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Gear Guy

What's the best rock-climbing helmet?

I new to technical rock-climbing and have enrolled in a course here in Oklahoma. I would like some info on a good, comfortable helmet. I attempting some Colorado fourteeners next summer and possibly a summit attempt on Rainier with RMI. Bryan Edmond, Oklahoma

A: Helmets are excellent things. You only have one brain, after all. I know many years ago the conventional wisdom was that you didn't need a helmet on "clean" routes, because it was rare for a falling climber to hit his or her head. But that was a dumb notion then, and is a dumb one now. I know that many sport climbers eschew helmets, even on very difficult routes, and that climbing magazines are full of climbers on insanely vertical pitches wearing nothing more than shorts, shoes, a harness, and a smile. But for the most part, wearing a helmet is exceedingly prudent.

Petzl Ecrin Roc

Beyond that simple advice, make sure it's a helmet for climbing. Cycling helmets have too many holes—a jagged rock could easily sneak through one and leave a nasty gash or worse.

But which helmet? Petzl's Ecrin Roc ($84; is a fine, classic helmet—sturdy, easily adjustable, and reasonably well ventilated. Fully approved for climbing and tested against a number of impact and shock-absorption factors. Petzl's Elios ($60) is another nice simple, reliable option, with its sibling the Elios Vizion adding a clear face visor designed to keep snow and ice off your nose when ice climbing. But that's a lot more than you need for the types of climbing you mention. Edelrid's Ultralight ($50; is very similar in design and fit, and is considered by many a tried-and-true brain bucket. Lastly, the Kong Scarab ($159; is certified for many sports—climbing, bicycling, even whitewater kayaking. But it compromises in all three areas, and for about the same money you can buy purpose-built helmets for each sport.

So there you go. Climb on!

For more great rock-rat duds, including a sweep of essential starter gear, check out Outside Online's all-new Climbing Gear Buying Guide.

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