Inexpensive low-profile helmet

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Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby Rebecca » Aug 11, 2013 9:59 pm

Hi, I'm in the market for a new helmet. This weekend officially ended my relationship with my hard hat:D It's served me well (four caves, innumerable scratches and dents) but in the cave I hope to frequent it just isn't practical. Here's why:
1: Height--It adds an extra 4-5 inches to my already 5'6" frame. This cave is tight. Also, one section (the army crawl) it got stuck (vertically) every few feet and the person in front of me had to kick it out. 10th time or so I just ditched it and kept my head down and my shoulders up.
2: width--not as much of a problem but it has gotten stuck a few times climbing/squeezing between walls.
3: the bill/lip thing: whatever you call it, it protrudes into my line of sight and cuts off my headlamp beam. Said cave-I-hope-to-frequent involves long stretches of army crawling, crawling, and crawling-or-crouched-over-walking. In such sections my hard hat restricts my range of vision to basically right below me. I need to be able to see where I'm going, the people in front of me, and the area around me without holding my neck at a crazy angle. Also, many of the higher crawl sections involve water flowing through half or so of the height, and I'd really prefer to keep my face out of it.

The trip I went on this weekend, several people wore skateboard/BMX type hard shell helmets that were much lower profile. Does anyone have any experience with those and/or suggest/not suggest them?
I need lightweight, both because of the extended crawl sections and because I'm just not that big.
Also on a budget (like, as-inexpensive-as-is-practical budget).
And water-friendly (I'm needy, I know). This cave should be listed under "Definition of wet cave". You crawl in water, crawl under water (going under a few ledges), walk in water, climb in water, have the option of going swimming in water...you get the picture. Yep, complete with underground swimming hole!
Thanks so much!
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby NZcaver » Aug 12, 2013 3:50 am

Welcome to the forum!

Have you checked out any lightweight helmets like the Petzl Elios? These are popular with some cavers and relatively cheap by today's standards. I have one, but don't usually wear it caving because my older helmets aren't dead yet. Best to try one on before buying/ordering. You can find them in most climbing stores or maybe a local caver has one you can try? They have foam inside and they float, so they should be fine in water but not so good for diving.
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby trogman » Aug 12, 2013 9:18 am

In regard to the bill on the front of the hardhat, you can just cut the thing off. Use a jig saw or hacksaw and cut it off, and then a sander or grinder to blend and smooth it out. That's what I used to do with all my hardhats, back when I was still using them. I also added chinstraps to them as well. They are not as safe as a climbing/caving helmet, but they are still WAY better than nothing. If you can't afford a climbing helmet right now, at least cutting off the bill will take care of that one issue.
Generally whenever I encountered a passage that my hardhat or helmet wouldn't fit through, I knew I wasn't going to fit either. :big grin: But you might be a little thinner than I am.

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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby BenS » Aug 12, 2013 9:37 am

The Elia is low profile and made for women. It is the women's equivalent of the Elios.
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby Rebecca » Aug 12, 2013 10:00 am

Thanks for the replies, everyone!
I'll look into the Petzl Elios/Elia. That's really more than I was looking to spend (broke full-time student...) but I may just have to re-evaluate my budget and wait on better lights and pads. The floating is definitely good...this weekend in one place I just ditched the hard hat and floated it in front of me during one of the crawls. (and kept my shoulders up and my head down...for safety)

I may well cut the bill off the hardhat. Where do you get your chinstraps? This cave is NOT easily accessible, and I ended up having to carry my hard hat 3 miles up the (very slippery) side of a mountain because branches kept knocking it around/off. The people in skate/BMX helmets clipped theirs to belt loops.
Yep, usually if the hard had doesn't fit, we don't attempt, but I get it wedged in a lot when I hit something (crawling) or straighten up too fast (climbing)("Thank you, hard hat!"). A chin strap would also help when I do get it stuck, because currently (no chin strap) I pull myself backwards (or down) and then have to get in front of (or above) the hat and knock it out. Which gets really old about the 10th (20th...30th only on the army crawl) time, esp. if I have to ask someone else to kick/knock it out.
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby GroundquestMSA » Aug 12, 2013 8:39 pm

Wearing it backwards will also take care of the bill problem. You can pop the suspension straps out of most hard hats and flip them around.
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby KWW » Aug 12, 2013 9:08 pm

I just got a slightly older model of the Black Diamond Half Dome in excellent shape on Ebay for 17 bucks! They have them around that price all the time. I had been watching them for a while. I wear a new Half Dome model and purchased the one on Ebay for my son. I wore it while bouncing a 160 foot pit this last weekend and loved it as much as my newer model. Even in a torrential downpour while climbing it was still very comfortable. Ebay! The gear shop for poor folks!
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby trogman » Aug 13, 2013 12:21 pm

Rebecca wrote:Thanks for the replies, everyone!
I'll look into the Petzl Elios/Elia. That's really more than I was looking to spend (broke full-time student...) but I may just have to re-evaluate my budget and wait on better lights and pads. The floating is definitely good...this weekend in one place I just ditched the hard hat and floated it in front of me during one of the crawls. (and kept my shoulders up and my head down...for safety)

I may well cut the bill off the hardhat. Where do you get your chinstraps? This cave is NOT easily accessible, and I ended up having to carry my hard hat 3 miles up the (very slippery) side of a mountain because branches kept knocking it around/off. The people in skate/BMX helmets clipped theirs to belt loops.
Yep, usually if the hard had doesn't fit, we don't attempt, but I get it wedged in a lot when I hit something (crawling) or straighten up too fast (climbing)("Thank you, hard hat!"). A chin strap would also help when I do get it stuck, because currently (no chin strap) I pull myself backwards (or down) and then have to get in front of (or above) the hat and knock it out. Which gets really old about the 10th (20th...30th only on the army crawl) time, esp. if I have to ask someone else to kick/knock it out.


Chinstraps: http://www.karstsports.com/4poinchinstr.html#.UgpqbNKsg6Y

You certainly need a chinstrap. If nothing else, just fasten a piece of elastic to hold it on your head. But this 4-point strap is much more effective and comfortable.

Trogman :helmet:
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby GroundquestMSA » Aug 13, 2013 6:37 pm

I've put elastic straps on a couple of hard hats to use as extras in case of company. Just slide a wide elastic strap (Wal-mart or hobby store) through the slots on each side of the helmet, double the ends back and glue them to the rest of the strap with fabri-tac or some other quality glue. If you use the widest elastic you can find, and get the length right, it's plenty comfortable, and keeps the hat in place, as long as you don't fall...
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby Extremeophile » Aug 14, 2013 9:53 am

BenS wrote:The Elia is low profile and made for women. It is the women's equivalent of the Elios.

I know a few women who have used the Elia, and none of them seem to like it. It appears to be a similar design as the Elios, but with a slot in the back for a ponytail. The chief complaint seems to be that it is somewhat less comfortable and stable on the head than the Elios. I have the Elios and like it very much.

I'm sure there are many other threads on the topic, but there are safety benefits of a climbing helmet over a hard hat. A hard hat may protect your head in low clearance situations, but a climbing helmet with a proper suspension system and chin strap will also stay in place and provide some protection during a trip or fall. Much depends on the types of caves you're visiting, but if you're doing any climbing or vertical work then a 4-point suspension should probably be considered mandatory. If you're doing caves with lots of breakdown or chimney climbing, then a climbing helmet is at minimum a very good idea. On a budget I would go with chynabear's suggestion of finding a used climbing helmet before putting any effort into chin strap configurations for a hard hat.
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby Rebecca » Aug 14, 2013 1:49 pm

The cave(s) I do have a lot of scrambling (I'm not sure it quite qualifies as climbing)and low clearance areas. The places that qualify as honest-to-goodness climbing are mainly going up rockfalls/breakdowns; there are three spots in particular where you pretty much need an extra arm or leg to get up if you are under 6' b/c you climb up a rock surface washed smooth by water or up a mudslide that (insert number of people on the trip here) people have already slid down. (Yay for caving teamwork!)
There's also a fairly extended section of maneuvering between two rock walls anywhere from 1 to 4 feet apart. Some of it you can walk sideways but other parts require spider-man climbing or rock-chimneying.
We also go down a couple of these sections (but take alternate routes around some of the rockfalls); the mudslide in particular is rather nerve-wracking..as in (person at bottom of mudslide) "It's a controlled slide. As in (grabbing my foot) I'm the control and you are the slide."
Honestly, the biggest fall danger is getting there...this last trip it had rained every afternoon, four days straight, and we pretty much had to run down the (often slick) side of the mountain because it was safer than trying to pick your way. Would this type of caving suggest/mandate a climbing helmet? (We're also looking into a trip to Tumbling Rock (North AL) later this year, if any of you are familiar with it; according to my sister, it's a lot of scrambling/climbing.)
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby Extremeophile » Aug 14, 2013 2:36 pm

Rebecca wrote:Would this type of caving suggest/mandate a climbing helmet? (We're also looking into a trip to Tumbling Rock (North AL) later this year, if any of you are familiar with it; according to my sister, it's a lot of scrambling/climbing.)

Although I may have suggested it depends on the characteristics of the cave, the truth is that almost every cave I've ever visited has all these potential sources of head injuries - low ceilings, rock fall, caver fall. A climbing helmet will always protect better than a hard hat. Many of the caves I visit have rules and regulations (e.g. National Parks), and most require the use of UIAA certified helmets.

There isn't a lot of climbing in TR, but there are a few spots where you climb up or down from the stream level and there are slick slopes. The slope up to the Pillar of Fire near the back is quite exposed.
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby GroundquestMSA » Aug 14, 2013 2:48 pm

Also, buying a helmet based on the nature of one or two caves is, hopefully, a bit nearsighted. You'll likely branch out to other caves and these will have different characteristics. You will want a climbing helmet eventually. Hard hats should usually be viewed as a temporary money-saving measure.
How big is your noggin? It isn't the most comfortable (to me) in the world, and it isn't exactly low-profile, but I have a Petzl Ecrin that you can have for the cost of shipping if you or any of your friends want it.
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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby trogman » Aug 16, 2013 1:29 pm

GroundquestMSA wrote:Also, buying a helmet based on the nature of one or two caves is, hopefully, a bit nearsighted. You'll likely branch out to other caves and these will have different characteristics. You will want a climbing helmet eventually. Hard hats should usually be viewed as a temporary money-saving measure.
How big is your noggin? It isn't the most comfortable (to me) in the world, and it isn't exactly low-profile, but I have a Petzl Ecrin that you can have for the cost of shipping if you or any of your friends want it.


If she doesn't want that Ecrin, my wife is interested! :big grin:

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Re: Inexpensive low-profile helmet

Postby GroundquestMSA » Aug 16, 2013 6:32 pm

trogman wrote:
GroundquestMSA wrote:Also, buying a helmet based on the nature of one or two caves is, hopefully, a bit nearsighted. You'll likely branch out to other caves and these will have different characteristics. You will want a climbing helmet eventually. Hard hats should usually be viewed as a temporary money-saving measure.
How big is your noggin? It isn't the most comfortable (to me) in the world, and it isn't exactly low-profile, but I have a Petzl Ecrin that you can have for the cost of shipping if you or any of your friends want it.


If she doesn't want that Ecrin, my wife is interested! :big grin:

Trogman :helmet:


It's a little rough, the headband is worn, but it hasn't been beaten severely. No major scuffs or gouges Size L, or 60 - 65 cm 480 grams. I found the chinstrap irritating, the buckle didn't get along with my laryngeal prominence. If Rebecca & Co. don't want it, Mrs. Trogman is free to claim it if she can use it.
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