Last week we did a post about why you should wear a helmet. Now we will give you some tips on how to choose one.
For many years there were very few changes in the helmet industry. There have been two basic designs out there…helmets that are designed to take one big impact and those made to take a number of smaller hits.
Helmets consist of a shell and a liner. The shell is typically made from a high-impact ABS plastic that is designed to dissipate an impact over a larger area and also protect your head against pokes and scrapes from things like branches. The liner is generally an EPS foam core designed to absorb some of the impact that your head would normally take when you hit it on the ground, a tree, a rock, etc.
After any big impact, your snowboard helmet should be replaced.
There could be small cracks or compressions in the liner that you don’t see that compromise its integrity. Many companies have a “crash replacement” program where they will replace a damaged helmet for a fee much less than the cost of a new helmet. It’s a good thing…I have used it myself.
The two basic types of construction are In-mold and injection molded. In-mold attaches the shell and liner in a single process. These are lighter weight than injection molded and are only intended for that one big impact. Injection molded feature the EPS core bonded separately to the shell. They are more durable and will handle many smaller knocks on the head.
Fit and comfort are the biggest factors in choosing a helmet for snowboarding.
You need to find a helmet that fits snugly, but not tightly. When you shake your head, the helmet should not shift. There is typically adjustability within the helmet, so the fit off the shelf does not need to be perfect, but it should be close.
Make sure you take your goggles with you when you are picking out a helmet. Don’t be a gaper. Your goggles should fit neatly against the brim of your helmet. You do not want a big gap there. Many helmets come with cozy liners. But if you are going to wear a hat, make sure you try helmets on with a hat. But also consider if you do a lot of warmer weather snowboarding you will need to have some type of padding to fill in the gap left by removing your hat and or the fuzzy liner. Many helmets come with (or at least have available) some type padding for this purpose. Companies like Bern Unlimited make helmets designed to transition from snow to skate and bike just by changing out inserts.
Be sure to fasten the chinstrap every time you go out. It needs to be snug also so that your helmet doesn’t go flying off if you hit your head.
There are also features like vents, helmet cam mounts, and built in headphones. These may or may not be important to you, but they are out there.
The helmet industry is finally starting to catch up with the times, and this season seems to be pivotal to its advancement. Many helmet companies are starting to realize that while existing helmet technology is great for preventing many head injuries, and for minimizing the severity of them when they do occur, there is much more that can be done.
New types of foam that compress differently upon impact to further dissipate the blow are in the works. Impact reactive materials are being explored as an add-on to existing helmet technology to absorb the impact rather than your head. There are strides being made to separate the liner and the shell so that they can operate somewhat independently of each other and absorb some of the rotational force that causes many injuries. To read more, check out Outside Magazine’s article
Even with all of these new advancements, the most important thing is that you get a helmet and wear it…every time you ride! Visit your local snowboard shop and find the one that is right for you. Don’t take chances with your brain. As Tom Feiten from Hip Tec put it,
“Taking head impacts is more than just a cracked skull. It’s your brain you’re talking about. And when you talk about your brain, it’s the color that you like. It’s the music that you listen to. It’s the friends you have. It’s everything.”
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