Choosing the right climbing helmet
Climbing helmets are created to protect climbers’ head and spine from violent blows. When buying a new helmet you must always make sure it is CE certified (EN 12492).
Climbing helmets are made of a soft internal layer (made of polypropylene or polystyrene) and a thin but tough external layer, often built in carbon fibre. The internal structure of a helmet must have a system to adjust the distance between your head and the internal layer. Climbing helmets have easily adjustable laces and a clip to open and close. The majority of models also have holes to keep your head aerated when climbing under the sun. When wearing one, it should sit just a bit over your eyebrows. When climbing or belaying helmets should not be put on in fancy ways, tilted backwards or left loose around the head.
How sturdy are climbing helmets?
Climbing helmets are tested and certified to withstand the force exerted by a 1kg rock falling from 10 meters, transmitting to the climber a force not higher than 10kN. Helmets could be made to withstand more than that, but a stronger blow will anyway break a climber spine. Helmets absorb the force produced by the impact of a falling object by deforming their shape. They last long, but once a helmet has lost its initial shape it would be wise to substitute it with a new one.
How long can a climbing helmet last?
If a helmet is exposed to extreme weather conditions or solar rays, the material of which the external layer is made can age and deteriorate very quickly. European Standards (EN12492) regulates the durability of a climbing helmet, and the label inside a new helmet must state up to when it is guaranteed to last. The maximum life of a climbing helmet is generally 10 years.
How do I know my measure?
Climbing helmets come in three sizes: S, M and L. If you’re buying in a shop, make sure you choose one that is at the same time light weighted and neither too large nor too tight. Although the adjusting system helps to fit the helmet to our head, it is good to try it on and move your head up and down without closing the laces. If the helmet is well adjusted and good for you it should stay in position even without being close.
If you're buying a helmet over the internet you can measure your head size by running a lace around your head and taking the measurement in centimeters or inches. Good websites state the measurements of each helmet size.
PS: When buying a new climbing helmet you should pay attention to its ventilation system. You should be considering in which environment or conditions you will be climbing and choose an helmet which adapts to those conditions. If you will be climbing in the Alps you should probably buy a helmet without openings, while if you’re coming to Sardinia you’d rather have one with plenty of air running through!