Helmet Buying Guide
Snowboard helmets are only effective at preventing head injuries when they are on your head! So, if a helmet is uncomfortable or unstylish you most likely won’t wear it and it won‘t save your skull. A proper fitting helmet can help prevent a day ruining injury and save you time, money and most importantly your life! This information should help you make an informed decision about which snow helmet to buy and how it should fit once you’ve chosen the one that is right for you.
Prior to ordering a snowboard helmet it is crucial to measure your head and check the manufacturer’s specific size chart for the particular helmet that you are purchasing. While all of the manufacturers measure for sizes in centimeters the sizes do vary by brand and sometimes even model. It is important to check the manufacturer’s specific size charts in order to determine the best size snowboard helmet for you.
I. How to measure:
Use a flexible measuring tape or string if you can’t find a flexible measuring tape to measure all the way around your head. It is important to keep the measuring tape level as you measure around the back of your head . Keep the measuring tape above your ears and roughly two fingers width above your eyebrows. This will ensure that you are measuring the largest part of your head.
If you need to use a string to measure, simply wrap the string around your head as described above. You can then use the length of string that it took to circle your head and measure it with a tape measure or ruler to determine how large your head is.
While this measurement will give you the circumference of your head and put you in a specific size, it is important to remember that the best fit guide is always to TRY IT ON! All heads are shaped differently and all helmets fit differently so, the only true test is to put the sucker on your noggin’!
It is important to try your helmet on with your goggles as well. Some helmets fit better with certain goggles and vise-versa, so make sure you bring your goggles with you when looking for a helmet.
II. A good Fit:
To test the fit of your helmet try it on and shake your head side to side. The helmet should stay with you and not move independently of your head. Take your hands and move the helmet left, right, up, down. The skin on your head should move with the helmet.
The helmet should fit snuggly all the way around your head with no excess space or gaps. Pay attention to any potential pain or pressure points.
***NOTE: Keep in mind that not all snowboard helmets fit the same – even if they are the same size. Snowboard helmet brands and sometime models within the brands have different shapes to them. Some are more rounded, while others fit oval shaped heads better. If you try your helmet on and it is not providing even pressure around your head, (i.e. is too tight either front to back, is too tight on the sides or is gapping on the sides), you many need to try a different model of snowboard helmet that has a slightly different shape.
Snowboard Helmets can be manufactured in a variety of different ways and still be safe for hitting the slopes. There are three basic construction styles – In-Mold, Hard Shell, or In-Mold/Hard Shell.
I. In-Mold Snowboard Helmet Construction:
In-Mold snowboard helmets are made by creating a hard plastic outer shell which is fused with the snowboard helmets impact absorbent foam liner. This inner liner is typically made from EPS foam. In-Mold snowboard helmets are produced in a single molding process which allows the manufacturers to sculpt better ventilation systems. These helmets are very lightweight and usually more comfortable to wear.
II. Hard Shell Snowboard Helmet Construction:
Also referred to as ABS Construction, Hard Shell Construction uses an injection molded ABS Shell which is designed to withstand high-impacts. Hard shell helmets are generally more durable than In-Mold. This hard shell is then bonded to an EPS Foam Liner.
III. In-Mold / Hard Shell Snowboard Helmet Construction:
The best of both worlds, the hybrid In Mold/ Hard Shell Construction Style utilizes the positive qualities of both types of construction. Manufacturer’s first produce an In-Mold snowboard helmet and a separate Hard Shell. The hard shell is then bonded onto the exterior of the In-Mold Construction snowboard helmet. This construction style is typically utilized when manufacturers are looking for an easy way to create adjustable venting.
The two major certification systems for Snowboard Helmets are CE EN and ASTM. All snowboard helmets sold in the United States must comply with ASTM standards.
ASTM is one of many American organizations dedicated to testing products to ensure that, in this case, the helmet can provide appropriate protection in simulated crashes. ASTM F2040 is the section regarding recreational snow sports helmets. Snowboard helmets which are awarded this certification status are intended to protect boarders against a single impact only. After one serious impact the snowboard helmet should be disposed of (thrown away) and replaced.
II. CE EN:
CE EN is a European based organization that helps to protect consumers my ensuring that products meet certain standards in order to be sold in the European market place. CN EN Certifications are often seen on snowboard helmets which are produced in Europe. Much like the American rating system snowboard helmets meeting CE EN certifications are designed to protect against a single impact only. After one serious impact the snowboard helmet should be disposed of and replaced.
I. Custom Fit Adjustments
Many companies have added Custom Fit Adjustments (either from Boa or their own design) to many of their snowboard helmets in order to provide the best fit possible for as many riders as possible. The Custom Fit Adjustments can be a knob (pictured below) or a sliding cinch located on the rear of the helmet. This is a great feature that allows for a truly custom fit for your helmet.
There are many different helmets with different styles of ventilation. From fixed ventilation, adjustable, and non-ventilated. This feature is mostly personal preference but could make a big difference on your comfort while riding.
a. Adjustable Ventilation:
Snowboard Helmets with adjustable ventilation have some sort of operable system which allows riders to change the amount of air flow that is allowed to pass into the snowboard helmet. Sometimes this feature can be utilized “on-the-fly” meaning that you don’t need to remove the helmet in order to access the vents. While snowboard helmets with adjustable ventilation aren’t as warm as non-ventilated or fixed ventilation helmets, but for those who are constantly overheating on the slopes, this feature is going to be well worth the extra money.
b. Fixed Ventilation:
Snowboard Helmets with fixed ventilation offer built in ventilation in order to help keep you cool and comfortable on the slopes. With fixed ventilation the manufacturers design the helmet to allow amount of air flow through the helmet, it can not be adjusted.
II. Audio Capabilities
The majority of snowboarders and skiers are turning to audio helmets so they can ride with tunes and even take phone calls on the mountain. Many snowboard helmet manufacturers are making helmets with audio and Bluetooth capabilities. This allows you to jam out while cruising through some powder or take a call from your buddies that couldn’t keep up with you.
a. Built in Buds:
Some helmets have earpieces with built in speakers that you can plug in to or you can buy your own after market drop-ins and add them to the earflaps. Both typical cord designs and Bluetooth setups are available.
b. Bluetooth Link Systems:
Since most cell phones are Bluetooth capable, many of the snowboard helmet manufacturers have developed some wireless speakers that integrate with your helmet and phone.
III. Visors and Brims
Visors and brims on snow helmets are mostly aesthetic but they can help protect your goggles from branches. They also seal up to the top of your goggles and make sure to close the gap.
E. GOGGLE COMPATIBILITY
It is crucial to try your snow helmet on with your goggles to ensure that you are getting a comfortable fit. The goggles should fit snuggly to your helmet not leaving any gaps to expose skin to the elements. It is important to be sure that when wearing both your snowboard helmet and goggles you aren’t experiencing any pressure points or the goggles pushing down too much on your nose. You also want to make sure you have clear peripheral vision when wearing both your snowboard helmet and goggles.