Q:

Is there a do-it-all helmet?

I've been considering getting a helmet for downhill skiing. Given the expense, I was wondering if it was possible to buy one helmet to cover several outdoor activities, in addition to skiing. I do a fair bit of skiing in the winter, but in other seasons I also go bicycling, do a little rock climbing, and may try inline skating this summer. I've rented them in the past, but would like to save the money on rentals -- as well as the expense of buying a helmet for every sport. Is there truly a helmet for all seasons? Some years back a similar question was asked, and the answer was "no," though the Petzl Meteor was mentioned. Wondering if this is still the case. Shawn Vitt Portland, Oregon

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: Some day, somebody will invent the perfect all-sport helmet. But it hasn't happened yet. Helmets for cold/wet conditions -- skiing, kayaking, that sort of thing -- need to have closed-shell construction. Helmets for aerobic, warm-weather pursuits -- such as cycling and skating -- need as much venting as possible. Helmets for rock climbing generally fall somewhere in between. The Petzl Meteor ($75) does a pretty good job of straddling that divide, but is essentially a light, well vented climbing helmet. I couldn't imagine wearing it on a bike for any more than a short ride. Really, I think cycling helmets come closest to what you need for skiing. You can always put a helmet cover over one to cut down on the breeze, plus wear a skullcap of some sort. So spend $65 for a Bell Image Pro 2000, get a $15 cover, and do your thing.

Moreover, while I wouldn't suggest NOT wearing a ski helmet, I don't see any compelling reason why one should -- and I say that having looked into the issue. Head injuries are quite common in cycling, but rare in skiing. Moreover, in those cases when a head injury while skiing does result in a fatality or serious injury (in recent years, the deaths of Sonny Bono in 1997, and Michael Kennedy a few weeks later come to mind) were the result of direct, head-on impact with a tree. No helmet in the world is going to save you when that happens. Moreover, especially in children, there is some evidence that a helmet increases the risk of injury because it can cause the head to whip back and forth during a fall, damaging the neck and spine.

I always wear a helmet when cycling, and often when climbing. I don't wear one yet when skiing, and ultimately may never do so. But that's a decision everyone should make on their own.

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