Choosing The Best Kayaking Helmet
Whenever we go kayaking, as with any other physical activity, there is the possibility of getting injured, so protection becomes a necessity. Equipping yourself with the best kayaking helmet is fundamental because the head, especially, is one part of the body that we must always protect.
Knowing this, you might wonder, what is the best kayaking helmet? Well, after reviewing many models, we have concluded that the best helmet for kayaking is the WRSI CURRENT PRO. It provides the best all-around protection and versatility, making it perfect for every kayak situation.
But there are also many other brands and helmet models from which to choose, and here we are to help you find the ideal head protection according to your needs!
Before determining what type of helmet works better in which paddling activity, there are many general characteristics every good helmet must meet, these being:
- Your helmet must cover the back of your head down to the base of your skull.
- Your helmet must protect your forehead, and if possible, extend enough to the front to cover the nose in the event of a frontal impact.
- Your helmet must remain well-strapped. This way, it will stay firmly on your head at all times.
Now, with these three points in mind, it is time to look for types of helmets, as well as specific design features, materials, and accessories.
Half-Cut – these are the less voluminous helmets that are available, and while still covering your head, their low-profile design emphasises more on looks and comfort than protection. Although we do not recommend them, if you still want to purchase one, please keep it for use on recreational/flat-water kayaking only.
Full-Cut – the more versatile on the spectrum, aside from being bolder in their design, Full-Cut helmets also sport a comprehensive arrangement of features, both for safety and comfort. Whether it is visors, ear protection, or more comfy retention systems, you can be sure that there is one of these to meet every need.
Full-Face – also known as Integral Helmets, these protect your head as well as your face, ears, and jaw. Because of this, Full-Faces are the most specialised helmets, both design and safety-wise. Due to their specific characteristics and cost, we recommend full-face helmets only if you will be whitewater kayaking. There, the inherent risk calls for all the extra safety you might get.
Helmets have advanced noticeably since the first leather and wood models that were available. Nowadays, When it comes to safeguarding the head, engineering leaves nothing to chance!
The elements that will help you choose the right helmet include:
Weight – the materials of the helmet determine this. And even though there is no significant difference between the best brands/models, you must choose the one you feel most comfortable wearing. Almost all the best kayaking helmets are made of Thermoformed ABS Plastic, Polyurethane, or Polypropylene, as well as the more pricey ones that are made of Carbon Fibre/Composite.
Shock Absorption – the impact-resistance capability determines the level of protection it provides. Some brands even come with a Subshell between the body and the liner of the helmet to improve shock absorption, making them perfect for whitewater outings.
Retention System – consists of a series of straps that work in unison to tighten the helmet and keep it well-placed on your head at all times.
Liner – generally made of EVA Foam, the liner is the closest layer of protection, so comfort becomes key as it is always in contact with your head. In some cases, the recommendation is to wear a skullcap while using your helmet to achieve an even firmer fit, thus avoiding slipping or rotation. There are also some more specific features that, although they may not apply to the needs of every single person, it is good to take into account. They may improve safety and help you, performance or recreational-wise.
Visor – as said before, there is the ever-present risk of frontal impacts, especially when whitewater kayaking, so a good helmet should protect us in such situations. Some manufacturers solve this by including built-in or removable visors with their products. They provide impact protection and also help to keep the sun away from your eyes.
Ventilation and Drainage – these are holes generally placed on top of the helmet, and their function is to drain water out or allow air to flow. This way, your head will not become waterlogged because of waves splashing or overheat when in hot weather.
Accessories – there are times in which, aside from protection, you might also need to attach some Add-Ons to your helmet. Whether it is a headlamp or your trusty GoPro, be sure to consider its accessorising capabilities when picking the right helmet for you.
Now, having discussed all the technical aspects, we are now ready to review some of the top choices on the market for every kayaking situation.
The Best of the Best
Whenever you step into an outdoor supplies store, a wall full of helmets jumps to your sight. It is not easy to keep the pace of a developing industry, such as that behind an increasingly popular activity like kayaking. But the following is a list of not only the best kayaking helmets on the market but some of the models and brands you find in every respectable outdoor supplies store!
WRSI Current Pro Helmet
It features a double shell to dissipate impacts. Also has removable ear pads, a visor to provide face protection, and an exclusive harness system to keep the helmet in place even after intense hits. This helmet offers the best overall experience for the most intensive range of paddling situations.
Costing around $140, the WRSI Current Pro is one of the sweetest deals, providing the best all-around protection and quality in this price range.
The price of the Pro-Tec ACE $70, might be the perfect choice for recreational kayaking, as well as for beginners.
Fifteen drainage/ventilation ports, solid ABS construction, and waterproof EVA foam liner, as well as its stylish design, make this helmet one sure Ace in the hole.
NRS Havoc Livery
A strong and durable ABS shell, coupled with a foam liner with extra padding in areas as well as ten drain and ventilation holes, make the NRS Havoc Livery another strong contender.
Just like the Pro-Tec ACE, the features of the NRS Havoc make it perfect for recreational/sea kayaking, but at $50, it is also the low-cost champion in our list.
Sweet Protection Wanderer
Welcome to the Big Leagues! The Sweet Protection Wanderer is an all-around classic among whitewater kayakers due to its well-balanced strength/weight ratio.
Thermoplastic ABS shell, Carbon-Fibre reinforcements, and a direct-ventilation design that amplifies the breathability of the helmet and allows for quick-draining make the Wanderer one of the best-regarded helmets in the market.
Perhaps the only downfall with the Wanderer might be its price -up to $150- which restricts its target buyer to the more serious paddlers.
Sweet Protection Rocker
If the Wanderer is one of the Tops, then the Sweet Protection Rocker both in its standard or Full-Face versions is the Crown Jewel of kayaking helmets.
Made of top of the line materials such as Thermoplastic ABS with Carbon-Fibre reinforcements, the Rocker features extraordinary durability while providing superb fit and comfort.
It also features what the manufacturer calls an Occigrip Adjustment System. This allows you to tweak the internal fitting of the helmet to the measurements of your head. So it can hold firmly in place even before tightening the straps.
About the price, sure, it might seem like too much at about $230 for the standard Rocker, up to $330 the Full Face version-, but take it from us, for what it provides, it is worth every penny.
Maintenance and Storage
Kayaking helmets do not require a specific maintenance routine. However, constant -pre and after use- inspection is fundamental due to the kind of impacts it might receive.
In case the shell of your helmet or internal padding suffers an impact that somehow compromises its integrity, please replace it. Even a seemingly tiny crack might prove the difference in the event of an accident.
Otherwise, just by washing it with mild soap and water after every use, as well as dry storing away from high temperatures, your helmet will give you many years of enjoyment and protection.
Let’s finish by saying that the best if not the only way to protect your head from any injury is by wearing the right helmet for the type of activity you practice.
So please, take it seriously even if you go paddling on calm waters. It is better safe than sorry. See you on the water, and you better have the best kayak helmet for you!