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Not every climber uses a helmet, but every climber who has ever suffered a fall, hit their head on an overhang or been bombarded by rockfall without one wishes they had. There are many different climbing helmets on the market, and knowing which one is best for you can be difficult. Some helmets have a hard plastic shell for increased durability, whereas others prioritize lightness and are made from polycarbonate-coated foam. Design features range from ventilation holes and headlamp attachments to ponytail cutouts for women. In this article, we divide our favorite climbing helmets into a few different categories. Read on to see which helmet is the right one for your next expedition.
Our Top Picks
Best Hardshell: Edelrid Ultralight Hardshell Helmet
Hardshell helmets feature a hard plastic shell for increased resistance to dings and scratches. This durability combines with a relatively low price-tag to provide great value for money, making them a good choice for climbing schools, beginners and those on a budget. The Ultralight is a classic option from respected climbing brand Edelrid. It meets UIAA and CE safety standards and has an impact-resistant polypropylene shell. At 15 ounces, it’s light (for a hardshell helmet) and is loved by Amazon reviewers for its simplicity and head coverage.
The helmet comes in one size only for head circumferences of 21 to 23.5 inches. You can tailor it to fit your head shape using the fully adjustable head strap and chinstrap. A detachable, washable headband made of synthetic leather prevents chafing; and a constant supply of fresh air is supplied by no fewer than 26 vents. These vents make the helmet a particularly good choice for summer climbers. It also boasts an integrated headlamp attachment and comes in six colors, including black, snow, turquoise, and blue. Pick orange or red for mountaineering in potential whiteout conditions.
Best Foam: Black Diamond Vapor Helmet
Weighing just 6.6 ounces (for the small/medium size), the Black Diamond Vapor is one of the lightest climbing helmets on the market, making it a great choice for experienced multi-pitch climbers who spend hours at a time in their gear. It features a co-molded EPS foam core protected by a thin polycarbonate shell. In between these two layers, a Kevlar sheet reinforced by carbon rods helps to keep weight to a minimum while ensuring maximum protection.
Amazon reviewers say that the Vapor’s low profile and ultra-comfortable fit make it easy to forget you’re wearing it at all. This illusion is enhanced by the geometric, open-air design that allows for unparalleled airflow while also cutting down on weight. Use the ratchet adjuster to make micro-adjustments to the helmet’s fit; and the headlamp clips to attach a torch for after-dark climbs. These clips can be removed when not in use to reduce the chance of snagging. The helmet comes in four colors (blizzard, envy green, fire red, and steel gray) and two sizes (small/medium and medium/large).
Best Hybrid: Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
If you can’t decide between hardshell and foam, the Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet offers the best of both worlds. It provides lightness and comfort in the shape of an EPS foam core while its hard plastic shell makes it the most durable helmet in the Black Diamond arsenal. It’s an affordable all-rounder for everything from cragging to alpine climbs. Amazon reviewers love the helmet’s lightness (the small/medium version weighs 11 ounces) and its durable feel, which gives them the confidence they need to climb bigger and better.
The internal headband is adjusted by a wheel that allows for precise, one-handed fit alterations. Small vents on the sides and back provide some ventilation, but it could be better; this can be a con for climbs in tropical climates, but a pro for those going ice climbing. The helmet’s headlamp clips are also exceptionally secure. It comes in two sizes, small/medium and medium/large, and there are different colors to choose from. Opt for subtle limestone or blizzard; or high-visibility orange.
Best Next Generation: Mammut Wall Rider Climbing Helmet
While most foam helmets use EPS, the Mammut Wall Rider Climbing Helmet takes things to the next level by using EPP foam instead. The same material used in vehicle side-impact protection, EPP is better able to withstand repeated impacts and as such it’s one of the best options on the market for serious climbers. Innovation comes at a price, however, as it’s also one of the most expensive helmets on this list. At 6.9 ounces, the Wall Rider is incredibly lightweight and comfortable. Its lightness is aided by a minimalist adjustment system.
EPP is relatively susceptible to sharp impacts. Mammut addresses this issue by reinforcing the helmet with a partial hard plastic shell that protects the front and top of your head from falling rocks and scree. The design offers excellent occipital coverage, too, while generous all-round ventilation means that you’re unlikely to overheat on even the most arduous climbs. Use the twin clips on the front and the rubber loop on the back to attach a headlamp. There are two sizes and three colors, including chill (blue), night and orange.
Best for Women: Petzl Elia Women’s Climbing Helmet
Although all the helmets on this list can be worn by men and women, the Petzl Elia Women’s Climbing Helmet has a few clever design features that make it an especially comfortable choice for ladies. First amongst these is the cutout at the back of the helmet, intended to accommodate a ponytail. Additionally, the helmet’s snug OMEGA headband features a webbing adjustment system controlled by two buttons on the outside of the helmet. Use these to adjust the fit precisely according to your head shape and hair volume.
In all other respects, the Elia follows the same design principles as a unisex helmet. It pairs an injection-molded, durable ABS plastic outer shell with a breathable EPS foam liner. Under-the-chin chafing is eliminated by the chinstrap’s side-mounted buckles, while ample vents keep things cool on hot days. You can attach a headlamp using the four integrated clips. The helmet is also compatible with the brand’s VIZION eye shield. It meets CE and UIAA safety standards and comes in gender neutral red, white or lime green.
Best Budget: Tontron Climbing Helmet
Available in white, red or orange, the Tontron Climbing Helmet is priced at just over $40, making it approximately three times cheaper than some of the other helmets on this list. Despite its low price point, Amazon reviewers attest to its quality construction. Its high-impact ABS shell is very durable, giving you good value for money in terms of the helmet’s longevity. It’s an especially great choice for climbing clubs or schools who are looking to buy beginner helmets in bulk. The hard plastic outer shell is paired with a high-density EPS liner for added comfort and impact absorption.
Multiple vents on all sides afford good breathability. When you’re halfway up a pitch, you only need one hand to adjust the fit using the wheel closure system at the back. The universal headlamp attachments come in especially handy if you use the helmet for its other intended application — caving. There are two sizes: large, for adult head circumferences of 21.6 to 23.6 inches; and small, for kids.
Best Professional: Petzl Pro Vertex Best Helmet
At 16 ounces and without any ventilation, the Petzl Pro Vertex Best Helmet is unlikely to be comfortable for recreational climbers but it’s perfect for those who climb in a professional capacity. It’s CE and ANSI recognized and meets a slew of safety standards, including those for impact protection, electrical insulation, lateral deformation and use in low temperatures. Its unventilated hard plastic shell also protects your head from molten metal splash. The helmet is especially shaped to absorb shock, and Amazon reviewers love the fact that it’s designed with comfort as well as safety in mind.
Six-point textile suspension and two different sizes of headband foam allow for a snug feel, while the CenterFit adjustment system keeps the helmet centered to your head. If you fall, the extra strong chinstrap reduces the chances of it coming off. Attachments on the front, side, and back allow you to attach a variety of specialist commercial equipment, including headlamps, protective shields, and hearing protection. Choose from six colors, including high-visibility red, orange, and yellow. The size can be altered to fit head circumferences of 21 to 25 inches.
Best for Kids: Petzl Picchu Climbing Helmet
Designed for rock climbing and cycling, the Petzl Picchu Climbing Helmet is a great investment for adventurous kids. It meets CE and CPSC safety standards (although it is only rated as a cycling helmet for ages five and older). It’s sized for children aged three to eight and pairs an ABS shell with an EPS foam liner, making it as comfortable as it is durable. It’s also super safe, with full coverage for reinforced protection against lateral, front, and rear impact. Use the adjustable chinstrap, nape height and headband to achieve the best fit.
With narrow polyester webbing straps that are specially designed for comfort, your little one is less likely to complain about chafing (and more likely to enjoy wearing the helmet on the climb). The foam can be removed and washed as necessary. Side openings allow for good ventilation and there’s a headlamp attachment for after-dark adventures. Whether your child chooses coral or raspberry, they can use the included sheet of reflective stickers to personalize their helmet and increase its visibility in low light conditions.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular climbing helmets on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different helmets overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers and read over 30 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.