2012 Gear Guide: Helmets

Mammut El Cap

Mammut El Cap $70; mammut.ch

Love it or hate it, climbing is getting steezier. From neon clothing to reflective sunglasses, flash is back. So when climbing helmets needed a makeover, Mammut introduced the El Cap, which breaks away from the standard bucket helmet with a narrower design and a low-profile visor. At first glance, this helmet looks more apt for kayaking or snowboarding, but the El Cap more than holds its own on rock. With 12 ventilation openings, adjustable headband, and relatively light weight (12 oz.), this is a well-built helmet that looks good. (It comes in two sizes for pinheads and brainiacs.) “The hat stayed on tight even during big whips,” reports our tester, “and the visor kept the sun out of my eyes. It’s not as light as some helmets on the market, but I’m psyched on it. I can’t wait for one with built-in headphones.” We’re not sure the UIAA would approve, but it’s probably coming.

Category: Alpine/Sport/Trad

Trango Zenith

SNEAK PEAK Trango Zenith $100; trango.com

So you still don’t wear a helmet while climbing? Well, save your excuses, because with the Zenith helmet, available in March, Trango is helping to neutralize any reason for not protecting your noggin. The Zenith’s scant weight (9.3 oz.) will make it easy to forget it’s on your head, while padding at the forehead supports all-day comfort. Adjustments are made via a simple ratchet mechanism that allows you to dial in the fit easily at a belay stance (great for when you don or doff a woolly hat). Ventilation is ample, thanks to the helmet’s generous side cutouts, and for crack of dawn starts or latenight finishes, the Zenith comes equipped with four sturdy headlamp clips. One size fits most.

Category: Alpine/Sport/Trad

Edelrid Zodiac

Edelrid Zodiac $60; edelridna.com

At first glance, the Zodiac looks like something out of the movie Tron. When you snap the chinstrap buckle the first time, it’s hard to know whether to tie in or ride off on a light cycle. Behind its futuristic Euro elegance is a very functional and comfortable helmet. The rear adjustment dial and “wing-fit” cradling system conformed easily to awkward-shaped noggins. The helmet is fairly lightweight at 13.4 oz., but the EPS foam liner and the rigid plastic outer shell don’t compromise on safety. The Zodiac has good ventilation and a raised brow to give you plenty of room to see what’s above. Additional foam toward the rear provides added protection should you crack the back of your noodle. Edelrid has moved the buckle closure to almost directly under your ear, so it won’t rub under your chin as with other helmets, and the buckle is easy to open or close, even with bulky gloves.

Category: Alpine/Sport/Trad