Climbing equipment- helmet
If you take your safety seriously then you should make wearing a helmet a top priority. In sports like horse riding and mountain biking wearing a helmet is now the norm, and it won't be long until climbers follow suit. Climbing can expose you to threats such as falling rock or head trauma from falling. Wearing a helmet can substantially increase your safety in many cases, often allowing you to walk away from an incident that would otherwise have resulted in a serious, or even fatal, head injury.
Even if damage is not visible, you should retire your helmet after any major impact, as there may be unseen structural damage
A helmet protects your head by absorbing the energy applied to it - whether that is a falling rock or the climber falling to the ground. Most small impacts will simply result in a few dints in the helmet shell, but a major blow will be absorbed by the helmet breaking apart, crushing or shattering - allowing the energy to be dissipated. Even if damage is not visible, you should retire your helmet after any major impact, as there may be unseen structural damage. The helmet's done its job of protecting you but you can't rely on it to do so again.
Helmets are made from a variety of materials including Kevlar and carbon fibre, nylon (plastic), polystyrene and fibreglass. The particular materials chosen depends upon the helmet's intended use (e.g. mountaineering, ice climbing, rock) and the way they are designed to react on impact.
Your helmet should be a snug but comfortable fit. The chin and head straps must be adjusted so that they stop the helmet from shifting around when you move or shake your head. The actual level of protection varies considerably between different models. This might sound alarming, but provided you are wearing a helmet you will have a fair degree of head protection, as all helmets bought in the UK must pass European CE standards. It is more important to purchase a model that fits you comfortably and is one that you will wear regularly, rather than simply how strong it is.
Climbing helmets fall into two categories:
Rock helmets are a new breed of head protection
Rock helmets are a new breed of head protection: featherweight, cool and comfortable. Generally made from polystyrene with a plastic shell, they are intended to give a high level of protection in falls. Hence they are very similar in appearance to cycling helmets (the polystyrene will compact or break in the event of impact). They do not give as much protection as a traditional mountaineering helmet, but their ease of use has made them highly popular and has greatly advanced the widespread adoption of helmets in the UK.
These traditional climbing helmet designs are intended for general mountaineering and climbing. They are heavier than their polystyrene cousins but far tougher and more robust. They are recommended for routes where the danger from falling objects is more likely than falling oneself.
Andy Kirkpatrick is recognised as a world authority on equipment and technique, a knowledge built up on some of the hardest big walls and faces in the world. Andy's expertise is big wall climbing and winter expeditions. He has scaled Yosemite's El Captan, one of the hardest walls in America, over 24 times. As well as being a successful climber, writer and speaker, Andy also works in film and TV as a stunt safety advisor.
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