Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Helmet question

I have a paddling helmet that was given to me, but it doesn't fit to well, just wondering what is the difference between rock climbing, sking, horseback riding , biking and a paddling helmet? I of course will look at paddling helmets when shopping, but just wondered what the differnce may be? They are all meant to protect from a bad blow, so what gives? Is it just marketing?


  • Get a good paddling one
    -- Last Updated: Oct-23-12 12:37 PM EST --

    You only have one head.

    Bike helmets and many similar don't provide the cover for your head you need to care about in paddling. A good paddling helmet will protect forehead, down to the bottom of your skull in back and it is advisable to get one with ear cover as well. Those are all places that you can hit something hard like a rock when paddling that tend to be less protected in many other helmets. They are also places that something like a biking helmet doesn't usually cover because it isn't a likely whack point and they'd be unbearably hot.

    You can go cheaper, and figure on replacing the helmet to be safe after one good whack on something hard, or go pricier and get something that might take more than one typical ding before being a risk. There is also the comfort factor - since you might be wearing the thing for a day without break, the more expensive ones often are made to be more customizable and comfortable.

    I have been upside down and found a rock, in a small riff of moving water that was not at all the nastiest stuff I've been on. I can guarantee you that my bike helmet would not have left me unaffected like my paddling helmet did.

  • Agree and ...
    make sure it passes the "mamma mia" test: whack the base of your hand to the front of the helmet directed toward you and up. If the helmet moves do not buy it (assuming it otherwise fits). Striking a rock with your forehead can be deadly.
  • Another thing about bike hemets
    -- Last Updated: Oct-23-12 1:23 PM EST --

    Bike helmets are very light and are intended to work just "one time". That would be true of any helmet with a really severe impact, but unlike paddling and climbing helmets, bike helmets are NOT made to tolerate numerous minor impacts.

    I'll qualify that. I have an old Bell bike helmet from the early 80s, and it weighs ten times what a modern bike helmet weighs (that's why I replaced it ages ago, with another Bell). That monster could probably take quite a few big hits.

  • "They are all made to protect
    from a bad blow..." Not exactly. Even motorcycle helmets don't protect from a direct blow over about 15 mph.

    You have to define what you mean by a bad blow.

    One kind of blow is just bad enough to knock you out or stun you, so you can't react to your situation. A shock absorbing liner helps, but it can be a liner that recovers. The shell should not be so stiff but that it initiates the shock absorption of the liner.

    Another kind of blow markedly depresses most helmet shells, and can fracture or cave in your skull. That kind needs a stiff liner and a sacrificial, force absorbing liner. Makes for a thick, heavy helmet.

    I can't see that ww helmet design has fully matured to confront these issues.

    Fortunately, I found that cheap helmets like ProTec kept me from lasting harm through almost 40 years of moderate whitewater paddling. Now I have a Shred Ready t-dub, but I don't know if it's functionally much better. Sweet and Gath are worth looking at, too.

    Fashion and false notions of effectiveness still infect the ww paddling industry. There is no Bell of ww helmets.
  • catastrophic versus routine
    Guideboatguy is right on. I think of a bicycle helmet like a car airbag -- you hope never to need it, and once you use it, it's done. Paddling helmets, on the other hand, are designed to stand up to multiple impacts, and particularly if you're paddling whitewater, chances are you're going to need it more than once. My helmet has certainly saved my noggin on several occasions.

    Another difference is that most bike helmets have vents/holes in order to allow air to circulate over your head while riding. That's fine for their intended purpose, but definitely NOT a feature I'd want on the river.
  • Okay...the bike helmet was a bad example
    for sure, but skiing? Rock climbing, just wondering. I get the importance of covering the ocipital and ears, forhead. Just curious, that's all.
  • Coastal Paddling
    -- Last Updated: Oct-23-12 2:48 PM EST --

    If you are going to be mostly paddling out through surf, make sure you find a helmet that is somewhat hydrodymanic and stays put. Lots of whitewater helmets actually get blown off with wave impact. You also want something that will protect your head from multiple impacts over a long time. Think about being upside down and being dragged over a rocky reef or getting trashed in a rock garden. Helmet must be resistant to seawater, lots of helmets have hardware that will rust away. After trying lots of helmets I stick with Gath Gedi, but there are certainly better helmets for impact protection, but if they aren't on your head, well they don't help much. I don't use visors, bills or face shields, because they come loose or get tangled in kelp.

  • one more difference
    The lining of my Gath kayak helmet is non-absorbing. The lining in many dry sports helmets is made to absorb sweat.
    I like the Gath Gedi because it fit my giant XXL noggin and you can close the ear holes which is nice punching out through big cold surf. The Sweet carbon ballcap style look nice and has a big sun visor and will fit through a small round hatch unlike my Gath.
    Try on helmets with a thin mystery material or neoprene skull cap to make sure you have enough room.
  • Options
    Thin shell Styrofoam
    If a thin shell Styrofoam lined helmet has an impact and the foam is compressed, that foam is no good from that point on. This applies to a bike helmet and any other helmet of that design. I have a rock climbing helmet made for head impact (vs. rock fall impact) and it is a use-once helmet. If the foam is compressed, it will never again absorb shock in that area.

    I would guess that paddling helmets are made with a thick outer shell so the foam doesn't compress from most typical impacts. The one paddling helmet I have worn was that type. My ski helmet is also that type.

    I just wanted to point out that helmets can vary even within a sport and the helmet design is the factor that makes them appropriate for a specific use, not just the sport that uses them.

    I would use my ski helmet for paddling but it's lined with comfy stuff that won't want to get soaked. It's too bad because if I ever want to play in the surf or try WW, I'll need to have four helmets instead of the three I have now.

  • some good pointers on the lining...
    wouldn't have thought about the material absorbing water or not. I did learn something. :)
  • Sacrificial helmet or not
    Bike helmets are a sacrificial layer of protection. One hit and the helmet has done its job already.

    Paddling helmets may have to protect against multiple hits in just ONE outing, never mind on other days.

    Also, bike helmets are designed for impact protection, not necessarily pierce-through resistance. Remember the ultralightweight foam Giro helmets that you covered with a lycra half-dome? Yeah. Those have been replaced by helmets that all have at least a thin hardshell, but some of the shells don't feel like they'd protect against a sharp pointy object. Not to mention all the venting holes and slots in bike helmets! Paddling helmets' shells are thicker and very hard.

    I don't know this, but I would guess that rock climbers' helmets have to protect against falls from much greater heights than either cyclists or paddlers incur. And those helmets are probably heavier for this reason.

  • Rock helmets are for things that fall on
    you from above. If your safety rope fails, you may easily hit the ground so hard that even a full-face motorcycle helmet couldn't save you. And you wouldn't want to wear one of those on a long climb, believe me.
  • still wishing there was a like button !
  • We Can Talk
    I bought a whitewater helmet that was marked way down. It looked really cool and I needed it for some areas that I sometimes paddled in the sea kayak. Well I bought it online so I didn't get to try it on. When I got it it felt awful. The fix was taking out some of the inner, velcroed on, padding on the sides. Ahh much better.

    Check the padding inside the helmet. Change it around 'til it feels good.
  • Not all bike helmets.
    There are more than just the typical foam bike helmet with the thin plastic shell. There are bike helmets that are made to take multiple hits. Nutcase is one, they make all sorts of helmets for water, bike etc. Off road mountain bike helmets are made to take more than one hit and done.

    Nutcase is just one example. Fox, Bell and Bern are other hard shell bike helmets that are made for the long haul.

    Nutcase site; http://www.nutcasehelmets.com/collections/water

  • Glad you could fix it.
    I had to remove all the added sizing liners in my SR t-dub, and then it just fit. First serious, expensive (but discounted) helmet I'd tried that could sit on my head and not cause pressure pain.

    I'd looked at a Sweet, but it pressed on the sides of my fat head. There was so much liner, I thought I could take the barrel of a hot soldering iron and thin the sides of the liner a little. But that voids the warranty.....
  • Options
    Not just a bad blow
    Other than the breather holes and water resistance, they all do the same thing. One point I would like to make is that a tiny blow to the head can be pretty devastating. I was rock gardening with a friend and a wave knocked him over (we both don't wear helmets) and he rolled up bleeding. A tiny contact with a rock opened him up enough to cause bleeding. A helmet would have prevented that.
  • helmet question
    I purchased a shred ready kayak helmet. Mine came with adjustable inserts for head size, & has the HOG (hand of god) strap on the nape of the neck which prevents your helmet from slipping up exposing your forehead. My advice is to get a "kayak" helmet which does not absorb water, and will stay in place. Mine was about $80. Well worth the $$.
  • what is the difference between...
    ...rock climbing, sking, horseback riding , biking and a paddling helmet?

    I don't own horseback riding nor climbing helmets. But I do have the other 3. So here's what it looks to me:

    - Bike: light weight, flimsy, lots of vents. Probably a bad substitute for WW, though might work for surfing till you bong it once.

    - Ski: heavy with a thick shell, have some vents that can be closed or opened. Though it's still pretty hot in spring skiing even with all vents open and I'm flying down the slope at 30-40 mph. My guess it can substitute for paddling. It's a bit heavier than my paddling helmet.

    - Paddling: thin shell with some small vents. Weight half way between my ski and bike helmet.

    Both the ski and paddling helmets are multi-use.

    Last but not least, the ski helmet cost more than the paddling helmet.
  • Options
    Biggest difference
    Is that kayaking helmets are really made for water use -- they have closed cell foams and glues that should hold up better than other designns.

    You can get a decent paddling helmet in the $80 to $100 range, and the better ones are $200 to $300.

    The question is, what is protecting your head from injury worth? 30? 200? I guess it depends on the value of the contents therein. If you are only willing to buy a $30 helmet, maybe your head only has $30 worth of contents. ;-)

  • Doubt it
    "Is that kayaking helmets are really made for water use -- they have closed cell foams and glues that should hold up better than other designns. "

    All the ski and bike helmet I've seen would stand up to water soaking perfectly well.

    People don't just bike or ski on good weather days, you know. I've skied and biked in heavy downpour where I was like swimminng in costant sheets of rain. It may not be enjoyable but the helmet melting is the last thing that has any hint of happening!

    "The question is, what is protecting your head from injury worth? 30? 200? I guess it depends on the value of the contents therein. If you are only willing to buy a $30 helmet, maybe your head only has $30 worth of contents. ;-)"


    Ski helmets are much heavier and I bet my healthy head it'll protect yours equally well if not BETTER than paddling helmets! Better yet, motorcycle helmet would protect your head WAY better than a paddling helmet. Whether you want to deal with all that extra weight and bulk is a different matter.

    Price of helmet is never proportional to the protection. It's all about marketing. Plus a bit of comfort and adjustability. They key is finding one that fits well. But that's got nothing to do with price. Most sport specific helmets try to balance on providinng the "appropriate" level of protection, not necessarily the MAXIMUM level of protection!

    Your $200-300 helmet is merely protecting a $20-30 cut rate brain if you really believe what you wrote...
  • doubt it
    You are mixing things up. A $30 helmet is not going to do the job no matter what it is. This is not about saving money. It is about choosing a helmet that is designed for the protection that is needed and doesn't add other problems (like unnecessary weight). That is a paddling helmet that fits, doesn't move around at all, and is designed to take repeated hits of the kinds that occur in paddling. You cannot get that for $30.
  • Options
    but still higher cost isn't always best
    I agree $30 is likely too low but simply looking for more expensive even in a fully qualified water sport helmet isn't always best. Some of the higher cost is often due to non-safety aspects. Also you need to consider your risks. If you paddle along some rocks but never in fast current and never in more than two foot surf then any super impact absorbing ability is likely not needed. Sure something extra bad CAN happen but using that logic we'd all carry shark repellents, huge booms with reflectors for boat traffic and who knows what else. So understand the benefits of each helmet and compare it to your expected situations.
  • Consistent with what I said. n.m.
  • WRSI makes a $80 helmet also
    I bought one. It comes with lots of adjustable features, has a very (very) short visor, and cost $80 full price. I've had my head smack river rocks while upside down while wearing it. It has some minor scuffs and scratches from that. It does, however, still become infested with sand from having one's head scraped through shallow bottom in surf. ;-) Still was washing sand out of my hair and scalp two days later.
  • The question was not the cost
    of the helmet. The OP asked the question whether non-paddling-specific helmets could be used for paddling. While the OP's motivation was to save money by re-using the same helmet for different sport, there's nothing in his post that he's looking for cheap helmet.

    Anybody who has a brain that's worth protecting can see cost and protection are not at all proportional. To say a $30 helmet is only good for a $30 brain, that can only come from a pea size brain that's probably not even worth the $30 helmet! Better let the rocks connect with the thick skull. Any maybe it'll knock something loose and make it work better! ;-)
  • Name one helmet
    that costs $30 that meets the criteria I specified.
  • I'll name one
    -- Last Updated: Oct-26-12 2:14 PM EST --

    that cost about $100. That's the one I have: Pro-tec.

    You're the one who came up with the $30 number. So I assume you know one. Go ahead and elaborate on its drawback? Not that I (or I suspect the OP) care, because neither of us came up with that number.

    [EDIT] I was mistaken. You were not the one who came up with the $30 number. Jim below did. You just used it. My apology.

    I totally agree with your point that cost doesn't equals protection. I just don't draw any hard figure on how much exact dollar amount is worthless. It will always depends on the specific helmet in question.

  • Good question
    And it's one we do get asked here at NRS. Our advice is in this article from our e-News newsletter:


    Boat Safe,

  • Playak Reviews
    The Playak website has reviews of most of the WW helmets. The following reviews two particular helmets but more importantly it gives information about how helmets are rated and what the tradeoffs are.
  • Options
    Many bike helmets are designed well, but the standards aren't the same (see NRS link below), so some bike helmets will use materials that will not hold up well when exposed to water continuously. That doesn't mean a mfg can't make it better, just that the standard is different.

    In general, the helmets that offer ebtter protection are more expensive. NRS sells kayaking helmets from $17 sale price) to $170 and you don't have to look hard to find higher priced models. A high price does not guarantee it is any better, but a low price is almost always a sign of minimal protection.

    Of course, the key is to get something that is appropriate for the things you paddle. If you want to wear a helmet in Class I, the $17 helmet is probably overkill, but in beefy III+ and IV you want a helmet that can take multiple big hits without coming apart and you probably want a full face for the really creeky stuff.

    I paddle a lot of Class II, III and some IV and I see too many paddlers that put little thought into what they use to protect their head. I'm not saying buy the most expensive thing you can, I'm saying that you ought to be willing to spend a little money to get better than adequate protection to avoid concussions or worse.

    You could use a Hockey stick to paddle your kayak too, but just because it will work, doesn't mean it makes sense.

    I don't have the most expensive helmets and my first one isn't even that cool looking, but they have taken several hits and they still have a lot of life left. If they last me 10 years, the total cost will be under $20 a year for both (one is ABS, the other is carbon fiber).

  • Did you read the OP's post?
    You're hung up on bike helmet. He's asking ANY helmet. Have you ever own a ski helmet? A horse riding helmet? If not, your answer will at best be biased. Worst, totally based on ignorant!

    Then you insult people by saying if they're not paying more for helmet, they don't have brains worth protecting. But your arguments for more expensive helmets were totally irrelevant, as others pointed out. So it looks to me you just proved you're the one who doesn't have brain worth protecting.
  • Options
    Okay then
    I have seen paddlers use bike helmets, motercycle helmets, and climbing helmets. I have not seen horse-riding helmetes or ski helmetes (I'm in the southeast).

    I don't have as much of an aversion to climbing and motorcycle helmetes ebcause they do offer significant protection and they will likely withstand the constant exposure to water, where at least some bike helmets will not. The motorcycle helmet on the particular Class I run we were on was totally out of place. I can't imagine anyone wanting all that bulk in whitewater on a regular basis.

    So, yes, my major issue is with new paddlers wearing bike helmets in Class II and Class III. I have seen it several times and it always makes me uncomfortable.

    The comment about $30 brains was in jest, that's what the little smiley at the end is for. I'm sorry you didn't get that. I do recognize that for some people a $30 helmet is reasonable, but far too often people take strides forward into whitewater and continue to wear a helmet that was okay in easier water, but now it is no longer adequate. In short, a cheapie Pro-Tec for Class II is not going to offer the protection you need in Class IV.

    The OP has the mentality of someone who want to avoid buying one of the essential pieces of gear for whitewater or maybe sea kayaking. I personally think that's a bad idea if he's planning on doing things that might require a good helmet.

    Again, expensive doesn't equate to safety, but in general the better helments aren't cheap. Do your research and buy what makes sense for you -- and maybe be a little conservative by buying something that exceeds what you think you need right now.

    I have done the research and have two damn good helmets from sales at NRS and Rock Creek. I paddle Class III and I understand the risks. The helmet can only do so much -- if you have good skills and tuck quickly, you will seldom need a helmet that can take a hard blow over and over. Even so, I have one anyway.


  • testing criteria
    For better or for worse, I am aware of only a single certification for WW helmets. I think it is CE 1385, but I'm not where my helmets are, to verify that number.

    I've read where better/more modern/more realistic testing criterion needs to be developed.

    But today, as far as I know, that's the only certification one can find on WW helmets. And I have two helmets that cost less that $30 that meet that certification.

  • See my post below about Playak reviews
    They explain that the standard for WW helmets in the US is very weak and provides no guidance to safety or quality.
  • Fine then
    -- Last Updated: Oct-26-12 5:17 PM EST --

    I plead guilty of missing the smiley.

    You're guilty of reading too much into other people's post.

    "The OP has the mentality of someone who want to avoid buying one of the essential pieces of gear for whitewater or maybe sea kayaking. I personally think that's a bad idea if he's planning on doing things that might require a good helmet."

    I happened to own a ski helmet. And I really don't see any reason why it's any less effective for WW, except I already got my WW helmet first, and ski helmet came later. (the reverse doesn't work well because ski helmet needs insulation for the winter months)

    The fact that just everyone on this thread ASSUMES the OP is going to use bike helmet and totally ignore his second post which excludes bike helmet from the discussion, turns this into a totally useless thread, except as a text book example of people posting without reading first.

  • sounds subjective
    Once you get a CE 1385 certification, the rest of the argument (this is better, that is weak) seems to become subjective. And one of those helmets in the article is in the closet at my house, bought for about $45.

    Without a better testing criteria that tests the real world needs of paddlers, price and/or subjective criteria seem to be what folks have to use to determine if they ar getting the protection they can afford.
  • Options
    Get a cute one!
    Most paddling helmets seem to be designed to look cute because that is what sells. You want a helmet with uniform coverage of the entire head, including ears and forehead. You want an ultra reliable chin strap. You want a good fit so that it is impossible to pull it up and have your forehead become exposed.
  • Yes!
    Eeets betta to loook goood than to feel goood.
Sign In or Register to comment.
Message Boards Close

Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!