Best Climbing Helmet

Posted March 13, 2015 by Joel Schopp in Climbing
Petzl Sirocco

The best climbing helmet for most people is the Petzl Sirocco. We’ve worn this thing on a lot of climbing trips and have been super impressed by its durability, comfort, and light weight.

Why we love it


There are two testing standards for climbing helmets. CE EN 12492 and UIAA 106. They are the same, except the UIAA requires 20% less force on your head. It’s worth noting that some newer climbing helmets like the Black Diamond Vapor don’t pass the UIAA 106, but are still somehow carried for sale by establishments like REI. We think since most helmets are able to pass the safer standard, the CE standard should be updated and retailers should only carry helmets that pass the UIAA 106.

For more details on the safety testing including heights, weights, and shapes of dropped objects read this nice review.


The Sirocco’s durability comes largely from its flexibility. The helmet will bend and then return to it’s original shape. As an example of this flexi/durability Rock and Ice said you could sit on the Sirocco. We don’t encourage sitting on helmets, but we couldn’t help ourselves, we tested it out. Our helmet seems fine after the experience, but sitting on the helmet was not more comfortable than sitting on the ground. Why risk it, don’t sit on your helmet.

One of the complaints about the Sirocco is that it is not covered by a hard shell. If you run your fingernail along it it will leave a shallow fingernail dent. However, these shallow surface dents from everyday use are inconsequential to us. Back up more than 6 inches and our helmet looks like new despite us hitting our head against rocks and shoving our helmet into the bottom of our pack under a pile of trad gear. We’ve abused this orange beauty and it has taken the abuse time and time again.

Light weight

I used to get neck cramps from looking up so much while belaying and wearing a helmet. I don’t get those neck cramps anymore because this helmet is so much lighter than my last helmet.

145g (5.1oz or 0.32 pounds) for the Size 1 and 165g (5.6oz or 0.35 lb) for the Size 2. It is, as we write this, the lightest climbing helmet you can buy. We hand it to friends and tell them it is light, and they are always still surprised by how light it is in their hands. Wow!


Because of its light weight and nicely adjustable straps it is really easy to forget you are wearing a helmet. It’s pretty common now for me to put my climbing gear in the trunk of my car, and then as I’m getting in to drive away notice in the mirror that I still have this orange thing on my head.


It may not seem like a big deal, but the clasp on the chin strap has strong magnets. As soon as the clasp gets close together the magnets pull it together in perfect alignment. 90% of the time it will actually buckle itself, the other 10% of the time it holds it in place and you just give it a little squeeze to lock it in. People seem to complain that it only buckles itself 90% of the time, and that the other 10% of the time you still have to squeeze. I think it is better than any other buckle I have seen 100% of the time, including the 10% of the time it lines things up for me to squeeze it in.

Why Some Don’t Love it

One Color – Bright Orange

If bright orange isn’t your color scheme, this helmet isn’t for you. It is very, very bright orange. Traffic cone orange. This makes you easy to see from a distance if your friends are looking for you, but from a fashion sense traffic cone orange isn’t the new black.

The Buckle

Some people have reported the buckle coming undone. We have used the helmet extensively and never experienced this ourselves. It is our guess that what is happening is the magnet can make it feel like the chin strap is closed, but sometimes (about 10% in our experience) the plastic clip doesn’t engage unless you give it a little squeeze to lock it in.

Thicker Than Average

This helmet is a bit thicker than most. This can make your head look a little bigger. Some also report hitting their head on overhanging rocks more often due to the increased space their head/helmet combo now take up.


There have been reports of some durability issues. We haven’t seen these issues, and talking to multiple people can confirm that most people don’t see any durability issues. However, enough of these reports are appearing online from credible sources that we can’t completely ignore them.

What Others Are Saying

Rock and Ice gave the Sirocco a Best In Gear Award, 2014
Outdoor Gear Lab preferred the Petzl Meteor III+ (see Also Good below), but name the Sirocco a top pick.

Dirtbag Pick

Petzl Elios

Hard foam surrounded by a hard plastic shell. It doesn’t get much more back to basics than that. We’ve abused the Elios for over a decade and it’s still going strong. If durability were the only criteria this helmet would be the winner. It’s not the lightest helmet ever, but it is super rugged and affordable. The adjustment wheel in the back also makes for a quick, nice fit to your head size.

Also Good

Petzl Meteor III+

We didn’t choose the Petzl Meteor III+ because its thin shell seems more fragile than our namesake Rugged Individual would like. It’s also not quite as light as the Petzl Sirocco, and we consider the Sirocco’s high visibility orange to be a plus. However, if you don’t like the bright orange or want something a little less bulky or have, for other reasons we haven’t thought of, decided the Sirocco isn’t for you this is a decent second choice. Another bonus with the Petzl Meteor III+ is that you can use it for other sports like cycling/skateboarding (CE EN 1078) or whitewater kayaking (CE EN 1385).

About the Author

Joel Schopp

Joel is a a rock climber, canoer, backpacker, camper, father, skiier, programmer, swimmer, cyclist, zipliner, kayaker, and adventurer in no particular order. He is president of the Central Texas Mountaineers, Texas regional coordinator for the Access Fund, and sits on the board of the non-profit Ascend Outdoor Adventures. Joel wants you to have the best gear so you don't think about your gear and instead focus on the wonder that is the outdoors.

One Comment


    At the end of the day, though, unless head size is your top priority the other options on the list are better all-around climbing helmets.

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