Climbing helmets are designed to protect you against several common climbing scenarios; for example, when rocks or hardware get kicked loose above you. Or you peel off and whip into a wall. Or you hit your head on an overhang.
All helmets must meet industry standards for impact protection, with the standard for overhead protection being greater than the side-protection standard.
Climbing helmets come in two main types, Shelled Foam Helmets and Hardshell Helmets. Helmet makers use different terms for each type of helmet, so focus instead on telltale construction details like shell hardness, foam thickness and number of vents.
Whether you choose a classic hybrid lid or cutting edge superlight foam model, every single climbing helmet we sell has had to go through the same series of safety tests. Climbing helmets can be put forward for certification by two bodies: the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA).
The test rig is set up with a climbing helmet on a wooden head form. A blunt 5 kg weight is dropped onto the top of the helmet from 2 metres. Side, front and rear impact tests are also performed. For all these tests, the maximum force imparted through to the head form is 10kN for EN-12492 certification and 8kN for UIAA-106 certification. The lower the impact force, the softer the blow felt by your head. Since UIAA standards are higher it is worth checking for their label as well as the usual CE mark.
The last impact test is also the simplest. A cone-shaped 3kg weight is dropped onto the top of the climbing helmet from 1 metre. The tip of the cone simply must not penetrate the helmet. If it touches the head form, the helmet has failed.
Even the retention system has to meet certain standards. When pulled downwards the chin strap should withstand a force of 500 Newtons without breaking and without stretching more than 25mm. There is also a slippage test which assesses resistance to pivoting off the head when a force is applied upwards against the rear of the helmet.