Choosing A Petzl Helmet
Wearing a helmet in a wide variety of outdoor sports is an obvious choice for many people. For Petzl, offering more than simple protection for your head is one of our primary concerns!
A refinement on the popular ELIOS, Petzl's new ELIA helmet is designed specificaly for women - particularly those with long hair. Alex Berry tries it on for size.
tanding at the bottom of a route, braiding your hair because wearing a helmet wasn't on your mind when you woke up for your alpine start, is an added faff with which many female climbers (and even some hairy males) are probably familiar. The Petzl ELIA, designed specifically for women, abolishes the inconvenience of hair when climbing. This might seem trivial but for those of us with long locks it is actually quite an advance. With a rim that rides up high at the back of the head, the design goes as far as being able to accommodate a bun style, allowing all your hair to be safely tied up away from zippers and belay plates.
The ELIA (all Petzl products are capitalised) is a simple and robust plastic ABS shell with an expanded polystyrene liner for added impact protection around the top of the head. It is pretty lightweight at a mere 285g (a little less than an ELIOS of similar size), and having found myself frequently back at the car after a cragging session with it still in-situ, it's safe to say that I find it comfortable to wear. It is also reasonably compact in size and easily fits within my rucksack, or slides into the front stretch compartment.
The head circumference ranges from 50-58cm allowing ample adjustment for layer changes. This sizing adjustment enables me to wear a thick woolly hat in winter without creating a pressure headache, which has been a problem with previous helmets I have worn. However the ELIA is only available in one size, so I would recommend trying it on before purchasing as "one size fits all" is not always the case.
Fitting adjustments are located on the outside of the helmet with a handy sliding mechanism which is extremely easy to use even wearing gloves. I much prefer this adjustment over the more usual fiddling with dials under the helmet, or having to remove it completely. In both summer and winter conditions I have been able to adjust the helmet with ease to create a comfortable secure fit. Petzl seem to be trying out a new ("OMEGA") headband in the ELIA, and for me it works very well, with an extra-broad plastic cradle that gives a really good snug fit around the back of the head. There's plenty of soft foam padding inside too.
The chin strap is narrow and therefore feels less restricting, adding to the helmet's general comfort. Its clip is small and positioned to the side to keep it out of the way. Although, as with most things, it is slightly more fiddly when wearing bulky gloves, this didn't pose an insurmountable problem. One thing does strike me as odd however: while most helmets, even in Petzl's own lineup, feature an adjustment point beneath the ear to allow you to slide the chin strap forward or back, on the ELIA this webbing junction is sewn in place. Initially when climbing this did not cause me great concern as the strap sat nicely under my chin when tightened. In order to keep climbing however we must eat, and often in precarious places. Opening my mouth far enough to enjoy my pork pie became more of a challenge and loosening the strap significantly or unclipping the helmet completely was the only solution. This may not be a problem for all wearers, but as the strap sits naturally towards the front of my chin I do personally find it restrictive when eating. Again, the only way to be sure it fits you is to try it on in a shop.
Petzl say this about the chin strap:
"Petzl listened to feedback from climbers who requested less bulk on the chin strap system, resulting in the new webbing system with adjustable buckle placed to the side instead of beneath the chin and a stitched strap beneath the ear. The stitched junction was developed to offer the same range of fit but without needing to adjust."
Other features include four plastic clips for easy headtorch fitting; a reasonable amount of ventilation (for really hot weather better-aired helmets than the ELIA may have an advantage, but hey, I usually climb in Scotland); and for ice climbers, it is compatible with Petzl's plastic VIZION face shield.
Whether you're cragging, multi-pitching on mountain routes, winter climbing, mountaineering, via ferrata-ing or even just scrambling, the ELIA is a very good all-round helment. If, like me, you've struggled in the past to find head protection that works with long hair, then this helmet may be your answer. With a couple of snazzy colour choices as well as the standard white, and at a price that's not going to break the bank, it is well worth a look. However all that said, it is only any use if it fits you, and without an adjustable chin strap you really do need to try it on before purchasing.
Rugged, comfortable and versatile helmet for women
The ELIA helmet was designed and developed to respond specifically to the needs of women. The innovative OMEGA headband system (Petzl patent) allows the helmet to be put on and removed easily and offers maximum comfort. This feature also includes a new headband and webbing adjustment mechanism. It allows the helmet to be precisely adjusted for different head shapes.
For more info see www.petzl.com
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