Helmet question

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. :wink:


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.

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. :wink: 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! :wink:

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.


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.

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.

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.

Eeets betta to loook goood than to feel goood.