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!
Following a major re-design the all-new Petzl SIROCCO is a big improvement on the original model, reckons Theo Moore. No longer at risk of looking like a giant tangerine, he has been sporting it on crags from Pembrokeshire to the Peak. Here's what he thought.
The latest Petzl SIROCCO is here and one big difference is apparent straight away: it's not totally orange! For us dour Brits (and certainly myself) this now makes the SIROCCO an aesthetically acceptable piece of head gear. In fact, in the new white/orange and black/orange options it looks stylish without being comically bold. More importantly, while the original was all foam, its new hybrid design combines an overall shell of EPP (expanded polypropylene) foam, with a top section that's made of Injected EPS (expanded polystyrene) protected with a polycarbonate crown. It looks funky, and offers loads of protection too.
Another thing to note about the appearance of the new SIROCCO, and this certainly improves its functionality too, is that it has a much lower profile than the previous version. Whilst the original sat quite high above your head, effectively increasing the size of your barnet, the latest design fits more closely. In size and shape it is now basically equivalent to a METEOR. This not only looks nicer, but it means that if you're introducing your head to a chimney or wide crack, your helmet is not an obstruction.
Better yet, the reduction in overall size means that the new SIROCCO can be worn comforably under the hood of a climbing shell or belay jacket, while it's fair to say that the old one was a bit too large for most hoods. This is really good news for alpine and winter climbers. More good news if you sometimes put yourself in the path of falling ice, is that the helmet fits Petzl's VIZION face shield (sold separately).
"You can hardly tell that you're wearing it; I've even looked in my rear-view mirror to notice that it's still on my head!"
In addition, the helmet fits really nicely on top of a hat or a light jacket hood, and because of its low profile your head doesn't become massive. This is a huge plus-point for me as the changeable (read: cold and wet) British weather means that you often want to pop a hat on when you're out at the crag and the SIROCCO enables you to do this whilst remaining safe. The wide holes that the SIROCCO features mean that it is not only nice and cool in hot weather, but that it is very breathable when worn on top of a hat.
When I first received my new SIROCCO I was slightly skeptical as to its durability, since it feels a bit like the throw-away foam packaging you receive in boxes. Knowing the general wear and tear that my helmets receive when not on my head - being shoved into bags, under bags and being flung around whilst strapped to the outside of my bag - I was treating my SIROCCO like a newborn baby. However, after using the helmet for numerous trips I can attest to its durability: it is at least as tough as the other polystyrene-style helmets I have used recently. In fact, it's arguable that for everyday knocks of the type mentioned above, the softer expanded polypropylene foam, from which it is mainly built, can absorb slightly more shock than a rigid material which could crack more easily.
The combination of EPP in the main body of the helment with an impact resistant EPS/Polycarbonate crown serves to reduce the volume of the helmet versus its predecessor, without compromising its strength.
Needless to say I haven't deliberately dropped any rocks on myself, nor smashed my head into the crag on purpose whilst wearing the new SIROCCO [you're not trying hard enough, Ed.]. But the overall feel is surprisingly protective given how light it is, with a fit that comes down low enough to properly cover the sides and rear of your head. In the absence of a headbanging test in the field, suffice to say that it conforms to the relevant safety standards.
A final point to add is that when I received my sparkly white helmet I was worried that it would soon be covered in dirty marks and not look so pristine. That hasn't happened, as the materials don't seem to mark easily.
Petzl quote the SIROCCO at a very healthy 170g (size M/L), but I make mine even lighter, at 165g. OK, this is exactly the same weight as the original version. Instead of reducing the already-light weight Petzl have sensibly chosen to reduce the size instead - a good call. Either way this is a seriously lightweight helmet, and easily the lightest I have ever worn. Although this is a huge cliche, you can hardly tell that you're wearing it; I've even looked in my rear-view mirror to notice that it's still on my head! For me the low weight is a real winner. With previous helmets the weight has felt off-putting on balancey moves, and on one occasion I knocked my helmeted-head on an overhang whilst soloing, which nearly threw me off backwards. Whilst you're climbing in the SIROCCO you hardly notice it, so it's just like climbing without a lid, and when you get to the base of the crag the helmet is not heavy or uncomfortable so there's no temptation to take it off (to the disappointment of the Damoclean loose rock frothing at the thought of your unprotected cranium).
The helmet fits very snugly on my head. When tightened appropriately, it doesn't wobble and there are no painful spots. I feel like there should be more to say about the fit, but that's it: it's comfy and snug! The SIROCCO does come with some additional foam inserts in case you lose yours (or they become too smelly).
One thing which I do really like is the straps of the headband and chinstrap, used to adjust the fit on the helmet. They are very simple and whilst the chinstrap features Petzl's fancy trademark magnetic buckle (which for some reason I quite like, although I'm not sure it's all that much better than a regular buckle) the headband features a basic buckle-type tightening system like you would find on your rucksack straps. Whilst this isn't as fancy as the METEOR's plastic head cradle, it is lighter. It's less fiddly to use too as all you need to do is pull a bit of webbing with one hand - something you can easily do while wearing the helmet, and even whilst climbing - rather than pinching the plastic cradle. This is great when adjusting the helmet to be worn with a hat, or if you forget to tighten your helmet enough before you start climbing. I imagine that it is not as durable as the METEOR system, but its functionality is at least as good, and it saves some weight.
The SIROCCO features three attachment points for a headtorch: rear elastic and two plastic clips up front. These work perfectly fine once the headtorch is attached. I found it a bit fiddly to get the torch on, and of course had to take the helmet off to do so; and I also found that because of the design of the rear attachment point the vertical strap of my headtorch did not sit completely straight on the top of the helmet (although the headtorch attached, and didn't come off, just fine). Being a trad/sport climber, this all comes with the caveat that this is the first time I've ever attached a headtorch to a helmet. I imagine this is more familiar ground to the alpinists and winter climbers among you, but it's fair to say that the system works fine.
The latest SIROCCO is very light, looks good and fits well - a major improvement in appearance compared to the original giant tangerine. And thanks to its hybrid construction there's been a welcome reduction in overall size too. I wouldn't want to stand on it or drop a heavy bag on it, but despite appearances it has proved solid and durable. Whilst using the SIROCCO for trad and sport throughout the UK I've hardly noticed that it's on my head. If you're looking for a helmet that's light, breathable, and stylish then I'd highly recommend it.
Ultra-lightweight climbing and mountaineering helmet with reinforced protection. The SIROCCO is designed to respond to the needs of climbers and mountaineers for reduced weight and for protection. Its head-covering shape, lower in the rear, offers reinforced protection. Optimized volume on the head, along with excellent ventilation, provide maximum comfort.
For more info see petzl.com
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