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Whitewater helmets
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Jeff Gerke

Locale: Utah
Whitewater helmets on 08/26/2013 08:49:50 MDT Print View

I'm going on a float with a local whitewater club. I'm going to rent a packraft to give it a try. They said I need a helmet so I am going to buy one. What is a good helmet to use? Are there any lightweight helmets you guys recommend for packrafting?

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Whitewater helmets on 08/26/2013 08:59:31 MDT Print View

This also begs the question- What type of water do you expect to see? What class? If you're renting a packraft to give it a try, what other rafting experience do you have?

I guess all I'm saying is that I wouldn't take a packraft on Class III or higher if I had never been in a packraft before. I'd want a lot of experience. But that's just me.

Also, what packraft will you be renting? Alpacka?

Edited by T.L. on 08/26/2013 09:00:56 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Whitewater helmets on 08/26/2013 09:25:03 MDT Print View

Up to about Class 3 is pretty easy in a packraft (Alpacka), assuming you've paddled in water before. Above that skill starts to come in.

For a helmet, I went with the Kong Scarab primarily because it's light and approved for things in addition to whitewater like mountain biking and rock climbing.

Edited by simplespirit on 08/26/2013 09:25:49 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Whitewater helmets on 08/26/2013 09:38:13 MDT Print View

I canoe at 3 mph without a helmet. I flat-water kayak at 4 mph without a helmet. I motorboat at 30 mph without a helmet. I drive (at 100 mph in Germany a few weeks ago) without a helmet.

I wouldn't white-water kayak without a helmet, because if one rolls, there are rocks down there. Even if not completely inverted, but sideways, smacking a rock is a possibility.

So, yeah, it raises the question for me: is this more trip than you think it is? Or are they being overly conservative on this point or perhaps have a blanket club policy or insurance rule?

Back on topic - does the club require any particular specification (like UIAA certification for climbing helmets)? If not, a multi-sport helmet, while a little warmer on the river, also works for skiing, snowboarding, and bicycling:

$99 original, $65 on STP, $50-ish if you enter key code SITECOOL813 on an order over $100. 1 pound 3 ounces.

I was in a climbing shop a few months and was impressed by:

at 165 grams, it seemed to float out of my hands. It passes all the UIAA tests. Maybe there is / will be a similar offering styled for white water. $110 at REI. Or, if you prefer, only $303/pound. That's cheaper than silver bullion.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Get a helmet designed for whitewater on 08/26/2013 10:26:05 MDT Print View

While some helmet is better than no helmet, best for whitewater is a helmet designed for whitewater.

Some important features of whitewater helmets that might not be found on other types:

– Protects for multiple (as in 10s) of impacts.

– Protects back and side of your head down to your ears (some cover your ears), not just the top of your head.

– Different sizes of helmets, with adjustable straps and foam inserts, to insure a snug fit. You should not be able to move your helmet around on your head.

– Designed to keep the helmet on your head as you are being thrashed under water

Some whitewater deaths and serious injuries were attributed to helmets slipping back on the wearer's head underwater, exposing the forehead and temple, then ... wham.

I wear a helmet 99% of the time I'm on the river, no matter what class the rapids. My avatar photo is one of the few times I wasn't wearing one, but you can see it (red) just behind me, ready for the next rapid. And yes, I started wearing a helmet after a concussion in a "it's only Class III" rapid.

NRS has a pretty good selection of helmets:, but there are many more models available from different sources. The helmet I wear is no longer made, helmets and companies seem to come and go.

You might be able to rent or borrow a helmet, if you aren't ready to commit.

Stay safe out there.

-- Rex

Edited by Rex on 08/26/2013 10:27:27 MDT.

Jeff Gerke

Locale: Utah
Re: Whitewater helmets on 08/26/2013 11:00:39 MDT Print View

I was told we would be floating Class II+. The trip is geared towards noobies. I have very limited paddling experience and pretty much no whitewater experience. I'll be renting a Alpacka Yukon Yak.

Edited by mtnrunner on 08/26/2013 11:01:27 MDT.

Scott Musack

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: Whitewater helmets on 08/26/2013 11:55:58 MDT Print View

II+ water can easily flip an inflatable kayak/packraft. Prepare yourself mentally to flip and then it's not so bad.

I'd probably rent the first time unless you have plenty of disposable income, a suitable helmet will start at $50.00 (Pro-tek) and go up from there.

You might consider some neoprene as well. Even a shorty will keep you comfortable when you're getting splashed alot (and you will being in a packraft).

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
packraft helmets on 08/27/2013 00:50:34 MDT Print View

I know of no light, or even lightish, WW-specific helmets. Rent one. If you show up to class wearing a bike or climbing helmet that will just create unnecessary problems.

IMO a helmet is less necessary in a packraft because most people aren't locked in with thigh straps and are thus likely to pop out of the boat and stay upright. If you're running thigh straps, you need a helmet. I have a BD Vector climbing helmet I like, and I've used a bike helmet. Neither is ideal for whitewater, but both will serve well enough, and get used for other stuff for 98% of their life.