The helmet is one of the most important protective equipment in climber’s accessories. It protects very unpleasant head injury that is always potentially dangerous. The head contains the brain, central organ of the nervous system, and his slightest injury can have serious consequences. There are many situations where the climber is during his/her event threatened with the blow to the head. It can be a risk of falling in the rugged rocky terrain, where climber loses the ability to control the position of his/her body and as a consequence of his/her fall can be thrown against the rock, and secondly, there is a danger of falling objects from above, which is especially unpleasant, because it is something that climber usually cannot affect, does not expect and can’t actively protect against. Most often it is falling rocks, but there is also known cases, where the climbers got hit by some part of equipment of another climber, or, on the rocks with a large number of visitors, even by another climber. Yes, even that is possible. In climbing is necessary to use helmets specifically designed for that sport. Its parameters define standard EN 12492. Any other helmets, for example, intended for biking, boating, motorcycling, etc., are inappropriate and do not meet safety requirements. Climbing helmet consists of several parts. First it is the strong shell of the helmet, which protects the upper part of the head. The shell serves as the outer shield that will deflect the force acting on the helmet. Inside the shell is a padding that is designed to absorb external force, but its shape also provides a comfortable fitting of the helmet on the head. Certain types of helmets have as part of the padding headband, which encircles the head, and the helmet largely sits on it. Size of the head is different with every person; therefore the system for size adjustment of the helmet must be a necessary part of the helmet. The helmet is attached to the head by chinstrap that connects with the buckle. Since there is a lot of head perspiration during the movement the helmet is equipped with ventilation holes to avoid damping inside the helmet. At night time, in the dark of underground areas or ice cracks we have to use headlamp, and to attach it to helmet, it is necessary to have a helmet with system for attaching of the headlamp.
Currently the helmets can be generally divided into two types. First type is the mountain helmet that has more robust design, has a thick, hard plastic shell, and the second type is so called lightened helmet, whose shell is made of hardened polystyrene and which is used for rock climbing. Both of these two types have a wide range of designs, where the manufacturers try to reach a compromise between weight and strength, but in the end construction details place the helmet into one of these two groups.
As the name suggest, this type of helmet is designed for use in the mountains. Events in the mountains are always harder and more demanding, and that will always show in the requirements for the helmet. The first and most important thing is to realize that the events in the mountains mean a longer stay in a climbing terrain. In other words, we can’t leave the mountains in one minute; we can’t end the event when it is not suitable for us anymore. Even if we decide to leave the mountains, it will take a while. Descent in the mountains is not always easy and the total time of leaving the mountain terrain can take several hours. Now use you imagination – you’ll fall or get hit by a stone, there will be a partial damage of the helmet. What now? Actually, no matter what you’ll keep doing you will still need the helmet because you’ll still be in the mountain terrain. And here is the problem – even if the helmet is partially damaged, it still must protect your head, at least a little. Therefore the mountain helmets must be of such construction to withstand multiple impacts in a row, so that the damage to one point of suspension system fitting would not take them all out the action. The other side of more durable mountain helmet design is its weight. But it is acceptable weight. Mountain helmet usually weighs approx. 300 – 400 g.
Another essential part of mountain helmet is the system of size adjustment to allow appropriate enlargement for use of winter hats. In the mountains can be cold even in a summer, so we have to be able to fit the helmet on our head even when we are using close-fitting, elastic winter hats. We have to try the fit of the helmet on a hat before event. Hat cannot prevent comfortable and functional fit of the helmet. Helmet sitting on the hat cannot move, wiggle or slip out of your head. To that must be adjusted the right choice of hat.
As was already mentioned, the events in the mountains are a longer, so it is not unusual to get caught in the dark. And to move on without light is not possible. Thus the mountain helmet must include a system for attachment of headlamp.
Hint: When you’ll be shopping for mountain helmet or jacket with a hood, try them in the shop together. You want a jacket with hood that can be easily pulled over a helmet without preventing you to turn your head left and right, up and down – the hood should not restrict movement.
The harder the climb is the more the weight of the helmet is uncomfortable. This has led manufacturers and users to try to have a light helmets. This is primarily achieved through special materials and lean constructions. The shell of this type of helmet is usually made of hardened polystyrene, whose outer surface is reinforced with a thin layer of fibreglass.
Padding and strapping system is usually very simple; therefore the absorption function is different. The role of the absorbing element is taken over by the outer shell. Its powerful polystyrene layer is intended to absorb applied external forces, even at the cost of its destruction. In other words – there will be absorption of external forces by cracking the helmet and the head remains safe. Of course this means that the helmet is for one use only (i.e. for “single impact”).
If the helmet has not enough fixing points for attachment of suspension system to the shell of the helmet and the helmet gets hit in a way that one of these points is damaged, the entire suspension system will collapse and you will not be able to fit the helmet on your head anymore.
Lightened helmets are therefore primarily designed for use on the rocks with the height of approximately one pitch (rope length) where is possible in case of some accident or helmet damage to simply rappel or get lowered to the ground and thus get out of the mountain terrain. On the rocks makes such a helmet for “one impact” sense. In addition, on rocks are climbed rather difficult routes, so we more likely appreciate lightweight helmet.
More in e-book.
Mountaineering Methodology – Part 2 – Gear and Accessories
Available for download from Apple iTunes (in the Books section).
For example U.S. store – link
Another countries – look on the page Download
Another possibility is Google Play. This version is a simplified (as PDF).
Mountaineering Methodology – Part 2 – Gear and Accessories
Available for download from Google Play.