The helmet is a mandatory individual protection device for the Vie Ferrate. Unfortunately it happens to see hikers climbing via ferrata without wearing a helmet and this is a serious lack in terms of safety. Those who frequent the mountains know how real and frequent the risk of falling rocks is from above. Furthermore, the helmet has a particular importance in via ferrata due to the protuberances of the rock and the metal frames that we will encounter during the climb. In this short article we will present the function of the helmet in via ferrata and the reasons why it is mandatory to wear it. We will also analyze the differences between the main helmets on the market trying to help in the choice of helmets based on the different uses that each individual could make of them.
For an unclear reason, we sometimes tend to consider the helmet superfluous. This happens not only in the mountains. Up until about twenty years ago it was a optional wear a helmet while driving a scooter. Today it is the same for the bicycle. The helmet helps save one's life in the event of impacts and the idea that having a helmet makes us less is to be thrown away cool. We clearly reiterate one concept: walking the via ferratas without a helmet is wrong and dangerous.
Helmets for mountaineering and climbing follow the European CE EN 12492 standards regarding impact resistance. Recent models have achieved design and lightness that make their use really comfortable. Helmets for mountain activities can be adjusted in several directions to adhere to our head and save our lives in some situations we are going to present.
In some respects the via ferratas look more like a climbing route than a climbing cliff. We will go to altitude, we will travel sections of rock that may not be firmly attached to the wall. Previous hikers may inadvertently to move stones which in a few seconds become bullets for those who follow. Not only that, sometimes animals that are above us moving stones moving naturally without considering who is below. A stone falling from a few feet above us can have fatal consequences. For the danger of falling rocks, we recommend wearing the helmet during the phase of approach.
Not just stones. If it happens to fall on a via ferrata, it is not certain that we will fall following only the force of gravity. A serious danger is a overturning during the fall with the risk of banging the head against the rock.
Finally, during the progression it happens quite often not to see rock unevenness and throw yourself against it, especially in chimneys or crevices. For these reasons, the helmet is absolutely necessary when we are on a via ferrata.
The main difference between the mountaineering helmets on the market is their production, from which some intrinsic characteristics will derive:
The foam helmets are completely made of polypropylene and, in terms of safety at 360 degrees, offer greater safety especially for lateral crashes. Hooded helmets are generally heavier and for most uses they offer good safety standards.
In choosing the helmet, in addition to the type (rigid or foam) the important factors to consider are the weight, the ventilation, the lateral protection and finally the price.
The helmet weight affects prolonged use on comfort as well as the ventilation. The most recent helmets have low weight compared to some years ago. Foam helmets are lighter and more ventilated.
Attention also to the possibility of regulation to adhere our head with a wheel or with a buckle to tighten. If you plan to do nighttime trips or in tunnels (such as the Via Ferrata Lipella to the Tofana di Rozes or the Via Ferrata of Memory at Vajont), it is convenient to have a helmet that has hooks to attach one to frontal light.
There are helmets specially designed for the shape of the head female and gods children. Helmets often have a size that you should consider before buying. Sometimes the sizes M / L are for adult men and sizes S / M for adult women and children.
For those who will do a occasional use of the helmet and not for long routes, we recommend evaluating a helmet with a rigid shell. These helmets will have a lower cost than foam ones, although heavier and less ventilated. Among the various basic models on the market, we note:
Lighter and more ventilated, still with a rigid shell, we would like to point out
For the people who will make one prolonged and frequent use, we recommend a foam helmet instead. This helmet will be lighter and more ventilated. Among the various models on the market, we point out:
For long hikes where the backpack is full and we cover a section of via ferrata along the route - for example in an itinerary with shelter night - it might be useful to tie the helmet to the backpack externally. Some backpacks have special slings. If they are not present, a helmet bag could be convenient, such as this from the Mammoth or this by Millet.
As indicated above, for some ferrate with tunnels it may be necessary to have a frontal torch with you to be connected to your helmet. There are many models on the market and a price range that varies from a few euros to over 50 euros. We leave out the economic models in this article. If you want to buy something professional, we suggest the models of Black Diamond Cosmo or Storm as well as Petzl's models Tikkina and Actik.