Choosing a Helmet:
Previously we wrote about the determining factors when it comes to selecting gear for paddling trip. This time we will dissect that further and dwell on more detail about specific gear. We talk of the three Fs, thus ‘fit, function and fashion’. Overall we accept that one does need to look good out there.
Helmets need to be fit, adjustable/functional and comfortable. In general, we do not wear helmets very often so it is likely that one will be uncomfortable after a short period of using a helmet. There is a wide range of helmets used in whitewater, however, not all helmets are suitable for this environment.
Helmets for working at heights are designed with focus on impact directed from above. They have an internal flexible, floating basket which allows ventilation to keep the person cool. The suspended basket moves freely which threatens protection from impact implied sideways. Rock climbing helmets are similar, but with better straps and a different rating. The rating is specific for rock climbing. Bike helmets are usually fitted with single impact foam, therefore if they are exposed to impact the cushion disintegrates, thence they should be retired. They are only rated for the bike standards. So, called multi-sport helmets are geared for a broad range of activities. These might meet the ratings but something is usually compromised to get them up to multiple sport rating. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure they satisfy the three Fs.
Whitewater helmets are fitted with multiple impact foam around the sides and the top. That is to provide protection from every angle. That takes into account the fact that if you are in whitewater the impact is not only coming from a single direction. You could hit an obstacle while swimming, which means you are in a horizontal position. If you fall while walking on the river bank, the helmet will provide protection from whatever angle you land on the ground.
Most of these helmets are fitted with adjustable straps. Some allow ventilation, but other whitewater helmets do not have holes for ventilation. They are mostly rated but the rating will differ according to the jurisdiction. Therefore, it is relevant that one acquires a whitewater helmet rated for use in whitewater in their respective area.
A whitewater helmet with full-face cover will do a good job for the extreme kayakers navigating very difficult waterways. They are not very comfortable, but they provide protection around the head plus the facial. However, since it covers most or your head and face, it does not support the capture of good representations of your big runs.
Some prefer helmets with holes for ventilation and drainage, others prefer the opposite. I have been a fan of a helmet without holes specifically with a peak. That stems from having seen two people survive after being trapped slightly submerged underwater due to the air pocket provided by the water flowing over the peak of the helmet. The knockers criticise the peak with the view that if you are thrown in a raft, the helmet peak would hit the person in front.
There you go. So many options to choose from. One should pick a helmet that will fit better with consideration of where they are going to use it. In warm weather, a helmet with holes might be preferable where else in cold weather holes will be a point of weakness. Nevertheless, a whitewater helmet must be used all the times one is in whitewater. Preferable a helmet should be lightweight, multiple impact absorbing, good value for prize, comfy/adjustable and sleek and stylish.
Once we acquire the propriety helmet, it is time to think about the Personal Floatation Device, Rescue rope, rescue hardware and software and thermal protection.