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Best helmet for ice climbing?


Original Post
Alan Coon · · Longmont, CO · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 150

Hey guys. I’ve been ice climbing for 3 seasons now without incident. Less than a week ago I had a widow maker (4-5 ft tall by 15-18 inches) fall on my head. Thankfully from not much height. It impacted my helmet and face and I definitely had a concussion from it. The helmet was a bd half dome from when I started rock climbing-7-8 years ago. It didn’t feel like it did jack to cushion the ice but obviously stopped penetration. On the hunt for a new hard shell with an eye on hybrids that can fit a sock hat under them. I see grivel and Petzl have some out but wanted to see if anyone had any reviews on hybrid shells for ice climbing. Thanks guys 

AlpineIce · · Upstate, NY · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 255

I went from a BD Vector helmet (damaged from ice, too) to the Mammut Wallrider last year.  It's a hybrid & I love how compact & lightweight it is.  A big plus too is since it's more compact than the Vector, it fits better in multiple helmets while belaying.

t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60

Not to be rude, but I don’t think a helmet is meant to cushion something like that... 


I’ve always personally felt that plastic helmets are better for ice given the frequency of hits to the head in ice climbing. That being said I don’t expect it to cushion anything at all. I’ve always worried about foam helmets cracking from repeated abuse and don’t think I’ve seen anyone climbing WI in a foam helmet. 

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585

I regularly climb water ice in a foam helmet. If you take a big hit, you need to retire the helmet. But they do just fine for the smaller bits you occasionally take to the head.

David M · · Nashville, TN · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 0

I just side-graded from a Half-dome to a CAMP Titan. The latter must be going out of production, I think, because they're on sale for like $40 everywhere. It needed a couple tweaks, but overall I think it's a better fit for my big head. Still has some of that dense foam in the top that I think would take a spine-crusher to actually deform (much like the BD). But there's less of it, and I think the idea is that it's only a backup. I.e. whereas the BD ONLY has foam between your head and the plastic shell, the CAMP has a plastic suspension that will absorb some impact. Said suspension is pretty tweakable, too.

Anyway, it just sits lower on my head, feels more secure, and lets me wear a hat or balaclava more easily. So definitely don't count ABS helmets out...there are some differences.

For outright horrific-accident protection, I think full-foam is the way to go. Yeah, those big open holes in stuff like the Vector are a little off-putting, but as a whole, those things are going to protect more like a downhill MTB helmet: in a really severe crash, the helmet cracks, maybe even flies apart, but you come out much better than if you had been wearing a hard-shelled piece.

If anyone wants a free Petzl Meteor, I got you covered. The thing perches on me and makes me look like a literal dickhead.

Mike Palasek · · Columbus, OH · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0

I like the Mammut El Cap for winter climbing. Tough shell, foam lining and brim in the front. It fits under hoods better with its low profile.

Tim Meehan · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 285

I was looking for a hybrid between my old half dome and a sirocco and settled on a salewa vayu. Pretty substantial helmet. Tough. I like it so far.

Kevin Mcbride · · Canmore AB · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 160

Whichever one is gonna protect yer noggin

Alan Coon · · Longmont, CO · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 150

Hey thanks for the input guys. Finally kinda off the couch and not sleeping. I've been checking out the Salwea Vayu and Vega they seem like pretty serious helmets. Hey Tim, what size did you end up going with? I only ask because having the ability to put a sock hat under but still wanting the smallest size possible that still fits. 

Thanks guys I appreciate everyones input...even Kevins! 

Tim Meehan · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 285

Hi Alan. I always wear a brimmed hat when I climb to keep the sun out of my eyes. In summer it is a ball cap, in winter a ball cap with ear flaps.  I have been wearing a M/L half dome, and this fit just right with the speed dial on the back, hat or no hat. I own the L/XL Vayu, and it is noticeably bigger. It works fine given I always wear hats. But it would definitely be too big for me with no hat. Hope that helps.

Alan Coon · · Longmont, CO · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 150

Helmet arrived today and fits awesome. It’s definitely a burley helmet which exactly what o wanted. Thanks for the help Tim! Another weekend of recovery and back at it after that. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Ice Climbing
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