Love Your Brain as Much as Your Feet

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You don’t settle for cheap, uncomfortable steel-toed boots. Why settle for an inferior helmet?

Working at height, you have challenges you just don’t face on the ground. You’re subjected to high winds, you’re more exposed to weather, you have limited–if any–space to put stuff down. You’re focused and adaptable. Is your head protection working as hard as you are?

“Think of head protection as a system and a tool,” explains Petzl’s Professional Division National Sales Manager, Michel Goulet. “It’s not just a thing you wear to protect your head, which of course is its primary purpose. But it should help you do your job, too.”

Goulet says climbers should think about three things when choosing a head protection system: Safety, Comfort, and Versatility.

Safety First

There’s more to safety than mere compliance.

Goulet explains that, rather surprisingly, certified helmets do not require chin straps. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize an unsecured helmet won’t do you any good if it comes off your head in wind or in the middle of a fall. Not to mention that a falling helmet is a hazard to anyone who happens to be below it.  But not all chin straps are created equal.

“Four-point chinstraps, like the ones on bicycle helmets, are more secure than two-point chinstraps,” Goulet says. “Helmets with two-point connections shift or dislodge more easily if they’re bumped. Helmets can only do their jobs if they stay fitted on your head.”

And speaking of fit, many helmets have only a single adjustment point for the headband. If you need to tighten the fit, your head gets pushed closer to the front edge of the helmet. “It’s better to keep your head centered in the helmet,” explains Goulet. “Look for a helmet with multiple adjustment points to get the best fit.”

Comfort, a Close Second

Truthfully, there’s a lot of overlap between safety and comfort. If you’re diverting your attention to your helmet, you aren’t focused on your surroundings. And if you alter your helmet to make it more comfortable with “customizations” that weren’t designed for it, you can compromise the usefulness of the helmet.

Goulet suggests considering how much time you spend in the helmet and looking at the trade-offs between weight and cost.

A shell-style helmet works like a traditional hardhat—the shell absorbs energy by deformation of the shell. Shell-styles are less expensive but they’re also a little heavier.  A high-density, foam-lined helmet is more like a bike helmet. It absorbs energy through the foam liner. These helmets are lighter but are a little more expensive.

Another comfort feature climbers don’t always think about is the brim. “Brimless helmets offer better sightlines—they don’t block your upper peripheral vision,” said Goulet. “It saves you a lot of neck strain if you don’t have to tilt your head up all the time. Not to mention protecting your up-turned face from any falling objects.”

Versatility: Doing extra duty

Face shields, eye protection, headlamps, reflectors, cold-weather liners. The best helmets will offer accessories designed to work with the helmet to increase your comfort and safety. Goulet points out that the accessories should be easy to attach or switch out while remaining secure during use.

Petzl considered all these features when designing its newest helmet lines. The VERTEX® and the STRATO® offer safety, a comfortable fit, and accessories to help you do your job.

VERTEX (shell-style) and STRATO (foam-lined) both use Petzl’s superior fitting systems to give you the best fit. CENTERFIT® adjustment perfectly centers the helmet on your head with two easy-to-reach adjustment wheels. The FLIP&FIT® nape strap positions the headband in a low position for a secure fit. The nape strap folds into the shell for easy storage and transport.

Both the VERTEX and STRATO are available in vented or unvented styles, in standard colors or high visibility, and with many modular accessories. Treat your brain to some TLC. Check out both lines here—there’s even a handy cheat-sheet to help you choose.

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