WW helmet comfort cushioning

I bought a new FNA brand Kevlar WW helmet and it came with foam strips for sizing customization. The stuff is really kinda hard, though, and I’ve read reviews that state a good hit really rings your bell. I’ve tried smacking the top of my head with it on, and I can really see that. The foam has little compression, meaning the helmet doesn’t really absorb any impact, simply transfers the force over the wearers entire head.

Does anyone know where I could get more traditional safety, impact absorption foam appropriate for the inside of a WW helmet? I’ve usually seen other helmets with fabric covered cushioning strips. Not sure what’s inside, but it’s much softer than the mini-cell-like foam that came with mine, which is almost hard. 1-2" strips would probably work best for a good fit and airflow, and I’d probably use a waterproof adhesive and glue the stuff in if I can find something that would work.



Cannibalize some from a hockey
helmet? I think hockey, lacrosse, and similar helmets are designed for repeated blows without losing consciousness.

It has been a subject of discussion on BT, why WW helmet makers use such stiff foam. One guy in the business said that it was to meet a certain standard for withstanding a fatal blow. But most blows are not fatal, unless they knock you out and you drown. My conclusion from what helmet makers said was that there is no custom standard for WW. They are using standards that are derived more from bicycling and motorcycling than from hockey, football, and lacrosse.

That’s a great idea-Cheap hockey helmets
are easy to find anywhere these days. I’ll have to look at a few to see if the cushioning is easy to remove and what I’m looking for.

I borrowed a WW helmet from Mike Sawyer on the New River trip last Labor Day, and it had exactly what I’m looking for in it. Unfortunately, I never paid attention to the brand, nor did I think to ask him before I bought mine.

The FNA is actually a beautiful helmet, and well designed, I think. My only issue is the cushioning.


You don’t want a helmet that moves …
If you have too soft of cushioning the helmet moves on your head under extreme force from water or from a severe blow – they tend to roll up or roll back —or twist on your head— a hockey player gets a hit and that’s it — getting pummeled in flowing water can last a very long time and come from lots of different angles within several seconds.

The problem
is knowing what kind of hit to design for. You get the least impact transmitted to your head if the liner is compressed to almost its full depth. A soft liner that works well for light hits will bottom out in a big hit. A harder liner will transmit more shock on a soft hit. A rigid foam liner like EPS is very efficient for a single big hit but can’t absorb multiple hits on the same spot.

Good article on helmet design & standards here:


I’ve worn a nuimber of motorcycle
helmets, and of course they are biased toward hard hits. It would be possible to get knocked off one’s bike and be stunned enough not to be able to get one’s self out of the way of traffic, even though the blow was not hard enough to kill by itself.

It goes without saying that motorcycle helmets have heavier shells, and heavier liners, than whitewater helmets. The question is, what spectrum of blow types and intensities occur in whitewater, and how can helmets best protect a person while being acceptably light and comfortable? I don’t think the motorcycle helmet industry has the answer.

It is not softer cushioning that makes
a whitewater helmet liable to move on the head. It’s just inadequate design. Some of the new, less expensive helmets have foam and strapping that keeps the helmet in place.

The main issue with a helmet shifting is that it may cause the lower occipital area, the forehead, or the temples to be exposed while one is hanging upside down thinking about whether to roll. I have worn primarily “cheap” helmets in my paddling career, and I don’t recall any problem with water turbulence and the helmet, but a helmet may tend to shift up off the forehead.

I personally WILL NOT wear a WW helmet with only a hard liner, because in my experience, and in my opinion, the greater danger is not killer blows, which are rare, but stunning blows that knock you out and lead to drowning. A hard liner is better for killer blows, but worse for stunning blows.

I’m not saying that motorcycle helmets are the answer. It 's a good article on the issues of design, testing and standards.

One thing that I have often heard about whitewater helmets is that “composite helmets are better than plastic ones”. As the article makes clear, that’s not necessarily true about motorcycle helmets – why should it be true about whitewater helmets?

Helmet design is one area where I’m wary of simple answers.