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The Gear Shed - Helmet Selection

The Gear Shed - Helmet Selection

After a little trouble with American Airlines smashing one of our team member’s helmet it was time to select a new helmet. With so many options on the market what do we choose? We went out and looked at the 2018 Product line from some of the best helmet manufacturers out there and asked around a bit to find the best options.

WRSI – Current

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  • Protection: 5/5

  • Fit Customization: 4/5

  • Comfort: 4/5

  • Impact certification: CE EN 1385

  • Retail Price: $89.95

By far our team’s favorite, mostly because of the commitment from the brand and the features you get for the price. This is probably the best all-around helmet on the market right now. 

Pros: Low cost with great safety features. The helmet offers a high coverage shell with a bombproof retention system. There are tons of options designed to make this helmet fit properly on any head. The helmet features a great fit and is customizable for most boaters. There is also a clip in hard plastic ear protection kit (sold separately). The visor is a great size and offers some serious advantages in terms of sun and splash protection.  I have also experienced some hits to the front in which the visor took the impact before my face. The open faced design is great for rafters and offers maximum visibility.

Cons: One of the big cons is the bulbous nature of the helmet. Several layers of foam and plastic are used in the construction of this helmet and they can feel very awkward especially if you mount a camera to the top of your helmet. This can also make the helmet very warm so in hot sunny conditions the black helmet can feel like its cooking your head. Another, albeit unlikely concern is the metal rivet and plastic triangle connectors located on the shell of the helmet next to the temple and above the ears. It is possible that a sufficient impact could punch the metal rivet out of or through the shell, though the padding does mitigate this issue somewhat.

Predator FR7-W

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  • Protection: 5/5

  • Fit Customization: 4/5

  • Comfort: 4/5

  • Impact certification: CE EN 1385

  • Retail Price: $119.00

This helmet is mainly marketed in Canada, but has been finding its way into the hands of US and European boaters recently.

Pros: It has a good price point for a high protection helmet at only $119 and you are into this helmet. 2 shell sizes multiple pad kits included and a rear dial adjuster all create a very good fit and feel for this helmet. The helmet also features an ear padding kit (included) so it has a little edge on the WRSI if you want the ear protection since they bundle it all together. Again, another good open faced helmet with a lot of visibility. The visor size is great and doesn’t interfere with a swim while providing a bit of sun and splash protection.

Cons: The venting system is a bit small and can feel more like an unvented helmet. This is great for cold days but less so for the majority of boating days. Also water can collect in the helmet and have a hard time flushing out of it due to the small vents. Color selection is a bit limited and not very high visibility with only the red and possibly blue being your better visibility options. Gray, white, and black are probably not the best choices since they tend to blend into their surroundings.

Bern – Watts H20

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  • Protection: 4/5

  • Fit Customization: 2/5

  • Comfort: 3/5

  • Impact certification: EN 1385

  • Retail Price: $59.99

Bern has enjoyed a solid reputation in the winter sports world and has been equipping riders for almost 15 years. Their recent product pushes in the whitewater world had seen some innovative features ported over from their other helmet lines.

Pros: The Watts, like many of our other helmets on this list, features a short brim and great coverage. Protection is great on the back of the head and Bern pushes the design as fitting around your head rather than on top of it. This gives the helmet a lower profile and a more streamlined look. Venting is good throughout the shell. The back of the helmet also features a lot more coverage lower down on the back of the head and the foam is built with multiple impacts in mind. Additional rubber earpieces (sold separately) also offer added ear protection. The price point on this helmet is also great and easily fitting into anyone’s budget.

Cons: The retention system is lacking here with only a chin strap for support. There is no customizable rear adjustment point. The inner liner is also not customizable so you will need to make sure that this helmet fits before you buy it. This helmet also contains less impact absorbing material than many other designs out there; however it still meets EN1385 standards. Color choice is limited here as well with only four colors and one being high visibility.

Sweet Protection – Strutter

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  • Protection: 2/5

  • Fit Customization: 3/5

  • Comfort: 4/5

  • Impact certification: CE EN 1385

  • Retail Price: $199.99

One of the iconic helmets on the market, this helmet is extremely popular with Kiwi and American kayakers so naturally it finds a place in rafting crossing over between sports.

Pros: Low profile design is popular with boaters who don’t want a helmet that looks and feels like a space suit. The design is styled after a baseball cap with a clean classic look and good color options. The carbon fiber shell provides some serious impact resistance and a high strength to weight ratio. The interior padding is adjustable with two sets of pads available. The Helmet also features a triple pad design with carbon fiber forehead reinforcement. High visibility and open face design is another plus for high visibility.

Cons: How do you know that a raft guide is secretly a kayaker at heart? Sweet helmet bro! Seriously though, one of the biggest cons here is the style. The large brim design is a bit of a benefit in class II/III where most of your day is spent dodging the sun, but this doesn’t make up for the poor performance of a large brim when you swim a big rapid. This helmet shares some of the same issues we have with the WRSI Current Pro, WRSI Trident, Sweet Rocker, and Predator Shiznit. All of these helmets are designed with integrated large brims which look cool until they pull the helmet off your head in a big swim. The helmet also suffers from a poor retention system which many boaters have described to us as the weakest system on the market today. One of the big drawbacks is a high price point of $200 for the basic model coupled with only 3 color options none of which are high visibility.

Full Face Designs

One thing we have omitted from this list are the full face designs that are popular with many kayakers. Statistically speaking rafters have a lower probability of face injuries with most injuries coming to knees and shoulders from other types of impacts. Full Face designs tend to have higher price points with features that are less important in rafting. That being said a full face helmet will often have superior protection characteristics at the cost of higher visibility. There have not been enough significant studies to prove conclusively one way or the other whether a full face helmet is better or worse overall for rafters.

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