brain buckets

This weekend made me painfully aware that I need a helmet before I go out on swift water again. I want full coverage of forehead, neck, temples and maybe ears. But, I HAVE to be able to hear. I need something that’s adjustable enough to stay in place.

I’ve looked through the archives a bit to see what folks had to say about helmets, but still have some questions.

Why do so few WW helmets have visors? It’d seem like that would do double duty to protect from sun and face plants. (Ouch!)

I don’t mind spending to get a really good helmet. Are there any kind of published tests to destruction of WW helmets to see how they stack up? Back when I had a motorcycle, it was a test that convinced me to shell out for a fullface Shoei X9.

Are the fiberglass or kevlar helmets really that much better than the plastic?

Here’s just a few that I’m considering:

Cascade Full Ear coverage plastic

Shred Ready Full Mental Jacket fiberglass

Head Trip Daffy or Polo or Weapon carbon/kevlar

I like the vents/drain holes in the Cascade, but wonder if it’s as much protection as the fiberglass and carbon/kevlar helmets.

If you don’t want to take a fiberglass boat down a rocky WW river, then does a fiberglass helmet make sense???

Would the solid helmets be so hot I’d hate them? (like my motorcycle helmet was?)

Visors? Various reasons…
I have had visored helmets ripped out of place towards the back of my head in swift water. I prefer them without a distinct visor.

As to helmet choice, I do not like them to be to large. There is a fine balance between being to cumbersome and being adequate protection. All of the hits I have taken have been on the top of the helmet towards the front as I am in the habit of immediately tucking forward to set up for a roll.

Your milage may vary.

P.S. I also prefer composite helmets to plastic ones.

i have a composite lidds helmet
that i love…

i have no problem without drain holes…yes it is a bit warmer but nothing too bad…

visors: the thought is that the visor provides a way for you to get the helmet hooked on something like a rock, boat, paddle, river bottom, surf board-what have you…and when the visor gets hooked then the force pulls towards the back of your head…pulling off the helmet or slamming the back rim of the helmet down onto your neck…ouch…

there are a few soft velcro visors available as aftermarkets…and easily removable…

Gath makes great helmets that are extremely protecting and very comfortable…(i like the option of the drop down face visor)…

just likeboats-try them on…get a good fit…most important thing is that it fits and is comfortable…


– Last Updated: Jun-12-06 4:28 PM EST –

Here's what I've read probably 2 yrs ago in Motorcyclist(or Cycle World?). They had a big test comparison between a bunch of helmets, from cheapo brand(forget their name. they weren't availible in canada at the time) to the Arai and Shoei, and actually the cheap helmets(poly carbonate shells if i recall correct) did a better job of absorbing impact than the expensive composite shell helmets. Which confirmed my beliefs of going with the cheapest well fitting Snell2000+DOT approved helmet(in my case-KBC TK8). I used the same idea when picked the AHM 5000 for occasions where i may end up around rocks in chop, or surf play. Honestly haven't used it yet, but it should hold up good and seems to cover a lot of my head.
My un-educated guess is solid whitewater helmets won't be near as annoying as sitting in traffic in summer heat on a bike in a full face helmet because youre in running water that keeps you cool.

someone basically asked
the same question a few weeks ago and I included an answer from whitewater magazine who completed a report on helmets. Somewhere in this website here there is a way to find posts on a subjects but i don’t know how myself.

lack of standards
There is no industry standard for WW helmets. Wish there was, since pretty much every whitewater boater you ask will swear that their particular helmet is the best design, usually accompanied by “it’s taken some huge hits and always protected me”. Sure would be nice if someone could quantify that sort of anecdotal testimony.

As far as drain holes go, my first helmet had them, my current one does not. I prefer not having the drains, since all they do is let water into the helmet when you flip. Then it runs down your face and makes it hard to see after you roll back up. My Grateful Heads has a full liner (IE no gaps) and is outfitted so closely to my head that it takes in almost no water when I flip, so no need for drain holes. I really don’t notice a heat issue with it.


– Last Updated: Jun-12-06 5:24 PM EST –

I use a velcro-on visor -- works fine for sun & splash, and I like knowing it'll flex or tear away before my head will.

As for helmets, it's not as simple as composite vs. plastic shells. A helmet is a system. The shell spreads the impact over a wider area, and may absorb some energy by deflecting. The liner absorbs energy by crushing(foam) or stretching(suspension). You can have the world's most rigid shell, but that makes the liner do all the work, and if the liner doesn't absorb much energy you'll still get injured. If the shell is too flexible the liner only crushes at the point of impact and can't absorb enough energy.

If the suspension system doesn't keep it in place, it doesn't matter how high-tech the shell is.

For what it's worth, the Cascade is widely used by swiftwater rescue teams.

This is interesting.

– Last Updated: Jun-12-06 5:20 PM EST –

This guy set out to design a helmet after his son was killed while wearing one, and he got some Johns Hopkins students to prototype it and test it in simulated conditions.

Dunno how much of this is hype, but here are the helmets and the company born of that.

More to the story
there is quite a bit of makerting built into this guy’s story… it may have started out as a crusade in honor of his son, but I don’t think that is how it ended up.


– Last Updated: Jun-12-06 5:29 PM EST –

The built visor type helmet can get your head/neck worked around in the hydraulics. (I have a Lidd and Shred Ready that I don't use for that reason.) I prefer no visor and to wear a baseball cap with a soft visor underneath. The visor provides shade but just folds out of the way in the maytag cycle.

I got a full coverage composite helmet by SEDA that I have been using and like a lot. It's pretty light and covers my ears. However, I don't see it carried by vendors. Just happened to run across one at a local retailer.

good discussion here
Here’s a 3 page helmet discussion with some mfr. input on the last page. Interesting stuff.

I like my full Cascade
no visors for me. That’s tha wrong place for a fin.


I had remembered that you liked the cascade, and you are the reason I put it on my short list. I understand, now, about the fixed visors. My Giro bike helmet has a detachable thin plastic one that affixes with velcro. I’ll probably just use that, as I’m sure it’ll just pop off, rather than become a scoop.

I recommend Gath helmets
Here is technical information about them:

They provide excellent impact protection, fit well, provide good coverage (including over the ears), and do not interfere with hearing. Most importantly they do not move on your head. You can hit the helmet on the front with the butt of your hand and it will not move. Very few if any other helmets can claim that. One of the more serious dangers in WW and surf is flipping over and having the current or a rock expose your forehead. A blow to the forehead can be fatal.


– Last Updated: Jun-13-06 2:09 PM EST –

I was just looking at the Sweet Rocker -- no experience with it, but looks promising.

Just saw the price --ouch!

Standards from europe

Cascade with chin and or full face bar
might be a ticket. As a not particularly hard core sea kayaker, I use a cascade with no face protection, on the rare occasion I put it on.

I don’t recommend Gath
Years ago I used a Gath until I took a hard hit and never used it again. The foam lining is very thin and doesn’t absorb enough energy if you hit your head while getting windowshaded in a stopper. I would rate there impact absorbtion as being no better than the Ace helmets which are another helmet I no longer use. The Gaths are probably ok for surf but I wouldn’t recommend them for whitewater.

I think it’s very unfortunate that there are no longer any standards for whitewater helmets. Also no manufacturers provide technical data about impact absorbtion. They all expect us to make a decision based on advertising hype and I don’t think that’s acceptable when lives are at stake.

Years ago???
How can you make a recommendation on that basis? Every helmet I know about would fail that test.

I found this in archives re helmets
Whitewater 2005 edition provides info/comparrison on cascade, prijon wild-water, head trip, shred ready, grateful heads and pro tec. According to their information:


"Of all the helmets submitted… the Cascade provided the most complete coverage…Like the Pro tec, the Cascade is a polyethlene helmet…impacts are softenned by muliple impact polypropylene liner… most Spartan in terms of cushoning and outfitting…

Prijon Wild Water Standard: Offers a full level of coverage…almost Spartan: a minimalistic closed - cell liner with a simple yet efficient retention strap… fitting is accomplished by foam inserts…it is still a plastic helmet that does not match the stiffness, or protection, of carbon or Kevlar laminates.

Head Trip…full on carbon/kevlar laminates…lighter stronger helmet…Lined with half inch of Ensolite and come with secondary Ensolite foam liner to furthe absorb inpacts. Out of the box the head Head Trip Daffy provided just about the perfect fit.

Shred Ready super scrappy. ABS injection molded plastic. While readers should heed the before mentionned limitations of plastic helmets, the Super Scrappy does feature the most advanced retention system of the bunch - SHred Ready’s HOG.

Grateful Heads: Offers the widest array of custom options. Are all composite with a focus on Kevlar. Two layup options are available, has various liner sizes available…

Pro - tec…Made of molded plastic with very comfortable dual density foam liners - stiff foam next to the shell to absorb impacts and softer foam against the head. Some comments about strap systems…

FNA Helmets are becoming more popular and their website is:

I have a Cascade and it has worked for me. If i could do it again and if i could afford it i would go for something non plastic.

Hope this helps.