How long should a helmet last?

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How long should a helmet last?

Postby bigredfoote » Jan 6, 2013 11:51 pm

My Elia helmet just had a "cute" plastic strap break halfway (that I know broke the same way for a friend on a brand new helmet), the foam is fine. Is ~2 years a normal helmet life expectancy? Especially now with decon? Should I stick to heavier helmets since climbing helmets aren't really designed for rougher caving? The comfort benefits on a long trip with a lighter helmet are great.

Do I have unreasonable expectations of my helmets?
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby paul » Jan 7, 2013 7:07 am

I would go with manufacturer's recommendations.
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby Scott McCrea » Jan 7, 2013 8:02 am

If a strap thingy broke, you should probably contact the manufacturer to see if it is a warranty issue.
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby Jeff Bartlett » Jan 24, 2013 10:37 pm

I've actually had this same question, the one in this thread title, on my mind this week after noticing that my 18-month-old Elios has two fractures all the way through the foam. It's never taken a significant impact. I think I need to retire it.
"Although it pains me to say it, in this case Jeff is right. Plan accordingly." --Andy Armstrong
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby kevinm » Jan 25, 2013 12:10 am

My Elios is 5 years old and still going strong. I think you guys need to stop trying to make more cave with your heads. :)
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby cavedoc » Jan 25, 2013 3:49 pm

Petzl says 10 years for its Ecrin. Mine cracked after about 15. Drilling holes for lights etc might make it weaker, it certainly would void any warranty. The warranty on my current Ecrin got voided about 30 minutes after I got it home.
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby MUD » Jan 25, 2013 5:10 pm

Of course the manufacturer will tell you to replace it sooner than you need to. That's how they make money. I'd just inspect it regularly and use your judgement. I have 12 helmets as I've never thrown away the old ones. I'd guess 10 of them to be usable for a good while longer. The other two are old Petzl Ecrins from the late 70's early 80's that just need the headbands/straps replaced. They're still really solid otherwise.
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby paul » Jan 26, 2013 9:30 am

Cavemud wrote:Of course the manufacturer will tell you to replace it sooner than you need to. That's how they make money. I'd just inspect it regularly and use your judgement. I have 12 helmets as I've never thrown away the old ones. I'd guess 10 of them to be usable for a good while longer. The other two are old Petzl Ecrins from the late 70's early 80's that just need the headbands/straps replaced. They're still really solid otherwise.


A manufacturer's resommendation is usually based on tests carried out in strict accordance to standards. Whether a helmet is safe ot not can only really be answered by testing, not just bey visual examination.
I don't agree with the point that they recommend replacement at certain ages just to make money. They would suffer far greater financial losses from lawsuits due to failures if they didn't have a recommended safe lifetime.
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby submassabielle » Jan 26, 2013 2:51 pm

Does the (manufacturer) countdown to replacement begin when you start using it or when you buy it? Can a never-used helmet expire? Does a loner used once or twice a year need to be replaced as soon as a helmet used once or twice a month?
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby paul » Jan 26, 2013 4:51 pm

submassabielle wrote:Does the (manufacturer) countdown to replacement begin when you start using it or when you buy it? Can a never-used helmet expire? Does a loner used once or twice a year need to be replaced as soon as a helmet used once or twice a month?


From the information leaflet supplied with Petzl Spelios helmet, for example:

Lifetime / When to retire your equipment
For Petzl’s plastic and textile products, the maximum lifetime is 10 years from the
date of manufacture. It is indefinite for metallic products.
ATTENTION: an exceptional event can lead you to retire a product after only one
use, depending on the type and intensity of usage and the environment of usage
(harsh environments, marine environment, sharp edges, extreme temperatures,
chemical products, etc.).
A product must be retired when:
- It is over 10 years old and made of plastic or textiles.
- It has been subjected to a major impact.
- It fails to pass inspection. You have any doubt as to its reliability.
- You do not know its full usage history.
- When it becomes obsolete due to changes in legislation, standards, technique or
incompatibility with other equipment, etc.
Destroy retired equipment to prevent further use.
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby bigredfoote » Jan 28, 2013 10:31 pm

I did contact Petzl after I saw the 3 year warranty, and sent the helmet in and they replaced the strap.

I guess the expected life is 3-10 years if you don't have an exceptional event.

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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby rjack » Jan 29, 2013 1:20 pm

Cavemud wrote:Of course the manufacturer will tell you to replace it sooner than you need to. That's how they make money. I'd just inspect it regularly and use your judgement. I have 12 helmets as I've never thrown away the old ones. I'd guess 10 of them to be usable for a good while longer. The other two are old Petzl Ecrins from the late 70's early 80's that just need the headbands/straps replaced. They're still really solid otherwise.


Many plastics get brittle and weaker with age. 3 years of limited use sounds pretty young, but if you have 35 year old helmets around, you just might be a packrat :)
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby paul » Feb 7, 2013 7:13 am

This Topic on UKCaving.com may be of interest: my helmet disintergrated.
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Re: How long should a helmet last?

Postby JohnC » Feb 7, 2013 1:33 pm

kevinm wrote:My Elios is 5 years old and still going strong. I think you guys need to stop trying to make more cave with your heads. :)


Sorry, but made me chuckle.

I would of thought the same with most equipment.

Use
Design
Age
Luck

Would all factor how long the helmets would last.

Im sure its exactly the same principle as our military helmets. Even dropping them can cause tiny superficial damage that will unexpectantly cause the helmet to crack or break. A tiny snag in the straps will cause them break and so on. Sounds quite obvious but most people would never realise that the underlying damage is there.

And luck most of the time is probably the most important factor. Who hasnt bought something before that has broken for no reason?

So to put a time scale on how long a helmet should last im my opinion is the same as the old age question "how long is a piece of string".
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