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Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Rock Climbing Helmet

Woman climbing while using gear such as a rock climbing helmet

Hey there, fellow adventure enthusiasts! Welcome back to our little corner of the internet where we unite over our shared love for all things climbing, hiking, and, yes, our furry companions who often join us on these escapades.

Today, we’re diving headfirst (pun totally intended) into a topic that’s super important for us climbers – rock climbing helmets. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “A helmet? But I’m just going for an easy climb.” Well, my friend, let me tell you, no climb is too easy when it comes to protecting your noggin.

I remember when I used to only put my helmet on for hard leads. I had a close encounter with a tree and a pretty hard landing on a rock. Luckily, I didn’t break anything, but I had a lump on my head for a week. And I always climb with my helmet now!

Rock climbing helmets are more than just a safety accessory. They are the unsung heroes that stand between us and potential risks, even on those seemingly harmless climbs. They act as our personal, wearable guardian angels, absorbing shock, warding off falling debris, and generally saving us from unexpected accidents.

Rock climbing helmets aren’t the only gear you need to climb. If you’re curious about what else you need for rock climbing, check out our article on the items you need to start rock climbing!

So whether you’re a seasoned climber or just starting out, understanding the importance of a good, sturdy rock climbing helmet is vital. And that’s precisely what we’ll be exploring in the next section. So strap in (or should we say, strap on your helmet?), and let’s get started!

This post includes affiliate links, but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

Understanding the Importance of a Helmet

There are plenty of famous climbers who don’t wear helmets. There are big wall climbers, world-class boulderers, and free soloists that don’t bother with helmets. However, that doesn’t legitimize climbing without a helmet or diminish its importance!

Now, you might be thinking, “I’m not scaling Everest here. Do I really need a helmet for my weekend scramble?” The short answer? Absolutely, yes. And here’s why:

Falling Objects

Firstly, let’s talk about falling objects. When you’re out in the wild, it’s not just you and the rock face. There are loose rocks, stray branches, and even the occasional critter making a surprise appearance. A well-fitted helmet is your best defense against these unpredictable falling hazards.

Helmets aren’t just for the climber, either. It’s also good practice for belayers to wear a helmet if their climber kicks a rock loose. The last thing you want while leading a hard pitch is for your belayer to be seriously injured while they hold your life in their hands!

Slips, Trips, And Whippers

Secondly, we’ve all had those ‘oops’ moments where we slip or lose our grip. It happens to the best of us. In these situations, your helmet acts like a bodyguard for your head, absorbing the impact and reducing the risk of serious injury.

Slips are a natural part of climbing. Purdue University backs this up by telling us that 75% of head injuries from rock climbing are from falls. Only 8% are from falling objects.

Now, let’s review a fall that’s a little more serious: whippers. When leading a route, you must place your protection and then go above your protection to the subsequent placement or bolt. If you fall above your protection, you’ll take a whipper – a long fall to your last piece of protection plus whatever slack you had from leading.

When you take a whipper, you want to wear a helmet! You’ll likely swing, roll, and possibly get hit with the rope or falling gear.

Natural Features Of The Rock

Finally, let’s remember those tight squeezes and low overhangs. Navigating these can be tricky, and the last thing you want is a nasty bump on the head ruining your climb. Your helmet’s got you covered here too!

While we all love the adrenaline rush of a good climb, safety should always be priority number one. And understanding the pivotal role of a rock climbing helmet in ensuring safety is the first step towards many more successful – and safe – climbing adventures.

Remember, a helmet isn’t just a piece of gear – it’s your lifeline, shield, and confidence booster rolled into one. So treat it respectfully, choose it wisely, and wear it proudly. After all, the best climbs are the ones we live to tell the tale about!

Different Kinds of Helmets

Climber wearing a rock climbing helmet and climbing rope.

Just like there’s more than one way to climb a mountain, there’s also more than one type of helmet you can wear while doing it. Rock climbing helmets come in all shapes and sizes and are made of various materials.

Some helmets are heavier-duty and made for those who need extra protection, while others are more lightweight and meant to protect you while also letting your head breathe.

If you’re curious, you can check out the helmets we use in our article about the gear we use to rock climb.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

Hard Shell Helmets

First up, we’ve got the classic Hard Shell Helmets. These bad boys have been around the block and are all about durability. They’ve got a tough outer shell and a suspension system inside to absorb shock.


  • Typically cheaper
  • Can take a beating


  • Heavier than other types of helmets
  • Less ventilated

Foam Helmets

Next on our list are the Foam Helmets. These are the lightweights of the helmet world, using foam instead of a suspension system to absorb impact.


  • Comfortable
  • Well-ventilated
  • Great for long climbs


  • More expensive than other types
  • More delicate

Hybrid Helmets

Finally, we’ve got the best of both worlds: Hybrid Helmets. These combine the durability of hard shell helmets with foam helmets’ comfort and weight benefits.


  • Versatile
  • Comfortable
  • Provide great protection


  • Expensive
  • They are less durable than hard-shell helmets.

Which Climbing Helmet Is Best?

So how do you choose the right helmet for you? It really comes down to your climbing style and environment.

If you’re into multi-pitch trad routes or mountaineering where durability and price are essential, a hard shell might be your best bet. Foam could be the way to go if you’re a sport climber or a gym rat who values comfort and ventilation. And if you want a bit of everything, a hybrid might be your perfect match.

Remember, the most important thing is that your helmet fits well and feels comfortable. This isn’t just another piece of gear – it’s an essential part of your safety kit. So take your time, try on a few different types, and find the one that feels like it was made just for you.

What Are Rock Climbing Helmets Made Of?

Here we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of what makes a rock climbing helmet tick. Or rather, what keeps our heads safe when things get rocky – literally!

Imagine this scenario: you’re hanging out with your climbing partner, halfway up a cliff, when suddenly a rock tumbles down from above. What’s the first thing that comes to mind (after expletives, of course)? If you answered, “I’m glad I’ve got my helmet on!” you’re in the right place.

So, let’s explore the different types of foam and materials used in these crucial pieces of safety gear.

EPP Foam

First up, EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) foam. This stuff is the superhero of helmet materials. It’s tough, durable, and has an amazing ability to absorb impacts over and over again without losing its shape or protective qualities.

Think of it as the Hulk of helmet materials, always ready to take a hit and bounce right back.

EPS Foam

Next, we have EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam. If EPP is the Hulk, then EPS is more like Iron Man. It’s highly effective at absorbing energy from impacts, but once it’s taken a hit, it’s done.

The foam compresses, absorbs the shock, and then needs to be replaced. But don’t worry, it’ll give its all to protect your head in a fall.

ABS Shell

Then, there’s the ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) shell. This tough outer layer is what stands between you and any falling debris. It’s rugged, durable, and designed to withstand any impact. It’s like Captain America’s shield, protecting everything inside.

Polycarbonate Shell

Finally, we have the Polycarbonate shell. This material is lightweight yet incredibly strong, making it ideal for the outer surface of a helmet. It’s also resistant to UV rays, which is a bonus when spending hours in the sun.

So how does all this relate to impact protection and directional impact protection? Well, combining these materials in a helmet provides comprehensive protection against direct and glancing impacts.

The foam layers absorb shock, while the tough outer shells deflect and distribute the impact force, reducing the risk of serious injury.

And that, my adventurous friends, is the science behind your rock climbing helmet. So next time you’re scaling those heights with your furry sidekick, you can appreciate the incredible technology keeping your head safe.

Woman climbing while wearing gear such as a rock clibming helmet and harness.

When to Replace an Old Helmet

Now that we’ve covered the different kinds of rock climbing helmets, let’s discuss when it’s time to bid them farewell and bring in a fresh recruit.

We all get attached to our gear, right? There’s that one helmet that’s seen you through thick and thin, weathered storms, survived slips, and bore witness to your greatest climbing triumphs. But even these loyal companions have a lifespan, and knowing when to let go is crucial for our safety.

So, what are the tell-tale signs that your helmet is singing its swan song? Let’s dive in:

  1. Cracks or Dents – If your helmet has cracks or dents, it’s time to say goodbye and get a new helmet to protect your noggin.
  2. Frayed or Worn Straps – If your straps look like they’ve been chewed on by a mountain goat, it might be time for a change.
  3. Faded Color – A sun-bleached helmet might make you look like a seasoned pro, but it’s also a sign that UV radiation has been gnawing at your helmet’s strength.
  4. Visible Signs of Aging – This isn’t about being vain, folks. If your helmet shows signs of aging, like a crumbling foam liner or a rusty buckle, it’s a clear signal that it’s ready to retire.

We’re not here to bring the mood down with heavy safety talk, but it’s important to remember that these signs aren’t just cosmetic issues. They’re your helmet saying, “Hey, I’ve done my job. Now it’s time to pass the baton.”

Ignoring these signs and holding onto a worn-out helmet can be a risky business. Remember, your helmet protects your most valuable asset – your head. So give it the respect it deserves, and when it’s time, replace it without hesitation.

Next up, let’s review how a helmet should fit so that you can find the best possible protection for your noggin.

How a Helmet Should Fit

Rock climbing helmets are like a trusted pair of climbing shoes – they must fit just right so you can excel on your vertical adventure!

In this section, we will discuss how to ensure your helmet fits just right. Because let’s face it, a helmet that doesn’t fit is like wearing hiking boots two sizes too small – uncomfortable and not much help when needed.

So, grab your tape measure and sense of adventure, and let’s get started!

  • Measuring your head: First up, measure your head size. To do this, wrap the tape measure around your forehead, just above your eyebrows. This measurement is your head size, which will guide you in choosing the right helmet size.
  • Comfort and snugness: Your rock climbing helmet should feel like a friendly hug – snug but not suffocating. It should sit level on your head with the front edge no more than an inch above your eyebrows to protect your forehead. The chin strap should be snug under your chin (you should be able to breathe, of course) and form a Y around your ears.

Now, let’s do the wiggle test. Shake your head ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ If your helmet stays put without pressing into your skull, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Remember, a well-fitted helmet is more comfortable for extended climbing sessions and crucial for safety. And while we’re all about chasing thrills, we don’t compromise on safety. So, take the time to find a helmet that fits like a dream.

That’s all for now on fitting rock climbing helmets. Stay tuned for our next section, where we’ll explore other vital considerations when choosing your perfect helmet. Spoiler alert: style and color are definitely on the list because who said safety can’t look cool?

Until then, keep living on the edge (safely, of course), and remember to bring your furry friends along for the ride! That’s right, you can bring your pup or cat with you while you climb! Not sure how? Check out our article on how to hike and rock climb with your pet for all the tips and considerations for a safe and tail-wagging time.

Other Considerations When Choosing a Helmet

We’ve already covered the all-important fit in our previous chat, but let’s be honest, there’s more to choosing the perfect helmet than just a snug hug for your noggin. So, let’s dive into some other key factors that should guide your decision.


First up, weight. This is one time when being lightweight is a serious advantage. A heavy helmet can feel like you’ve got a boulder strapped to your head after a few hours of climbing.

So go for something that feels light and comfortable but offers solid protection. Remember, every ounce counts when you’re scaling those heights!


Next, let’s talk about ventilation. Ever had your head feel like it’s in a sauna while you’re halfway up a cliff? Not fun, right? That’s where ventilation comes in. Look for a helmet with plenty of vents to keep that cool breeze flowing through your hair (or fur, if you’ve got a furry climbing companion).


Another critical feature is adjustability. Our heads come in all shapes and sizes, and so should our helmets. An adjustable helmet lets you fine-tune the fit, ensuring maximum comfort and safety.

While discussing adjustability, it’s also essential to look at the adjustment system itself. Is it a buckle system? Magnets? Or something else entirely. Ensure you’re comfortable with the process of loosening and tightening your helmet.

Style And Color

Now, let’s not forget about style. Yes, you heard me right! No rule says safety gear has to be boring. Feel free to express your personality through color and design choices. After all, who doesn’t want to look good while conquering mountains?

Or, if you’re like me, you can decorate your helmet with all the awesome stickers you collect from local breweries near your climbing site!

Additional Features

Finally, consider any additional features that suit your climbing style. Are you a fan of twilight or night climbing? Look for helmets with headlamp clips. Do you often climb in unpredictable weather? Consider a helmet with a rain shield.

Ultimately, it’s all about finding a helmet that fits well, protects your head, and makes you feel confident and ready for adventure. So be bold, be brave, and most importantly, be you when choosing your rock climbing helmet.

Next, we’ll explore some of our favorite rock climbing helmets on the market.

Climber looking into the sun while wearing a rock climbing helmet

Best Rock Climbing Helmets

Rock climbing helmets come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and styles. Most of the top rock-climbing brands sell helmets. Here’s a list of some of the top climbing helmets on the market:

Climbing HelmetTop FeaturesPrice
Black Diamond VisionVery comfortable. Durable foam helmet featuring EPP foam, EPS foam puck, and ABS shell. Offers exceptional protection.$99.95
Black Diamond VaporLightweight construction with excellent ventilation.$149.95
Mammut Wall RiderRobust yet lightweight design. Hybrid construction. EPP foam core for superior impact absorbtion.$149.95
Black Diamond Vision MipsOffers some of the best protection. EPP foam on the inside for multi-impact protection. Easily adjustable.$149.95
Petzl SiroccoExtremely lightweight and comfortable. Great ventilation.$114.95
Petzl MeteorVersatile, lightweight, and well-ventilated. Magnetic chin-strap buckle. Affordable.$89.95
Black Diamond Half DomeLow-profile suspension. Lightweight. Headlamp clips. Affordable. $59.95

I recommend going to a brick-and-mortar store and trying on a helmet rather than purchasing one online. However, there’s nothing wrong with finding the right fit in-store and shopping online for the best deal!

The Grand Finale Of Our Helmet Journey!

Well, folks, it’s been quite the adventure. We’ve scaled the cliffs of helmet knowledge together, explored the nooks and crannies of EPP and EPS foam, and even took a peek under the hard shells of ABS and Polycarbonate. What a ride!

Remember, your rock climbing helmet is more than just a piece of gear; it’s your trusty sidekick, always ready to take a hit to keep you safe. So, whether you’re a seasoned climber or a newbie just starting out, investing time and thought into choosing your helmet is crucial.

And hey, why not have a little fun with it? Choose a color that matches your adventurous spirit or a design that makes you smile whenever you wear it.

Now, we’d love to hear from you. Got a rock climbing helmet that you absolutely love? Or maybe one that didn’t quite hit the mark? Drop us a comment below. Share your experiences, what you like or dislike about your helmet or any tips you might have for picking the perfect helmet. Your insights could be the guiding light for fellow adventurers on their helmet-hunting journey.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of our helmet exploration. But don’t worry. There are plenty more adventures waiting just around the corner. You can check out our climbing blog for more inspiration!

So, until next time, keep climbing, keep exploring, and remember – the view is always worth the climb! Stay safe out there, adventurers, and give your furry climbing partner an extra head scratch from us. Happy climbing!


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