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Which helmet for ice climbing is best?

Few outdoor activities can be as exhilarating as mountain climbing. If you want to take that a step further though, climbing up an ice cliff or traversing frozen wastelands will present a unique challenge.

But no matter if you prefer rock climbing or ice climbing, you’re going to need a helmet. Apart from the usual safety checks on your gear, the helmet is arguably the most important. That is why the Black Diamond Vapor is an excellent choice to protect your head.

What to know before you buy an ice climbing helmet

It must fit correctly

All protective equipment must fit correctly if you want maximum safety and protection. The same goes for ice climbing, as it can be incredibly dangerous if an ill-fitting helmet obstructs your vision or keeps on sliding backward. 

The helmet type is important

Outdoor helmets might all look the same, but there are subtle differences between them. For rock climbing, which is usually done in the summer months, you’ll need a helmet with great ventilation. That isn’t so important for ice climbing in winter, and it also reduces the chances of debris falling into the openings.

Clips for additional equipment

Most ice climbing helmets will have additional clips for headlamps or GoPro cameras. But not all of them do, so keep that in mind if you want to go climbing before sunrise or after sunset. It’s also great to have the option of attaching an action camera when you want to record some extreme footage.

What to look for in a quality ice climbing helmet

A shelled foam helmet is better for ice climbing

Helmets used for climbing generally come in two different types: hard shell, and shelled foam. The former is more robust as it has a traditional lid with an outer shell made from hard plastic. There are usually plenty of ventilation slots to keep your head cool. But for ice climbing, a shelled foam helmet is much better. It can weigh less than a hard shell helmet as it is made from impact-absorbing foam that’s covered by a thin layer of plastic. 

Certified for use in extreme conditions

It would be unwise to use any helmet that you can find for ice climbing or mountain climbing in general. To ensure that you get the good-quality protection you deserve, look for an ice climbing helmet that has been certified by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) or the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA). This will certify the helmet based on shock and energy absorption, and impact from falling debris.

Versatility in climbing

Getting a helmet specifically for ice climbing isn’t a bad idea, but if you can get more value for your purchase, the better. A good quality climbing helmet will have the versatility to be used for ice climbing as well as rock climbing. Some ice climbing helmets can also be used for ski mountaineering.

How much you can expect to spend on an ice climbing helmet

The average price of an ice climbing helmet will depend on who the manufacturer is and the safety elements incorporated into it. An entry-level helmet retails for between $80-$100, while a fully-featured helmet can retail for between $120-$150.

Ice climbing helmet FAQ

Is ice climbing a sport?

A. Well, that will depend on your definition of a sport. People who ice climb with all the protective equipment as a hobby will view it as an outdoor activity. But with that said, there are professional ice climbing competitions, and the winning condition is simple: The first one to the top wins.

How are helmet sizes measured?

A. Helmets for ice climbing and rock climbing are usually sold in Size 1 or Size 2. The higher the number, the bigger the helmet. A Size 1 generally has a maximum head circumference of just under 23 inches, while a Size 2’s would be around 24 inches.

What’s the best ice climbing helmet to buy?

Top ice climbing helmet

Black Diamond Vision MIPS Helmet

Black Diamond Vision MIPS Helmet

What you need to know: This ice climbing helmet includes the best impact technology around and can’t be beaten in terms of comfort.

What you’ll love: This high-quality helmet includes state-of-the-art MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) technology, which helps to reduce the risk of concussion while you’re ice climbing through deflection. Besides being very durable, this helmet is also extremely comfortable.

What you should consider: It’s a little heavy compared to other helmets.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry 

Top ice climbing helmet for the money

PETZL Sirocco

PETZL Sirocco

What you need to know: This helmet is one of the lightest ones you can find anywhere.

What you’ll love: If you don’t like the feeling of something bulky on your head, then the Sirocco will be the perfect solution for you. It is a molded foam helmet with a thin polycarbonate shell on top to protect your head from falling rocks. This updated version of the popular Sirocco helmet manages to effectively protect with just a small polycarbonate shell. It even has an effective way of attaching a headlamp. 

What you should consider: Color options for this helmet are limited and may not be to everyone’s taste.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry

Worth checking out

Black Diamond Vapor

Black Diamond Vapor

What you need to know: This great climbing helmet is perfect for rock and ice climbing.

What you’ll love: Popular with rock climbers and skiers, the Vapor is made from a durable polycarbonate shell with thick padding on the inside. It also features a sheet of Kevlar and a series of carbon rods in between the shell and foam. It has more ventilation holes than what would be necessary for ice climbing, but it doesn’t compromise protection.    

What you should consider: The Vapor helmet doesn’t have a headlamp clip, but you can attach one with webbing if needed.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry


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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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