My summer plans include another trip to Lake Superior and I may have the opportunity to do some cave exploration. But not if I don’t have a helmet. I’ve looked at Outdoor Play and NRS and am baffled by all the models offered. Some of them look like they’d be great for a roller or demolition derby.
Full cut, side cut, visor, no visor, water helmets, livery helmets, etc., etc., etc. I know zip about helmets, so looking for suggestions on basic protection that is inexpensive as well. Would be great if it could double as a bike helmet.
My anything-but-vast amount of knowledge about helmets will apply only to the last part of your question. I have a whitewater helmet that I like (it’s comfortable, secure, and highly adjustable (that’s why it’s secure), but I’d never wear it as a bike helmet. That’s because compared to a bike helmet, it “weighs a ton”. Bike helmets are generally extremely light, but a consequence of that is that they are only designed to protect your head a single time (if you crash and the helmet takes a hit, you go out and buy a new helmet, hopefully feeling happy that your head is still okay). Paddling helmets are heavier and able to take repeated knocks if need be.
What Guideboatguy said: Bike helmets are one big hit and replace. Whitewater helmets are way tougher. What I did was find a helmet that was really inexpensive and looked cool (online). It didn’t fit well so I added and subtracted to the foam lining until it was tolerable.
helmets seem to have gotten more specific in their usage- we used to wear old construction hats for spelunking and drill a hole to mount a carbide lamp. Many modern coal mining “helmets” now appear to be metal or even fiberglass with a flat spot for a head lamp (battery pack carried on hip). The ww helmets and rock climbing helmets are design to take some licks. Unfortunately, they are likely to get scratched up and may be more difficult to clean than a traditional hard hat. I think any helmet you get should be comfortable and provide a tight fit.
Some of the heavy duty ww helmets even provide face protection but I rarely wear my “creek” helmet… I usually opt for one of my cheaper helmets- much lighter, better vision, and can hear better but do so at the expense of protection…
you want a bright color so if you set the helmet down on a rock or if you lose it in a crack then it will be easier to spot, Think about what kind of headlamp you’ll be using and how it will fit/mount on the helmet. I like helmets that are easy to adjust but dislike the dial design on the back of some helmets as they are prone to failure.
Can’t use a decent paddling helmet as a bike helmet. Inadequate air flow.
Go with one that has flexible sizing… I gave up on sized ones, all of them left me with a headache.Mostly NRS.
Two options at similar price points - WRSI. I find that quite comfortable. Currently running about $90 full price for their basic one. I hit a rock with it once and that, plus getting to Maine without it a couple of years ago, sent me to a store to get a replacement.
Only option was Shred Ready. I find this helmet to be quite comfortable. My Shred Ready does a better job of covering a bit lower in back and over the ears. Having lived with it I prefer the shape.
Back in the 70’s I did some whitewater rafting and kayaking and used an old-school hockey helmet. Comfortable, didn’t block my hearing and drained easily due to all the gaps in the skeletal structure. I survived multiple may-tagging on the Class V Cheat River wearing it.
I’ve got a paddler specific helmet now (came with a ww boat and associated gear package I bought used a few years ago – helmet was new in box.) But it really is not as comfortable as that old hockey helmet was.
Should be plenty of those up in your neck of the woods.
One further comment re continuing of a helmet. At some point (should be awfully soon, like maybe pool sessions if available this winter) you will have enough of a roll to go out and practice alone. You want a helmet for that.
Don’t use a WW helmet as a bike helmet (and vice versa).
The WW helmet is heavier, poorly ventilated, and may not protect the brain as well in bike accidents, which almost always involve a hard hit. Bike helmets are designed to break, serving as a sacrificial shell by dissipating the energy.
WW helmets are useable for more hits, since many head-bumps are garden variety smacks like being upside down and thumping bottom—could be violent but also could be minor events.
I have a WRSI helmet (was $79 when I bought it years ago) with a short lip like a mini-visor. The extra sun protection from a longer visor appeals to me, but I’ve heard the long brims can become problematic in surf (like levers on your head).
You will need to try them on in person. The fits vary a lot, as with bike helmets, and the padding kits might not give you the right combination of adjustments.
Should be plenty of those up in your neck of the woods.
Hockey helmets, yes. Paddling helmets - no outfitters up here. Checked Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus website (Grand Rapids) and search turned up zip. Maybe I’ll find something in the Lansing area when the Quiet Water Symposium is on in March.
Looks like getting a helmet that fits is more challenging than getting another kayak. That helmet that tdaniel linked is cool, but the price not so cool.
Is there a big difference between paddling helmets and ice/rock climbing helmets?
What are you planning on needing a helmet for? You mentioned caves. If this is touring caves as in spelunking , then the places that guide those tours have them and you don’t need to buy one. If this is to go into caves at The Apostles or at Pictured Rocks, You have no business near those caves when the water is such that a helmet is required, come back another day. If it’s bad enough to need a helmet, you must be planning on surfing . If you plan on doing some rivers , then by all means get a helmet. A hockey helmet will work fine as long as you get one that fits. However there are some nice WW helmets on the market now. Not like in the old days. Another note, the time of the year that you mention, You will be perfectly fine with a wet-suit.
I use a Pro Tec Water Ace that I got from NRS. I’ve had it for years & like it.
yes it is a very comfortable helmet and one that I often use, It’s shape seems to fit the shape my head better than some of my other helmets. Just realize it provides less protection than some other brands and boat accordingly.