The helmet is arguably the most important piece of climbing equipment. Many may be asking… “If I fall from 1000 feet, what is a helmet going to do?” But, as any experienced climber will tell you, falling is not the only risk. Helmets protect from debris, especially on windy days, they protect from hitting head on the metal, and from tools that could fall from the person working above you. It broken wrist will hurt, but a skull fracture is infinitely more dangerous and could lead to a fatal fall.
There are two types of helmets. The first is the suspension helmet. These are the type of helmets seen on a construction site. The are plastic with a fitted webbing inside. They are very durable, but are heavy compared to the other type of helmet. In industries that deal with building and demolishing, these helmets are more commonly used.
A foam helmet is much lighter in weight then the suspension helmet. They are made of polystyrene or polypropylene inside of a thinner shell. These helmets disperse a significant impact, but once they take a blow, so to speak, they must be replaced as they will be permanently deformed. Mostly theses are seen for recreational activities such as bicycling.
Fit is the top factor that should be considered when selecting a helmet, if it’s too large it will fall off, if it is too small it will hurt, especially when wearing it for several hours. To determine the correct fir, go to a store that has helmets on display. Place the helmet squarely on your head. The front rim of the helmet should be straight across the forehead.
Before tightening the chin strap, shake your head. Even unstrapped, the helmet should not wiggle once it is on. It should be comfortable but snug. Differences in the types of straps can create a more customizable fits. When you buckle the straps, there needs to be no slack in the straps. It is advisable to have two helmets, one for the summer months, and one a little larger to leave room for a hat during winter. Be sure to bring your hat to the fitting.
Just because a helmet is sold next to the kind your buddy uses, don’t assume they both have the same durability. Helmets need to be durable not just on the top, but up the sides as well. As a general rule, UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) certified helmets have a more stringent safety standard then CE (European Committee for Standardization). UIAA requires less of the impact to affect the head foam then CE does.
Helmets should be retired no more than a decade after they are manufactured. For tower climbers, who are constantly out in the elements, they should be retired after five years, this is assuming they are given proper care. The helmets will eventually weaken from sun exposure, even if they have UV inhibitors.
Even if a helmet is brand new, it needs to be replaced at the first sign of cracking, denting, breaking, or any other type of damage. When in doubt, replace the helmet, there is no price on safety. Helmets should be stored in a locker or bag to prevent them from taking hits. Always check the chin straps, webbing, and the casing before a helmet gets stored.
Purchase your Helmets at the Tower Climbing Gear Shop