How to Choose a Snowboard Helmet

Andy Bowen

by Andy Bowen

July 25, 2019

Snowboard Helmet

Whether it comes to more comfort, warm ears or preventing serious injuries, wearing a helmet is essential when going out snowboarding. No matter how good you are, most injuries occur when others snowboard into you, so it is always wiser to prevent than to heal. This guide will help you choose the right snowboard helmet for a perfect fit.

Cost

Your available budget defines how far you can go. The most expensive snowboard helmet is not necessarily the best one though. However, a little market research will give you some hints about what to expect in terms of quality and value for money.

Once you get it done, set an available budget and stick to it. After all, you do not need all kinds of bells and whistles that you may never use.

Function

Most snowboard helmets come with some standards in terms of health and safety. However, different snowboarding activities require different helmets. If you race, you might need a helmet with more protection, as you speed and expose yourself to more dangers. The same rule applies if you have had a head injury – a chin guard might be helpful then.

Other helmets are designed with comfort in mind – a great fit, more cushioning or perhaps extra warmth. The style is not to be overlooked either, not to mention the looks. To many people, the helmet is all about looking good.

Style

If the overall appearance is your main concern, you have to pay attention to the style. While your helmet is supposed to look good on you, the style is more than just looks. You would have to try different designs from more manufacturers to figure out which one is more suitable and comfortable.

The style is only a matter of personal choice. Some people want crazy colors to stand out in the crowd, while others would rather go with some Swarovski crystals – nothing but personal preferences.

Helmet Components

While not always visible, snowboard helmets come with multiple components and each of them has a particular role.

Shell & Core

These are the main parts of a snowboard helmet and their main role is to keep you safe. Many manufacturers rely on polycarbonate plastic for the shell, while the core is often made of expanded polystyrene. Other common materials include carbon fiber and fiberglass. These kinds of plastics are efficient at absorbing shocks, but they are also lightweight.

The shell will protect against hard or sharp objects, but it will also absorb impacts. For this reason, if you go through an accident, it is highly recommended to replace the helmet. The polystyrene will never be able to get back to its original state.

Air Vents

Vents can be opened and closed with a few different mechanisms – no major differences between them. They allow you to cool down a bit if you spend the whole day snowboarding. Even if you are the type of person who is always cold, you will still need some air every once in a while.

Different manufacturers opt for different sizes. But generally, these vents have some channels to let the air go in at the front and out at the back.

Ear Pads

Ear pads can be built into the shell or separate. Most manufacturers add them separately. Their main role is to keep your ears warm, but they also add a bit of protection. They will not really affect your hearing, so you can still communicate with those around you. You will also find removable pads, which can be washed, giving you more options.

If you opt for a high end snowboard helmet, you will find ear pads with all kinds of tech features, such as speakers.

Strap

Straps are meant to hold the helmet on your head and prevent it from falling in case of an accident. Straps are adjustable and usually kept in place with a buckle. There are more types of buckles, yet most manufacturers choose the clip buckle or the ratchet one. Both types allow a similar level of customization. While not so common anymore, stay away from straps with no chin pads. They will scratch your skin and feel uncomfortable after a while. However, most manufacturers add a chin pad these days.

Goggle Mount

Goggles can be mounted on the inside or the outside. The outside version is more common these days because it allows you to choose the desired goggles yourself. At this point, you have multiple options regarding the mount.

Elastics are widely used and work on a hook and pull mechanism. You also have the popper attached to a strap or the molded style. This molded style features an extra plastic part that keeps goggles mounted and prevents them from coming off.

Lining

The helmet core is a relatively harsh material, so this is when the lining comes in handy. It is used on the inside of the helmet and makes a soft connection between your head and the core. The layer is quite soft and makes the whole thing more comfortable. Since you are likely to sweat, most helmets come with removable lining (always double check upfront). This way, you can take it off and wash it. Some units also come with a set of linings, even in different thicknesses.

While not so popular, this feature allows a deeper level of customization.

Adjustment

Adjustment is critical for comfort and safety. You want to feel comfortable while spending half a day snowboarding, but you also want the helmet to perfectly match your head for safety. There are more types of adjustment on the market. Most manufacturers rely on adjustable bands, which go around the back of the head. They are easy and convenient.

Other manufacturers install adjustment wheels on their helmets, not to mention systems with buttons or ratchets. Although it is not so common, the air based adjustment can also be found in commerce – you inflate or deflate the unit for a perfect fit.

Helmet Construction

The snowboard helmet construction defines your safety standard. Again, it is imperative to replace the helmet if you go through an accident, as it will not be safe anymore – even if it looks alright on the outside.

In-Mold

In-mold snowboard helmets rely on a thin shell on the outside. It is made of hard plastic, so it is likely to face the test of time – unless you go through an accident. It is molded to an EPS foam liner. The liner is much softer. All in all, this kind of mechanism has the role to absorb shocks during an accident or an impact.

Given the materials used in the composition, such helmets are lightweight and will not put too much pressure on your neck.

Soft Shell

Soft shell snowboard helmets are not as tough as other options. They are useful for mild and regular intensity impacts, but they will not protect you in a life threatening accident. The good news is they can take quite a beating and can be used even after you have been through a mild impact. They rely on two different foam densities.

One of them is quite soft and will go around your head. The other one is harder and will go around the outer shell. While some models are also certified for large impacts (meaning they require replacement after the accident), this is not a general rule, but an exception. Therefore, always double check before buying.

Hard Shell ABS

Hard shell ABS helmets rely on thick ABS plastic. It is premade and glued into the interior. It provides extra protection, so it is suitable for racers. The outer shells is a couple of millimeters in thickness. It provides advantages like more resistance, durability and a higher protection. However, they might be uncomfortable during an impact. Less force is less likely to deform the rigid shell. This way, you will feel the shock. Minor concussions may occur, but at least you have the extra protection against major trauma.

It is worth noting that hard shell ABS helmets are also known as injection molded helmets.

Helmet Sizing and Fit

The sizing and fit are not all about comfort, but also about your safety.

Measure Your Head

Measuring your head can work wonders if you plan to buy your snowboard helmet online. Most manufacturers provide measurements, hence the necessity of knowing yours. Get a measuring tape and check out the size of your head – around an inch above your eyebrows. Pay special attention to the measure – some manufacturers provide sizes in inches, but most of them use centimeters.

Try It On

The best way to know whether a snowboard helmet fits is to try it on. If you want to buy online, go to a local shop and try a few models, then order the one you want over the Internet. You can also measure your head, order it and return it if it does not fit.

When you put it on, the helmet must feel snug – not on the sides and not on the top, but everywhere around your head. Otherwise, it might move around. Do not buy a smaller size to clear the space between the helmet and head, as it might lead to painful spots and pressure points.

Shake Test

The shake test is an extra idea to tell if the helmet is too big. Shake your head a few times and pay attention. If it rubs you, it means it moves on its own. If it moves or shakes on its own, it is too large for your head.

Grab the helmet while on your head and move it in all directions. Your skin should also move. If it moves on its own, it is too large. Buckling up will keep it on your head, but it will not improve the fit.

Adjustable Fit Systems

Adjustable fit systems are handy if you cannot find the perfect size. You have a few options here.

Adjustable Wheel or Boa

The adjustable wheel is quite futuristic and relies on multiple mechanisms. It is simple, easy and quick to do though. You basically have a small dial somewhere on the helmet – on one side or another. Adjustments are extremely fine, so you can tune it in the smallest details. The problem with this system is that if something breaks on the inside, repairing it can be a nightmare.

In Form Fit System

This kind of system is also based on a wheel, but not always. Sometimes, you have a ratchet. It mostly works on the head fit – you can loosen it or tighten it. More and more manufacturers allow adjusting both vertically and horizontally. Years ago, it was a matter of horizontal adjustments only.

Pad Systems

Pad systems allow a certain degree of adjustability, but they do not go too much into details. Basically, you get more pads that you can add or remove on the inside to affect the helmet thickness. They often come in multiple thicknesses, so you have a decent degree of adjustability. All in all, this option is better for those who sometimes want to ride with a hat or a beanie. At the same time, kids will also benefit from such helmets. They keep growing, so instead of buying new helmets every year, you can just remove some pads.

Air Fit

As long as the helmet perfectly matches the shape of your head, the air fit is one of the finest tuning possibilities in snowboard helmets. Whether it comes to comfort or safety, the air will fill all the gaps around your head. You usually have to touch a couple of buttons or increase or decrease the amounts of air.

Helmet Features and Accessories

When it comes to bells and whistles, stick to mandatory things first and then you can think about options that might be cool to have.

Vents

Vents let some air in to cool you down. They also leave that hot sweaty air out. Most of them come with some channels throughout the helmets, so the air will circulate freely and go out through the back.

Vents come in a few different models. Ideally, if you want this feature, you should invest in adjustable vents, which allow adjustments without interrupting your ride – simply rotate a dial or push a lever. Some other models come with removable plugs, meaning you can adjust the flow only if you take the helmet off.

Camera Mount

More and more snowboarders like to show off and share their adventures with others. Therefore, they mount cameras on their heads to record the whole experience. Choosing the right camera is up to you though, yet most professionals rely on world renowned names like Go Pro.

While they are rare, you can find mountable support. However, the best option implies having a built in camera mount.

Audio

Built in speakers represent some of the most popular bells and whistles. They are often built into ear pads. They allow connecting your smartphone or MP3 player to them, so you can play your favorite music while you ride. Even if you ride with friends, it does not mean that you will have a chat while you go down, so music is always the better option.

Some other models allow listening to your phone and even take calls, while others have a two way radio – a better choice if you ride with a friend or your kids.

An easy way to get over built-in audio features involves using ear buds. Make sure the helmet does not push them in too tightly.

Liners

Along with ear pads, drop liners are some of the most common detachable accessories in snowboard helmets. While they add to a more comfortable fit too, their main role is to let you choose how much warmth you require.

Since they are removable, liners can be washed – excellent after spending hours sweating on a mountain.

Goggles Compatibility

Goggles are highly recommended when using a snowboard. At that speed, you want your eyes wide open to prevent accidents. You do not want anything in your eyes and you do not want to squint while going down at a high speed. You need full visibility.

Many helmets let you directly attach goggles, but they come with different mechanism. Make sure you go through the instructions upfront (or you can choose the goggles after you choose the helmet). If you are not sure about it, simply head to a local store and ask for advice.

Also make sure that you read our snowboard google buying guide !

Hard Case

A hard case is all about the maintenance and protection of your snowboard helmet. It is like a travel case, only it is hard and aims to keep the helmet intact during storage or transportation. Other than that, it will also have your helmet looking brand new by preventing dust from settling.

Helmet Safety Certifications

Major manufacturers will always come up with some certifications when producing helmets. Certifications guarantee for some quality standards, but this is pretty much it. Just because your snowboard helmet is certified, it does not mean that it is invincible.

CE EN1077

This certification is quite strict. It is part of the European Union set of rules and it is necessary for snowboarding helmets. Helmets with this certification can also meet other requirements, but this is not a general rule. For example, certain helmets can meet the CE EN 1077 standards, but fail the standards of another certification.

ASTM F2040

This is one of the most popular snowboard helmet certifications – more popular than the European CE EN1077. It is a classic US based certification coming from a standard that overlooks snowboarding and skiing.

If you are looking at helmets inside a local store, you should check out the specifications or simply look for an ASTM sticker. It is normally located on the inside.

Helmet Venting

Since your head is likely to sweat in a snowboard helmet, most helmets come with some type of ventilation.

Adjustable Venting

For maximum efficiency, you should invest in adjustable venting. In other words, you can open or close the vents according to the weather. If it is too windy and you feel cold, keep them closed for more warmth. After half an hour of snowboarding around, you might get hot, so you can open them.

Such systems are adjustable in more ways – sliders, plugs, buttons and so on. Ideally, the system should be adjustable without having to stop and take the helmet off, yet this feature is more expensive.

Helmet Styles

The style of a snowboard helmet is all about the appearance and protection.

Full Shell

A full shell snowboard helmet will offer full coverage. It could be windy or snowy – it makes no difference for you. Weather conditions will not affect you. This style is more common in racers, which require extra protection at high speeds. Half pipe riders also use full shell helmets, not to mention children who are exposed to more dangers due to the lack of experience and slow reflexes.

Half Shell

Half shell snowboard helmets represent the most popular option on the market. They give you some freedom, but they do not make such a good option at very high speeds. However, they allow easy communication.

They come with all kinds of features – most importantly, they often have soft ear padding, which adds to your comfort.

Full Face

The full face snowboard helmet is similar to those motorcycle helmets that cover the entire face. They are usually made of one piece and they go all the way down to protect jaws as well. This is the safest and most protective type of helmet, but it does have a few drawbacks as well.

Given its size, it will weigh more than other types. Also, it might feel a little uncomfortable. It is more common among racers.

Bottom Line

Bottom line, buying a snowboard helmet is more challenging than it looks. After all, it is your safety that you invest in. Therefore, it pays off taking your time to go through all these factors before making a final decision, please also consult our best snowboard helmet review page .

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