Best Helmets for 14ers | Protecting Your Head

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Class 1 and 2 mountains don’t have enough technical terrain to make wearing a helmet worth while. However, once you make the transition to class 3 and 4 routes, a helmet becomes critically important to protect your noggin. With hundreds of helmet models out there, it can be a bit overwhelming when figuring out what you need for the Colorado 14ers. Here everything you need to know about shopping for, buying one of the best helmets for 14ers.

When and Why to Wear a Helmet

As I said above, a helmet is overkill on class 1 hikes and class 2 scrambles. On these routes, the biggest risk is a trip or tumble where you’re more likely to sprain your ankle. Class 3 and 4 routes however get significantly more steep. It’s common to experience falling rock knocked loose by other climbers. If you do happen to fall, a helmet is also an extra bit of protection from hitting a rock. Anytime you climb a class 3 or 4 peak, be sure you wear a helmet during technical sections or where loose rock is common. Additionally, give other climbers ahead of you space to give yourself time to avoid falling rocks.

Shopping for a Helmet

There are many climbing helmets available. The biggest factors to consider include the helmet type, the amount of ventilation, the helmet’s weight, cost and its fit. Hard shell helmets typically are cheaper and last longer, while soft shell helmets are better ventilated and weigh less. I also recommend picking a bright color, which will help you attract attention if ever you get into trouble wearing one of the best helmets for 14ers. 

The 4 Best Helmets for 14ers

Given these factors, and the experience of climbing many class 3 fourteeners, I’ve picked out four of the best helmets for 14ers, representing several fantastic outdoor gear companies. Here they are highlighted in turn.

Best Helmets for 14ersThe Half Dome Helmet from Black Diamond is one of the most popular helmets out there. If you head out to any popular climbing area, you’ll likely see dozens wearing this model. It’s cost a reasonably low price, solid hard shell construction and a long lifespan; several years or more, so long as you avoid any significant falls. This is my helmet of choice for the Colorado 14ers. Click here to learn more or buy a helmet

Click here to learn more or buy the headset.

A close competitor of the Half Dome Helmet, the Petzl Boreo Helmet is slightly cheaper than the alternative while offering many of the same benefits. It weighs slightly more, but still promises to last you a long time with its sturdy hard shell design. It’s the cheapest option on this list of the best helmets for 14ers, and its chin strap lacks the adjustability of some more expensive model helmets. Click here to learn more or buy a helmet.

Click here to learn more or buy the headlamp.

The Vapor Climbing Helmet is a much more expensive hardshell model than the two others on this list. It’s extremely lightweight thanks to its innovative design and includes significant ventilation with large vents throughout the helmet. However, for the sake of comfort, it sacrifices a lot of its durability. Minor knicks and falls can seriously damage or dent the helmet. Still, for fast alpine adventures, the Vapor is a fantastic choice. Click here to learn more or buy a helmet.

Click here to learn more or buy the headlamp.

The Grivel Duetto is the only hard-shell type helmet on this list of the best helmets for 14ers. This raises its price tag and makes it the most expensive helmet on the list as well. However the result is a lightweight helmet that still provides significant protection and durability for mountaineering expeditions of all kinds. You can’t do much better than this great helmet for the Colorado 14ers (some might even say it’s overkill). Click here to learn more or buy a helmet.

 Click here to learn more or buy the headlamp.

How to Wear Your Helmet

Once you’ve bought one of the best helmets for 14ers, you want to be sure it fits well to provide maximum protection. Begin by putting the helmet directly on your head, with the front rim right across your forehead. After you adjust the fit, but before you buckle the chin strap, shake your head from side to side and tilt your head backwards. The helmet should remain snug. When in doubt, try a different size, as a poorly fitting helmet will not offer you much protection.

The Best Helmets for 14ers: Now You Know!

Falling rock is a significant risk on class 3 and 4 Colorado 14ers. With the right climbing helmet, you’ll give yourself a great deal more protection while scrambling and climbing up these difficult mountains. These four options are a good place to get started as you search for the best helmets for 14ers. Regardless of which you buy, be sure you test your fit to ensure proper protection. Good luck on the rest of your search and safe travels on the trail!

Alex Derr

Alex is an Eagle Scout and mountaineer living in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. You can subscribe to his Next Summit Newsletter here.

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