A new ultralight species of climbing helmet will arrive in spring 2013—one made entirely of foam. The Petzl Sirocco uses expanded polypropylene (EPP) to create a climbing helmet that weighs radically less than traditional helmets yet still provides the durability and impact resistance necessary for climbing activities.
EPP has a range of consumer and industrial applications, including automotive parts, packaging, radio-controlled model airplanes, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. (For more on this engineered plastic foam material, check out this site.)
The Sirocco marks one of the first appearances of EPP into the outdoor market and sets a new low weight for climbing helmets; the Sirocco (165 grams, 5.8 ounces) shaves more than 30 percent off the weight of Petzl's current lightest option, the Meteor III+. No word yet on price, though based on the "you pay more to get less (weight)" truism of outdoor gear, I would expect it to be on the pricey side of things (for comparison, the Meteor III+ sells for around $110).
The 6.5-ounce Black Diamond
Interestingly, this ultralight salvo is (nearly) matched by Black Diamond, which recently announced its new Vapor helmet design. Weighing in at 186 grams (6.5 ounces), the Vapor trims down the weight using more conventional EPS foam (think a stronger version of styrofoam) reinforced with Kevlar and carbon rods. It will also be available next spring.
What's my take? Whichever fits your noggin best and feels most comfortable to wear will be the right one for you. And definitely never, ever sit on these lightweight designs (or any helmet for that matter!).
Climb on. Climb safe.
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