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Petzl and the Importance of Helmets in Outdoor Lead Climbing

The rise of gym climbing and improved crag conditions make climbing feel safer than ever, but there are still many reasons to wear your helmet

Since 1975, Petzl has pushed standards and conventions of professional and sport gear. Today, they continue to redesign the future of safety at heights with unique approaches to classic products. As of Spring 2022, Petzl has two leading climbing helmets. That which they are built to sustain impresses the importance of wearing a helmet while climbing.

The Petzl Meteor Helmet

For those who have followed Petzl’s recent lines, the Meteor will seem familiar. This helmet has existed in several iterations over the last years, with its most recent release featuring a magnetic clip and easily adjusted headband. This hard shell design is classic for climbing helmets and for Petzl, but the Meteor pairs it with an expanded polystyrene foam lining injected inside a lightweight polycarbonate shell. This means you have protection while only having to carry around 240 grams.

This shell makes it especially useful for climbers at newer cliffs where looser rock poses a greater risk. It also makes it the first CE-certified ski touring helmet, despite the fact that it was designed for climbing. For helmet conventionalists, this will be the more appealing of our two options as it offers a robust, adjustable design without the adaptation that new tech requires.

With that said, it is a little cumbersome when compared to sirocco. Its brim falls within your sight-line. Buy the Petzl Meteor Helmet here for $99.95 CAD.

Sirocco

This very different helmet design is made of a pliant foam that is designed to break apart upon high velocity impacts. Many studies have shown the process of destruction as a potent way to defuse impact pressure. Bicycle helmets, for example, are designed to absorb single crashes.

By shattering, the energy of the impact moves away from the head and into the helmet causing less shock to the brain. Although the Sirocco is no bike helmet, it approaches a bike helmet design in this regard. A thin plastic shell covers the top to help protect the helmet from lighter falling materials such as small stones, while the sides remain clear of plastic to provide a lighter all around product.

Although the Meteor is a dependable helmet in its own right, the Sirocco’s new-age design makes it significantly lighter at 160 grams. One developer in Greece noted that he often forgot he had it on. This helmet is also CE-certified for ski touring.

Where conventional helmets regularly impede the vision of those wearing them, the Sirocco stays out of the eye-line. As such, it is perfect for the leader who wants to stay safe from falling rock, without feeling encumbered. It features the same closure system as the Meteor. Buy the Petzl Sirocco here for $139.95 CAD.

Wear a Helmet

Though the rise of gym climbing as reduced the perceived risk of climbing outside, many of the most dangerous elements of the outdoors remain unchanged from 20 years ago. Depending where you are, who you are, and the route in particular, many risks exist in outdoor climbing including decking, falling rock, and awkward falls.

On the day-to-day, most climbing helmets exist to prevent rocks and branches and other outdoor materials from hitting the climber or belayer in the head. Many in more trafficked crags have come to trust the routes to the point of not wearing helmets, but belayers in particular should consider the weakening effect climbers have on rock over time. It is not uncommon for classic routes to break.

What’s more, climber should consider helmets for the unforeseen dangers of lead climbing. While an experienced lead climber knows how to fall, unforeseen circumstances on a redpoint go, a harness tied in only to the bottom loop, or falling with slack out can bring a climber’s head in contact with the wall or the ground.

As with biking, helmets are preventative. You’ll never know when you’ll need it, but the day you do, you’ll be happy to have it.