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Helmet when bouldering


Original Post
Nyte Knight · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 10

Other than personal choice, is there any reason NOT to wear a helmet when bouldering? Like is there an increase of certain injury due to falling a shorter distance with the helmet?

The climber is 14 so over worried mom wants to protect the head. 

Dead Head · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 65
Nyte Knight wrote:

Other than personal choice, is there any reason NOT to wear a helmet when bouldering? Like is there an increase of certain injury due to falling a shorter distance with the helmet?

The climber is 14 so over worried mom wants to protect the head. 

There is no increased risk of falling with a helmet.  Is he in the gym or outside?  If he doesn't climb anything taller than 10 feet I would say don't worry about it.  But I'm not an expert.

Nyte Knight · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 10

She. And it would be outdoors. We boulder and top rope in a gym without one but the entire floor is covered in padding.

We are looking to start outdoor bouldering since the equipment costs are lower than outdoor lead or top roping. But eventually move into that as confidence increases. 


Any suggestions on helmets that also protect side and back impacts? Would think if you’d miss the pad on a fall, that’s where you’d hit instead of the top

Dead Head · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 65
Nyte Knight wrote:

She. And it would be outdoors. We boulder and top rope in a gym without one but the entire floor is covered in padding.

We are looking to start outdoor bouldering since the equipment costs are lower than outdoor lead or top roping. But eventually move into that as confidence increases. 


Any suggestions on helmets that also protect side and back impacts? Would think if you’d miss the pad on a fall, that’s where you’d hit instead of the top

I don't think a helmet would protect against a side or back impact.  For the price of a crashpad you could get most gear needed for TRing.

anna.gutwin · · Burlington, VT · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 75

Climbing helmets are only rated for impacts falling from above (i.e. rocks, ice, pieces of equipment). This is from the UIAA (the governing body that certifies most of the safety standards in climbing equipment) as to what is tested: http://www.theuiaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/UIAA106-Helmets.jpg

So, while wearing a helmet bouldering might protect the head a little, it is not designed or rated to guard against side impacts. Head injuries while bouldering are extremely rare (I've never seen one or heard of one in my 15 years of bouldering). You're much more likely to injure your legs, so a good spotter and proper pad placement will be the BEST protection you can give your daughter. Here are some good resources for spotting and pad placement:

https://frictionlabs.com/blog/7-tips-to-help-your-spotting-technique

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJUUXv2NeVE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoqoUw_i038

I hope this helps - bouldering can be a really safe sport! A helmet will not help with safety and is just going to hinder performance (plus, she will be the only one bouldering with a helmet....). 

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 127

I haven't seen many people wearing helmets while bouldering, certainly never indoors. I think a helmet certainly makes you a bit safer, but whether it's enough to be worth it is dependent on your risk tolerance. I will say that the vast majority of bouldering injuries seem to be ankle injuries, so your efforts might be better devoted to proper padding/spotting, and avoiding highballs and routes with bad landings.

If you really want a helmet, you're right that most climbing helmets are intended to protect against top impact from rockfall. The Mammut Wall Rider was sold to me as a helmet that handles side impacts (for lead climbing) but I don't have any evidence of that except the opinion of the guy at Rock and Snow.

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125

A skateboard helmet will be way more appropriate than a climbing helmet for bouldering. That said, pads & good spotting is way more important than a helmet.

anna.gutwin · · Burlington, VT · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 75

This video is also great for showing how active spotters and moving pads are the main safety net for the climber. Also Alex Puccio is so talented :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWsI-3W4nqQ

IcePick · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 100

This ^

Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 375

“These days, if I can’t find a legitimate reason not to wear a helmet (I’ll never get through the Harding Slot with this on), I wear one. Which is 98% of the time. Vanity is a weakness, not an excuse.” -John Sherman

David House · · Boulder, CO · Joined Nov 2001 · Points: 200

I wear a Petzl Meteor helmet which I believe was rated for climbing, cycling and paddling so it should be good for head impact as well as rockfall. It's very lightweight and well ventilated and on sale at many places right now.

Dead Head · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 65
Brendan N wrote:

“These days, if I can’t find a legitimate reason not to wear a helmet (I’ll never get through the Harding Slot with this on), I wear one. Which is 98% of the time. Vanity is a weakness, not an excuse.” -John Sherman

"Any doctor will tell you, one concussion is one more than you want to have.  I've had seven that I can recall, My doc's tell me if I have one more I could turn into a sport climber...Well that ain't gonna happen."

-Also John Sherman

Rob Gordon · · Hollywood, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 105

We should all be wearing helmets when bouldering (at least when we are inexperienced or climbing at our limit), but it doesn't look cool or feel cool. So we don't. 

Height has little to do with it. If you pop off a hold and hit your head hard on a pointy rock behind you or on the ground, it's game over. I believe there was a death at Stoney years ago due to this on Cranking Queenies. 

Halbert · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 286

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVN_hQPalBo

Personally I think picking the problems you want to climb and the ones you don't are also key in injury prevention.

Miles Kurtz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

A helmet with foam (ex/ Petzl Sirocco) can offer more protection from impact, though they are more delicate and don't offer the same protection from rockfall that a hardshell would (ex/ Black Diamond Half dome).

Jared Casper · · St. George, UT · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 0
Miles Kurtz wrote:

A helmet with foam (ex/ Petzl Sirocco) can offer more protection from impact, though they are more delicate and don't offer the same protection from rockfall that a hardshell would (ex/ Black Diamond Half dome).

The new Sirocco does have a hard top to protect from rockfall better than the previous model.

Bryce Adamson · · Torrington, CT · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 1,009
Miles Kurtz wrote:

A helmet with foam (ex/ Petzl Sirocco) can offer more protection from impact, though they are more delicate and don't offer the same protection from rockfall that a hardshell would (ex/ Black Diamond Half dome).

Do you have a source for this? Legitimately curious

Lee Green · · Edmonton, Alberta · Joined Nov 2011 · Points: 50

For the kind of impacts involved in bouldering, a bicycle (or as mentioned up-topic, a skateboard) helmet would be the best match. They're also light and comfortable. Downside is they're one-hit wonders. They absorb a lot of impact (trust me, I've tested helmets to destruction on several, um, "unplanned dismounts" from my mountain bike) but they have to be replaced after any significant hit.

Miles Kurtz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0
Jeremy B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0
Miles Kurtz wrote:

Check out this helmet guide from the British Mountaineering Club - it's a free PDF download 

http://www.bmcshop.co.uk/product_downloads.php?key=YTo1OntzOjExOiJleHBpcnlfZGF0ZSI7czoxOToiMjAxOC0wMS0xMiAwNTo1MzoyOCI7czo4OiJvcmRlcl9pZCI7czoxOiIwIjtzOjEwOiJwcm9kdWN0X2lkIjtzOjQ6IjYyNjAiO3M6MTY6InNraXBfb3JkZXJfY2hlY2siO2I6MTtzOjg6ImZpbGVuYW1lIjtzOjA6IiI7fQ==

This is... not that bad a write-up, actually.  Since it was published in 2010, it's worth noting that the last section discussing potential alternatives to EPS foam has seen some fulfillment in the form of Petzl's Sirocco, which uses EPP foam.

However, the Black Diamond Half Dome is not a hardshell; it is a hybrid.  In fact, few if any hardshells are still on the market.  As the Half Dome relies on foam to protect against rockfall, I'd consider the benefit of the ABS shell to be primarily for durability.  In terms of actual testing, I believe the all-foam models generally do better with blunt impacts, whereas the hybrids have an easier time meeting the penetration test requirements.  (In terms of side impacts, not just the 60° offset test, hybrids and hardshells perform extremely poorly; I'd personally consider them inappropriate for bouldering).

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0
Brendan N wrote:

“These days, if I can’t find a legitimate reason not to wear a helmet (I’ll never get through the Harding Slot with this on), I wear one. Which is 98% of the time. Vanity is a weakness, not an excuse.” -John Sherman

Rather die than live my life uncomfortable.

If you are looking to take your kid outside I would start with top rope. It would be cheaper to buy a rope and a couple draws to setup than to buy 2 pads you would need to protect bouldering unless you have friends with more pads.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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