfortable — Black Diamond calls it “the lightest, most breathable and most comfortable climbing helmet we’ve ever made.”
The durability and volume of the Vapor make it a good choice for anyone looking for the best climbing helmet for large heads or for a burly lid that will hold up to lots of use.
It’s always a good idea to measure your head before buying a helmet. To do so, measure around the largest part of your head — about one inch above your eyebrows.
If your head is larger than 63 cm or 25 in, your options are severely limited. The Grivel Salamander XL is your best and pretty much only option, but it hasn’t been available in the US for some time. You’ll have to do some digging to find one.
Most Comfortable: Black Diamond Vector
If you don’t wear your climbing helmet then it won’t do you any good. You’ll actually wear your helmet if you enjoy doing so, and you’ll enjoy doing so if the helmet is comfortable and stylish.
The Black Diamond Vector is visually appealing (lots of cool color options available) and also the most comfortable climbing helmet available today. Its comfort coupled with its lightness can make you forget you’re even wearing a helmet. There are also large ventilation ports in it that provide good ventilation for warm days. Alternatively, the helmet adjusts easily in case you want to wear a beanie underneath during the colder months.
For a foam helmet, the Vector, at most weighing 8.5 oz (240 g), is a little heavier than lightweight counterparts such as the Petzl Sirocco. However, this extra weight is due to greater coverage and durability.
The Vector can be used for many different styles of climbing. It is particularly good for any situation where you’ll be wearing your helmet for a long period of time, such as multi-pitch routes, alpine climbs, or canyon expeditions. It is also a solid choice for any form of recreational climbing, especially if you want a helmet that is a pleasure to wear.
Best Women’s Climbing Helmets
All of the above helmets are unisex. Women can wear them just as easily as men. There are a few women-specific climbing helmets available, though, in case you are interested in one.
Here are all the women’s climbing helmets currently on the market:
Women’s climbing helmets have different designs and generally run a little smaller than unisex versions. Consider one if you’d like a color scheme different from unisex climbing helmets or are worried that the above options will be too big for your head.
How to Choose the Best Climbing Helmet for Your Needs
What good does buying a climbing helmet do if you don’t wear it? Above all, pick a helmet that is comfortable and attractive in your eyes because if, on the other hand, you get an uncomfortable and unattractive helmet you will probably never wear it and it will do you no good.
Consider the type of climbing you’ll be doing. Are you at an increased risk of hitting your head or having something (e.g. rock, ice) fall onto your head? Or do you simply need a layer of cranium protection for the worst case scenario?
If your climbing helmet would be seeing lots of abuse then opt for a durable and more protective helmet. Otherwise, you might be able to get away with a lighter option.
Weight can be an important criteria for gear selection depending on the type of climbing you’re doing. Those seeking to minimize climbing pack weight for whatever reason should look for lightweight climbing helmets.
On the other hand, if you’re just spending a day at the crag and don’t need to pack as lightly as possible you can consider a heavier, more protective option. Just know that, generally, the lighter the helmet the less protective and durable it is.
Most helmets come in two adjustable sizes. Those two sizes span most head sizes but can fit weirdly towards the extremes (i.e. on people with small or large heads).
If you have a small head, our top pick, the Petzl Meteor, will fit your head well, or you could consider a woman’s climbing helmet. If you have a large head, the Black Diamond Vapor is a good choice for you.
Photo Credit: Amazon