Want to know what Best Climbing Helmets? We’ve bought and tested over 30 different individual models in the past 10 years, with our 2020 review featuring 12 of the best and most popular available today.
Helmets come in a wide range of prices, but we’ve done thorough side-by-side testing to compare the most economical and adjustable hard shell models, the lighter weight mid-range versions, and the high end, EPP/EPS foam combination models that do the best job protecting you from above and from impacts to the side of the head.
We’ve rated each helmet based on six critical metrics that influence their performance so that we are confident we can offer you the best advice. Protecting your brain is of utmost importance, so read on to find out which climbing helmets will do the best job in German Helmets.
Top 10 Best Climbing Helmet Brands
1. Black Diamond Vision – Best Budget Climbing Helmets
We wondered how and when climbing gear giant Black Diamond would join the expanded polypropylene (EPP) movement, and here’s our answer: for spring 2020, the new Vision features an EPP body and a “puck” of EPS along with the crown of the head. Because EPP foam absorbs impacts rather than shattering, it’s a more durable and protective choice for helmets, and we’re happy to see it becoming more commonplace (for more on EPP and EPS foams, see our buying advice below). And the foam is shrouded in a polycarbonate shell, which fends off dents and adds a boost in durability.
The Vision joins a growing and competitive field of premium EPP helmets, competing with the likes of the Petzl Sirocco and Mammut Wall Rider below. The Vision offers similar protection (we love its generous coverage) and ventilation, as well as a slightly more robust and easy-to-adjust suspension system.
It’s the heaviest of the bunch, but 7.5 ounces is still ridiculously light (perfect for multi-pitch climbing and redpointing), and all but the most weight-conscious of climbers will find this a fair tradeoff for the $20-$40 savings. Finally, it’s worth noting that the Vision also comes in a MIPS version ($150), which is a popular technology borrowed from the ski and biking worlds that protect against angled impacts.
- Lightweight and durable at a reasonable price point.
- Not the lightest option in its class.
2. Petzl Meteor – Best Rock Climbing Helmets
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 rockfall on you from above, or ding your head against a roof or chimney.
3. Retrospec Traverse H2 2-in-1 Convertible Climbing Helmet
The Traverse H2 Convertible Helmet is a handsome, versatile, easily adjustable, lightweight climbing helmet for men that fits the bill whether you’re heading up El Capitan or the Eiger. It weighs almost nothing and sports 14 vents so that even on the hottest summer afternoon your head isn’t swimming in sweat while you make your way up the rock. The tough, ABS shell takes the brunt of the impact and the EPS high-density foam liner distributes the force from that impact across the breadth of the liner so you avoid serious injury even from sharp, fast-moving objects.
There’s a lot more to like here as well. We were particularly enamored of the easy to install earmuffs that did an above-average job keeping the cold at bay. We also loved the ability to adjust the fit with one hand using the ErgoKnob system. The H2 isn’t the only helmet to offer one-handed adjustment but their system works particularly well. Make sure you combine it with one of the best rock climbing shoes from our list.
- The ErgoKnob adjustment system is easy to use even with the gloves on.
- It really shines in the hot weather as the 14 vents keep the air moving.
- We would be happy campers if all climbing helmets offered earmuffs like this.
- Hard to find fault, so let’s just say it’s not cheap.
4. Fusion Meka Work Climbing Helmet
This climbing helmet from Fusion shows that a person does not have to spend a lot of money to get something that is pretty high-quality. This is the cheapest helmet to make this list, and it is hard to argue with anything that is under $50 to protect the head.
Out of the box, the helmet looks a little bit heavy and bulky, but one of its main selling points is the great ventilation it has all over the helmet. There are a total of 10 ventilation areas, and it is very cool to wear even on very warm days.
The weight of the helmet is also a pretty nice selling factor, as it is just .7 pounds. Some might question the durability of a helmet that light, but it does a good job holding up after multiple uses.
The straps are not the best from a quality perspective, and they are not that comfortable either. With that said, they are good enough to overlook when it is priced the way it is.
- Most affordable helmet to make the list
- Great ventilation
- Straps aren’t the best
- Not as durable as other options
5. Petzl Sirocco
A great climbing helmet is so lightweight and comfortable that you can easily forget that you have it on. It should also protect your head from potential impacts from above (falling rocks or ice), as well as on the sides (hitting your head while falling). The Petzl Sirocco does all of these things and more, and our testers unanimously declared it their favorite after heaps of days spent wearing it at the crag.
Weighing a mere 6.1 oz., this featherweight product never left us feeling fatigued in the neck, and more often than not we forgot we had it on! We also appreciate the carefully molded combination of EPP foam on the sides — a softer, light, and more malleable foam that protects from side impacts and is impressively resilient — combined with an EPS foam and polycarbonate piece on the crown of the head that provides more bomber protection against falling projectiles hitting us from above.
This winning combination remains super light and nails the protection factor everywhere it’s needed. Add in a comfortable fit, excellent ventilation, and easy to use headlamp clips that are also usable with ski goggles for ski mountaineering missions, and the Sirocco is truly a helmet designed for all purposes.
All good things still have their downsides, and the Sirocco is no exception. It is pricey, so may not be the ideal choice for someone on a budget. Its minimal strap adjustments keep the weight down but aren’t nearly as easy to dial in as a slider bar or click wheel. Finally, since it’s not completely covered in polycarbonate, care is needed to ensure it doesn’t get damaged inside or outside of your pack. Qualms aside, this is the helmet you will see on the vast majority of professionals, and for good reason. No matter what kind of climbing you engage in, the Sirocco is the optimal choice.
6. 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. You’ll have to do some digging to find a helmet that fits you.
7. Mammut Skywalker 2 Climbing Helmet
If you’re looking for a slick, tough, reliable climbing helmet for men that works equally well on rock and ice and in winter or summer, the Mammut Skywalker 2 should be on your list. Like most climbing helmets it’s touted as being one size fits all. But unlike a lot of helmets that make that claim the Skywalker actually delivers on it. It’s easy to adjust and none of our testers, regardless of their head size, found it floppy or too tight.
While the Skywalker 2 is a little heavier than we normally find the ideal that extra weight is put to good use providing you the degree and quality of coverage that will protect you from most angles. The vents are effective and the shell as a whole has a much more substantial feel to it than was evident in the earlier iteration. Though it costs a bit more than some other helmets it would be hard to go wrong with the Skywalker 2, our Premium Pick.
- The adjustment wheel is easy to use even in gloves.
- We love the bit of extra climbing protection in the back.
- The newly strengthened shell adds weight but also adds confidence.
- The chin adjustments are a bit clumsy.
8. Petzl – ALVEO VENT Ventilated Helmet for Rescue Work
Designed originally for rescue work, this ventilated helmet from Petzl can pretty much be used for protection in a number of situations. Thanks to it being very sturdy, comfortable, and breathable, many use this to climb in.
Protection of the head is the first thing on anyone’s mind with a helmet, and if it’s good enough for rescue work, it’s good enough for climbing. It really stays on well, thanks to the chin strap, and the two sizes of headband foam. No one has to worry about possibly losing their helmet when they are moving around.
For a helmet that feels very lightweight and can almost completely mold to a person’s head, this is the option to go with.
- Extremely sturdy
- Can start to feel too tight after extended use
- Not built specifically for climbing
9. Black Diamond Vector
The Black Diamond Vector is a light helmet designed for long routes, alpine climbs, and weight-sensitive missions. It is made to feel like the helmet is barely there, making it the most comfortable climbing helmet.
The helmet is made of geometric, co-molded, lightweight EPS foam with a thin polycarbonate shell. This provides full-coverage protection while keeping light and comfortable; you can even bang this helmet multiple times before you will see any dents.
A webbing harness and plastic adjustment band allow a wide range of adjustments, creating a snug fit with no/minimal slippage.
With more than enough ventilation ports, many wearers claim that it is so cooling and lightweight that they forget they’re even wearing it!
This is great for hotter days.
And if you’re still climbing when the sun sets, the Vector’s dependable in-mold headlamp clips ensure that your headlamp won’t fall off.
Best Climbing Helmets Buy Guide’s
There are two main helmet types: hardshell helmets and shelled foam helmets. Hardshell helmets (a.k.a suspension helmets or hybrid helmets) have a thin foam liner and an extra-hard outer shell – usually ABS plastic – with a strap suspension system.
They tend to have a lower price and brilliant durability.
Shelled foam helmets have a thicker layer of polystyrene or polypropylene foam underneath a thin polycarbonate exterior. These helmets absorb impact forces. They are usually lighter and well ventilated.
Because the feel of a helmet cannot only be deciphered by its measurement as every head shape are personal, the best way to get a good fit is the old-fashioned way – go into a store and try several different models on.
Begin by placing the helmet onto your head with the front rim straight across your forehead, leaving the chin strap unbuckled. Shake your head from side to side and tilt your head back. A good fitting helmet will remain in place.
Next, close the chin strap. The front and back of the straps should form a “Y” around each of your ears, and there should be no slack.
Lastly, play around with the adjustment system – where the headband can be tightened using a wheel or ‘click-strip’ at the back – and see how it feels.
Keep in mind that if you intend to winter climb, you should make sure your helmet still fits nicely over a beanie as well as a bare head.
Intended Use & Weather Conditions
The activity and climate you wish to venture through should influence your choice of helmet.
If you’re planning to haul a lot of gear around for long periods of time, a shelled foam helmet with low weight and good ventilation is ideal.
For warm weather, opt for a shelled foam model with tons of vents. As for ice climbing, a shelled foam helmet is still suitable, but you won’t need much cooling and you’d want to avoid letting any rain or snow on you – so choose a helmet with less ventilation.
Because you can take your helmet off while waiting your turn to climb or belay on cool weathered, single-pitch sport climbs, you can prioritize durability of a helmet over comfort.
And lastly, for indoor climbing, a cool, lightweight shelled foam helmet is the most logical choice as there is no rockfall.
Lifespan & Durability
This isn’t so much a buyer’s tip as it is an owner’s tip.
Give up your helmet the moment it is cracked, dented, or damaged; even if there are no visible dings, you should get it checked out if you experience any intense impacts.
Make sure to check before any climb that your outer shell is free of major dents, the buckles and hardware are looking in order, the webbing is free from frays and tears and the foam casing is secure.
The helmet is there to protect you, and any damage can reduce its ability to do so.
Even it is never impacted, the sun’s UV rays slowly degrade materials, so it is advisable to retire a helmet within 10 years of use.
Best Climbing Helmets have come a long way in recent years. Manufacturers are making better, lighter, and more comfortable options for the adventurers of today. Now it is up to you to wear them! We hope that this review has helped you to choose the right type for your climbing needs. Please visit the German Helmets for more useful information.