I often get asked by climbers new to the outdoors what gear I use for trad and why I use it. These pages will be a list and explanation of all the gear I use and why I use it, what gear I like and what gear I can’t stand. These posts are aimed at people getting into trad.
This won’t be a super detailed and informative review of all the different types of helmets, this will be a brief overview of some types of helmets I like and then some stories of the times when wearing a helmet made the difference. A helmet should be one of the first things you should buy if climbing outdoors, and until you get a feel for different rock types and have an understanding of how they can fail and break and how it can feel to take a fall onto an uneven surface that isn’t an indoor lead wall, I wouldn’t go climbing outdoors without one.
Simply speaking there are two reasons to wear a helmet when you climb, a rock falling and hitting your head, or you falling and your head hitting a rock, that’s all there really is to helmets. Helmets can be broken down into two types. Foam helmets and Plastic shell helmets. Plastic shell helmets are more suited to rocks hitting your head, and Foam helmets will protect your head in general.
My favorite helmet at the moment is the Penta , it’s a cheap foam helmet made by a company called Singing Rock, as far as I can tell it’s basically the exact same as the Black Diamond Vector in weight and shape (except it’s half the price) . #notanad and I’ll put a link down below where you can find one.
I took a mini whipper in the Penta about a year ago and flipped upside down and ended up cracking the helmet , Singing Rock messaged me and were less than pleased when I joked about the lucky escape to people on the Instagram page….. I’m not sure why though, as this is what a foam helmet is designed to do…
Foam Helmets are designed to fail and absorb the force that would otherwise be felt by your skull, and completely by accident I happened to come across a perfect example of this the day I was writing this exact article. I got sent a picture of a follower of my page, Nikolai. his instagram is @niknakpaterak he took a 65 foot un-roped fall into a crevasse when an unseen snow bridge collapsed. He fell in and was rescued by his partner, who had to use a pulley system to haul him out. He fractured two vertebrae and damaged two others.
My Foam Helmet has a small crack in it and I still use it. even though I probably shouldn't, but Nik’s helmet has probably seen its last whipper. In this story having a partner who had the skills and experience to get you out of a 65 foot crevasse was likely the main factor in saving his life, but I’d say the helmet also did its part, but what was likely the biggest factor? his mustache… someone with a mustache that hardcore isn’t going to be taken out by some wimpy 65 foot un-roped fall headfirst into a crevasse.
In conclusion, should you wear a foam helmet or a plastic shell helmet? The answer is just: Yes.
Have a quick recovery Nik and stay safe! . (and if any companies want to send this guy a free helmet, I’ll put you in touch, I hear his field testing of them second to none)